Scam & ID Theft
Phishing is an email scam that attempts to trick consumers into revealing personal information. The victim receives an email message claiming a need to verify personal information, often directing consumers to a fake website to verify personal details or prove eligibility for a nonexistent prize. The websites and email messages created by phishers can look legitimate, using logos and other elements from actual financial or government properties. For more information about this scam, please visit these sites: www.bbb.org/phishing, www.callforaction.org, www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/.
SMiShing (short for SMS phishing) is a text message scam in which the consumer is tricked into downloading a virus or other malware onto his cellular phone. Do not respond to a text message message that you are not expecting or appears out of nowhere. Also, if the text message appears to show a link to a website you are not fimilar with, simply don't bother with it and delete it from your phone.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.
Identity theft is a serious crime. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years - and their hard-earned money - cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record. In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit.
- On your checks:
- Write your work number on your check, not your home number
- Use initials and a P.O. Box instead of your home address
- Memorize your PIN
- Deposit mail in a USPS mailbox
- Check your mailbox daily
- Use eStatements and online bill pay
- Don't respond to emails requesting personal information. No legitimate company (or credit union) will send you an e-mail asking you to verify or send personal information in reply
- Update virus protection software regularly
- Do not download files or click on links sent by people you don't know
- Use a secure browser with a firewall
- Do not store financial information on your laptop
- Before you dispose of a computer, delete personal information
- Guard your Social Security Number
- Shred offers and documents containing personal information
- Ask employers, creditors and businesses how they will use and secure your personal information
- Keep all surplus checks, infrequently used credit cards and important personal documents in a secure location
- Cancel and destroy unused credit cards
- Review monthly statements and report suspicious activity
- Review your credit reports annually
- Opt out of mailing lists
- Check your free yearly credit reports
If you think your identity has been stolen, here's what to do now:
1. Contact the fraud department of any of these major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file:
Order report, call: 800-685-1111
Report fraud, call: 800-525-6285
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Order report, call: 888-397-3742
Report fraud, call: 888-397-3742
P.O. Box 9532
Allen TX 75013
Order report, call: 800-888-4213
Report fraud, call: 800-680-7289
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
2. Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Use an identity theft affidavit when disputing new unauthorized accounts.
3. File a police report.
Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.
4. File your complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps them learn more about identity theft and the problems victims are having so they can better assist you.
"By learning the eight basic scam types, you will be able to spot any scam - no matter what new spin it's given by clever con artists," reports Bankrate.com. According to a Bankrate.com report, the following are the eight most common scams of which consumers should be aware:
- Products That are Too Good to be True
"If it seems too good to be true, it probably is," the report reminds consumers. "Remember that a con artist makes a career of using excuses and explanations to lead you away from your common sense. When dealing with your money and personal information, never allow yourself to be rushed, threatened or persuaded against your judgment." Consumers are warned that offers that are "too good to be true" do not just involve Internet or telemarketer scams. They may also be found in mail offers, magazine ads and brick and mortar stores. "Stay vigilant and trust your gut."
- Identity Theft
Although identity theft is not new, cases of identity theft are rising. The thieves need only a few elements to victimize you - usually, your name and Social Security number will do. Scammers obtaining this information are often involved with other crimes such as advance fee scams and fraudulent job offers. The name for this scam is "phishing"...Almost any scam can be sprinkled with a smattering of identity theft - advance fee scams, fraud jobs and online auctions included. All it takes to become a victim of identity theft is a leak of your personal information.
- Bogus Charity
When giving to a charity, be sure to check out the charity first. "Never give payment information to anyone calling or e-mailing you, claiming to be with a charity," the report recommends. "Ask them to send you paperwork on their organization. Then research the organization online and with the Better Business Bureau to make sure it's legitimate - and that you've got the right contact information."
- Money-Making Schemes
"When people are down on their luck, they may turn to get-rich-quick or money-making schemes. Somehow the scammers make old scams, such as the Nigerian scam and pyramid schemes, seem like plausible ways for you to make a lot of cash in a hurry. If it's an easy way to make money, it's probably illegal, a scam or just a really bad idea."
- Fraud Jobs
According to Bankrate.com, there are several types of employment scams. "The most notorious tricks include being recruited for an illegal job; identity theft through job applications, and bogus employment fees." In addition, the information you provide in your job application may cause you to become a victim of identity theft. The scammer may then use your personal financial information to apply for credit cards to buy more merchandise. "While hunting for a job, you may encounter someone who promises you a job, but only if you will pay a fee for processing, administration or uniforms. Steer clear of these people even if they promise you a money-back guarantee."
- Online Auctions
"There are several things to be careful of when bargain-shopping online. If you find an item priced far too low, it may be a scam - a fake item, a stolen item, an item in really bad condition or something you will pay for and never receive." This is particularly important to remember in online auctions, where pressure often surrounds bidding wars. "Never agree to pay by cash or money order - these methods of payment are untraceable and offer you no protection. You may also want to be wary of escrow companies because they are easily faked."
- The prize that will cost you.
"It should go without saying that if you get an e-mail saying you won something - and you didn't enter - you should just delete it. This is a common scam," the report states. Often, consumers receive an e-mail indicating that they've won something but in order to receive the winnings or the prize, they must pay the taxes or handling fee first. "If you didn't enter anything, you didn't win anything. And even if you did enter, taxes go to the government, not to the organization running the contest. " Also, do not give out personal information such as your Social Security number or account number to anyone to claim a prize.
- Advance Fee Scams
Consumers pay a fee in advance for receiving a credit card, loan or scholarship and receive nothing valuable in return. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recognized several fake loan ads. The ads appear to be real and even use the logos of real financial institutions. "But the phone number in the ad will lead you to an imposter on a cell phone who asks for your personal information, tells you where to wire money for a fee, then disappears - stealing your cash and identity."