Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in our nation today. According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than 20% of all cases involve telecommunications and the Internet. Scam artists are pros at putting together legitimate-sounding scripts, Web sites, and e-mails.
Most scams, by phone or e-mail, ask you to provide either credit card account information or Social Security number. The Identity Theft Resource Center recommends that you never give out this information unless you initiate the call and you know for sure you are speaking to a true company representative.
The list of scams below represents only a few of the scams being circulated. Do not respond to these scams, not even to send a “do not contact me” e-mail in an attempt to remove your name from the list.
Account verification or “phisher” scams: These con artists purchase domain names that are similar to those of legitimate companies to use for scams. For example, those involving the use of the E-Bay name include ebay-verification.net and change-ebay.com. The scam involves sending out millions of e-mails trying to get consumers’ credit card and other identity information. They might, for example, ask you to “verify” a purchase you never made or threaten cancellation of your account if you do not provide the requested information. Do not respond to e-mails that ask for credit information, SSN, and other personal data until you have checked with the company directly to see whether the e-mail is legitimate. Companies that have been used for this scam include: Best Buy, Discover Card, AOL, MSN, Earthlink, PayPal, and Bank of America.
“Help me move money from my country” scams: Most people with e-mail addresses have received e-mail from someone purportedly in a foreign country asking the recipient to help the sender to move money from one account to another often for some humanitarian purpose, such as paying medical bills for a sick relative. Also known as “Nigerian Money Offers,” because the senders often claim to be in Nigeria, this scam promises to pay the recipient for their help. These scams predate the Internet and many people are aware of them already. Even so, estimates show these scams still net $100 million annually.
Canadian/Netherlands Lottery – “You Have Won”: Unless you entered a lottery or bought a ticket to win a prize, these are scams. This scam has bilked some victims of more than $20,000.
“Free Credit Report” Scams: Almost all the “free credit report” e-mails you receive are scams. Either the scamster is trying to find out your SSN or will be billing you for a service later.
“You have won a free gift”: You might receive either a phone call or e-mail 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. Once in receipt of your credit card information the scammers can use it against your will.
Questionnaires: You might get an e-mail card from an “old friend” or “chat room friend.” You are asked questions that help the sender find out your birth date, passwords (favorite things) and even blatantly ask for your SSN. Do not answer these, even with false information. You only let the other party know they have reached a “live” person and you could later give away information you never realized could hurt you.
Identity Theft from Resumes: Do not place your SSN or date of birth on resumes that you send out for jobs. There have been instances where a person placed a “help wanted ad” either on the Internet or in a newspaper and collected SSNs and other personal information from resumes submitted seeking the job.
Fake IRS Audits: Some taxpayers have received e-mail indicating they are subject to an “e-audit” and need to complete a questionnaire within 48 hours to avoid assessment of penalties and interest. The e-mail asks for the taxpayers SSN, bank account numbers, and other confidential information. The IRS does not conduct e-audits, nor does it notify taxpayers of a pending audit via e-mail.
For more information on identity theft scams, go to the Web site of the ITRC at www.idtheftcenter.org. If you receive a suspected scam e-mail, forward it to the ITRC at: email@example.com and they will let you know if it is a confirmed scam and take appropriate action.