Identity Theft and Scams
Approximately 9 million Americans a year fall victim to identity theft. Often time the suspects in the case are located half-way around the world where enforcement of laws is virtually non-existent. Identity theft occurs when someone, without your permission, uses your name, social security number, bank accounts or other personal information to steal from you. Here are some ways criminal get your information and some tips on how to prevent it.
- Phishing- Criminals pretend to be a bank or other company and send you a very official looking email or internet message requesting further information such as your passwords, account numbers, etc. No legitimate bank or even internet institution or company will ever ask you for passwords or account numbers, they already have that information. Do not even reply to these theft attempts, replying helps guarantee you will get more of them.
- Digging through your trash- Criminals can gain a lot of information by finding your credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, bank statements, government statements, etc. Get in the habit of destroying that information before it goes to the trash. Shred, cut or tear that information into the smallest possible portions.
- Change of address- If you suddenly stop getting normal bills, etc. immediately contact the Postal Service to ensure no one has changed your mailing address so that they can receive all of your statements and personal information.
- Old fashioned mail- Your personal information can be stolen right from your mailbox, try to get the mail from the box as soon as possible. Offers for products and services that are too good to be true…….are too good to be true.
You can get a free credit report once a year, review it and see if there are accounts that should not be there.
Scams have much in common with the themes of Identity Theft. Usually the scam plays on your compassion, desire to make more money, or simply tricks you into sending money to someone for something you will never receive.
Here are a few that the Alliance Police Department has seen.
The Spanish Prisoner type scams- These actually date back to the early 1900’s and have now entered the internet age. They are now known as Nigerian letter scams (the majority of these appear to originate in several African countries).
You will receive a letter or more likely, an email, claiming that a wealthy man in some country has been unfairly arrested or detained, and needs to get his millions out of the country before the evil and corrupt government gets it. The trick is that they want you to pay “X” number of dollars in order to cover taxes etc. in order to get the millions out of the country. Of course the millions do not exist, the imprisoned man does not exist and you will never see any money.
You’ve won the Canadian and or the United Kingdom National Lottery!- No, you did not. Unless you actually have knowingly participated, recently, in the lottery of another nation, this is going to be a scam. They will try to get you to mail or wire processing fees or taxes in order to get the big jackpot. You will never hear from them again and you will lose all of your money.
The” Secret Shopper”- Although there is a legitimate Secret Shopper program, they will not just send you checks like the scam artists do. The scammers will send you a check for various amounts of money, we have seen up to $1,200.00. You are instructed to cash the check at your bank, then send a small sum back to the “Secret Shopper” for a “registration fee”. You then perform various shopping tasks for the program. Of course the check is counterfeit, but they are very good, but fake, checks. Some banks have cashed them for customers. In the end you lose your “registration fee” and the bank wants its money back! Legally speaking, the bank can and will demand their money back.
The bottom line is that if you get money for no reason, be suspect of it, it probably is too good to be true.