It’s not always easy to spot con artists. They invade your home through the telephone, computer, and mail; advertise in well-known newspapers and magazines; and come through your door. Most people think they’re too smart to fall for a scam, but the opposite is true.
The National Consumer League’s National Fraud Information Center reported that from January to September 2005, online auctions accounted for 42 percent of all complaints received. Far worse, the average loss was an astounding $1,129. The loss to consumers from identity theft was $5 billion in 2004, with an average loss of $400, $1,440 if the crime was committed online.
One particularly insidious type of crime preys on the goodwill of the American public: charity fraud, which increases at times of national tragedies and natural disasters. (According to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Americans gave $200 billion to charity in 2000.) Anyone can fall victim to these crooks: Almost without fail, they’re well-mannered, friendly, and helpful—at least at first.
via Fraud and Identity Theft — National Crime Prevention Council.
Clues That Someone Has Stolen Your Information
- You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain.
- You don’t get your bills or other mail.
- Merchants refuse your checks.
- Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.
- You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
- Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
- Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit.
- A health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
- The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
- You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.
via Signs of Identity Theft | Consumer Information.
- To guard against identity theft, never give out your Social Security number. Treat it as confidential information.
- Commit all passwords to memory. Never write them down or carry them with you.
- When using an ATM machine, make sure no one is hovering over you and can see you enter your password.
- When participating in an online auction, try to pay the seller directly with a credit card so you can dispute the charges if the merchandise does not arrive or was misrepresented. If possible, avoid paying by check or money order.
- Adopt an attitude of healthy skepticism toward websites that offer prizes or giveaways. Chances are, all that’s been “won” is the opportunity to buy something you didn’t want in the first place.
- Choose a commercial online service that offers parental control features.
- Tell your children never to give out their address telephone number password school name or any other personal information.
- Make sure your children know to never agree to meet face-to-face with someone they’ve met online without discussing it with you. Only if you decide that it’s okay to meet their “cyber-friend” should they arrange to meet this person, and then the meeting should be in a familiar public place in the presence of a trusted adult.
- Tell your children never to respond to messages that have bad words, are scary, or just seem weird.
- Tell your children never to enter an area that charges for services without asking you first.
- Tell children never send a picture of themselves to anyone without your permission.
- Make sure that access to the Internet at your children’s school is monitored by adults.
via Tips to Prevent Identity Theft — National Crime Prevention Council.
Identity theft continues to be one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. It is important for consumers to recognize that identity theft is not just a financial crime. This crime varies widely, and can include financial identity theft checking and/or credit card fraud, criminal identity theft, governmental identity theft, and medical identity theft. Identity theft is a crime in which an impostor obtains key pieces of personal identifying information such as Social Security numbers and drivers license numbers and uses them for their own personal gain. It can start with lost or stolen wallets, stolen mail, a data breach, computer virus, “phishing” scams, or paper documents thrown out by you or a business dumpster diving.
via Identity Theft Resource Center | A Nonprofit Organization.