Identity Theft Scams

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in our nation today. Besides dumpster diving, mail theft and lost/stolen wallets, criminals are stealing information by overhearing conversations made on cell phones, from faxes and emails, by hacking into computers, from telephone and email scams, and even from careless online shopping and banking. In fact, more than 20% of all cases involve telecommunications and the Internet. (FTC) It is of prime importance to understand how thieves steal your information via the telephone and computer systems.

Below are some current known scams:

Special VISA/Mastercard Scam Alert- Confirmed:Should you get a phone call from a VISA or Mastercard employee trying to confirm unusual spending activity and that person asks for code on the back of your credit card--- DO NOT give that number out. They will sound very professional but may not be from that company. They may even tell you how the scam works- for instance telling you that charges are always under $500. Then they will ask you for the code on the back of your credit card. DO NOT give that number to the caller. They often say that the charge is for an Anti-Marketing Device. Contact VISA or Mastercard Fraud numbers on your credit card to confirm that they made that call and deal with the situation that way.

Account verification or "phisher" scams: For several years, individuals have purchased domain names that are similar to those of legitimate companies. It may be in a form such as: abccompany-accounts.net. The real company is abccompany but it does not have a "-accounts" in its domain. These con artists then send out millions of emails asking consumers to verify account information and even SSN. Prior to agreeing to do this, check with the company directly and see if the email originally was sent from them. In almost all cases, you will be told that it is a scam. The latest: verification scams are: E-Bay, Best Buys, Discover Card, e-gold.com, ebay-verification.net and change-ebay.com. Almost all Internet server names have been used for this scam as well. Companies that have been known to be victims of this scam include: AOL, MSN, Earthlink,PayPay, Discover Card, Bank of America, Providian and perhaps Wells Fargo.

Sign-in Rosters: There are some companies and governmental agencies (colleges, EDD, state-sponsored programs) that ask you to put your name and SSN on a sign-in roster. Please be aware that identity thieves may sign up toward the end of a page (purposely) so that they can copy and collect personal identifying information. If you encounter a sign-in roster like this, the best way to handle the situation is to write the following instead of your SSN - "will provide in person." You might also question a company/school representative about this practice and see if you can get it discontinued. It is dangerous and should be stopped. Some state laws will be addressing this in the next year or so. If this is a classroom situation and you do not need the credits, you may choose to leave the space for SSN either blank or filled in with 000-00-0000. Please do not make up a number. It might belong to another innocent person and hurt his or her credit.

Help move money from my country, aka "Nigerian 419 Scam". Everyone has received an email from a representative of a foreign government asking you to help move money from one account to another. This scan still nets $100 million annually so people are falling for it. Nigerian Money Offers now account for about 12 percent of the scam offers people have said they've received, according to a recent National Consumers League poll. However complaints about these offers increased 900 percent from 2000 to 2001. The latest versions of this scam include a dying woman, a soldier and emails other than from Nigeria.

Canadian/Netherlands Lottery- "You Have Won"- Unless you entered a lottery or bought a ticket to win a prize, these are scams. They originate from the Netherlands and other foreign countries. This scam can cost you more than $20,000. Many include: From: "Promotions Manager" : CONGRATULATIONS! WERKEN BIJ DE LOTTO, 41132, NL-1007 DB AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS. NEW- Via US Mail there is a new scam about a "Spanish Lottery." Do not respond, turn it over to your local postal inspector.

"Free Credit Report" Emails- Almost all of the "free credit report" emails you receive are scams. Either the person is trying to find out your social security number or will be billing you for a service later on. Do your homework and check out the company via the Better Business Bureau, US Attorney and Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You don't know who is sending these emails. To get a real copy of your credit report visit Allie Mae's myFICO page.

"You have won a free gift" -You may receive either a phone call or email about a free gift or prize. You just need to send your credit card info to take care of shipping and handling. Free means free, there should be no charge. Also, you must consider if this is a group sending out a cheap gift in exchange for finding a "live" phone number or email address. Responding may result in hundreds of spans or telemarketing calls.

Email chain letters/pyramid schemes- There are many of these. One says that Bill Gates is testing a new email-tracking program and wants your help. If you forward the email to your friends, Microsoft will pay you money for each person that receives it. Others say that you will get a gift or money from each person who comes after you. Another tells you: Follow the simple instructions below and your financial dreams will come true. Order all 5 reports shown on the list below. For each report, send $5 CASH, This one even says that the FTC says this is legal. These are pyramid scams. They are for the most part illegal and are just variations on the old postal chain letters. Do not respond or forward these emails.

"Find out everything on anyone" - This email is trying to solicit money in order to buy a CD or program that you can use to find out personal information on another person. These are always public records and may be someone who just wants your credit account number to use themselves.

Questionnaires: This is the time of year when you may get an email holiday card from an "old friend." It may come from a chat room friend. These include questions that help the person sending it find out your birth date, passwords (favorite things) and even blatantly may ask for your SSN. Do not answer these, even with false information. You only let the other party know that they have reached a "live" person and you may eventually give away information you don't realize can hurt you. These people are slick and can easily convince you to divulge information you don't intent do. That is why they are called con artists.

Do not place your Social Security number or date of birth on resumes that you send out for jobs. We have heard about several instances where a person placed a "help wanted ad" either on the Internet or in a newspaper and collected SSNs that way.

Job advertisement scams: Recently there have been scams involving Internet Job Web sites (for instance Monster.com) and Newspaper Want Ads. Under no circumstances should an applicant provide a SSN to a "HR person" found through a newspaper ad or an Internet ad prior to an actual interview or prior to authenticating both the company and the person asking for the information. If you have any doubts, contact the company directly using a phone number found on the company Web site or telephone book. Remember, anyone can set up a Web site You may choose to check the company out with the Better Business Bureau for that area as well as the state attorney general to make sure that they are a legitimate company. Typical tip-offs: Email addresses that do not include a company name in the domain section, mailing addresses or fax addresses in cities that differ from corporate headquarters.

In-Store security scams: Two have been brought to our attention. Individuals identifying themselves as in-store security may request a customer's help in catching a bad employee. They ask for personal information or ask you to pre-fill out a credit application and then give it to the employee. The second form involves a caster who is watching a customer fill out a form or pay for a bill with a credit card. Just prior to the employee calling it in for approval, they call that clerk and ask the information stating that the card/application is from a thief. Make sure that any store employee who approaches you has proper identification and that if a call interrupts an employee during a transaction, that you check it out with store security.

Telephone scams: Often times consumers will get calls from "charities" asking for donations. Do not provide credit card information over the telephone. We also anticipate scamsters will take advantage of the new "do not call" lists being compiled by state governments. No one from the state will be calling consumers asking if they want to be included on the "do not call list" nor will these lists require a consumer to provide a SSN via telephone.

If you have questions or concerns about any of the above situations, contact Allie Mae for advice.

 

 

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