As identity theft becomes an ever-increasing crime, scammers find newer ways to steal your identity. More than ever before, it’s important that you protect yourself.
Here are some of the most prevalent scams today, and what you can do about them.
Internet check cashing:
These scams target people who want to work at home, such as stay-at-home moms, or even the elderly who wish to supplement their retirement income. With this scam, individuals are found who are willing to cash checks for a company outside the US. When they do this, they will supposedly receive a generous fee. Most often, these scams target people looking for legitimate work. Therefore, you may find one of these ads on such legitimate online workplaces as Monster. Beware of any ads that are looking for “check-cashing agents” or something similar.
Your identity is stolen when you receive these checks and deposit them into your own account. Then, you are told to transfer the money minus the “fee” you’re given to the company. Here’s the catch. The checks are bad, and by the time you find this out, the company already has your money. In addition, the company will also have your account information, so that they can now use it to make further transactions.
What you should do: Never, never accept a job as a “check-cashing agent” or something with a similar title. When you to work online, make sure you receive your payments through PayPal or some other medium so that your identity is always protected and your “employer” never knows your personal account information. Legitimate employers understand this and will accept it. Of course, you can also receive checks from your employer, but PayPal is often the safest way to go until you’re sure the job is legitimate.
Free credit report scam:
With this scam, you are tricked into thinking you’re providing information for a free credit report (of which there are many legitimate companies and just as many illegitimate companies). In fact, you’re not. You’re providing an identity theft crook with the exact information he or she needs to steal your identity.
What you should do: If you need to access your credit report, there is a free governmental site that provides each consumer in America with one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus. In addition, there are many legitimate “for a fee” credit report sites that keep track of activity on your credit report and will report suspicious activity. Make sure you thoroughly, thoroughly research any company you’re considering joining, and only give your information out to someone who’s legitimate.
Just about every legitimate company out there, including Amazon, most banks, and even organizations such as PayPal have been the victims themselves of phishing scams. What this means is that identity thieves set up mock sites that look exactly like the companies website. Then, you usually get an e-mail that says something to the effect of: “We are updating your account information. Please provide your account number,” or, “Your account has recently come under attack and we are verifying information to keep you safe. Please provide your account number,” or something similar. In general, they’re asking for sensitive information such as account numbers, passwords, and the like.
What you should do: Never, never give sensitive information out or go to a website that you’ve been directed to by clicking on a link and enter information in there. Be aware that legitimate companies will never, ever ask you for sensitive information in an e-mail. If you are in doubt, contact the company directly by phone or e-mail. To go to the companies site without risking identity theft, manually type the companies website address in yourself. Never, ever click on a link to be directed to a website if it has come in an e-mail with this sort of query in it. Remember that these sites look very, very real and could easily fool you into thinking you are entering your information into the real website.
With some savvy, you’ll go a long way toward protecting your identity. It’s not foolproof and identity theft is going to be a at least somewhat of a threat regardless. However if you follow these tips, check your credit report at least twice a year, and use a credit monitoring agency you’ll go a long way toward protecting yourself and your identity from this type of damage.