What would you say the fastest growing crime in the United States is today? If identity theft came to mind, then you’re exactly right. Statistics by the Federal Trade Commission show that over 20% of all identity theft cases involve the internet and telecommunications. While you might think identify theft scams are easy to spot and avoid, the criminals behind such scams devote themselves to putting together emails, phone calls, and websites that appear enticingly legitimate.
Most email and telephone identity theft scams ask you to provide your Social Security number, credit card account information, or banking account information. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, unless you initiate the call and know you’re speaking with a legitimate representative from the company you’re doing business with, you should never give out any personal or financial information.
Of course, there are innumerable scams circulating the country. The following are a few of the most commonly seen:
Moving Money Scams / Nigerian Money Offers. The “can you help me move my money from my country” scams were around before the internet was even a thought. Despite people being aware of the con, these scams still make $100 million each year. The scammers will send out mass emails. They claim to be in a foreign country, often Nigeria. They ask the recipient to assist them in moving their money out of their country and promise to pay the recipient from helping them. The explanation for the request is often a heartbreaking tale or humanitarian cause like a sick relative needing a surgery.
Phisher / Account Verification Scams. These scams involve the scammer purchasing domain names that closely resemble that of legitimate and reputable businesses. One of the most recent scams involved the E-Bay domain name. The scammers purchased domain names like change-ebay.com and ebay-verification.net and sent out mass emails asking consumers to provide their personal and credit card information. The emails often asked the recipient to verify a purchase or made threats to cancel the account if the recipient didn’t provide the information. Other companies being used in alike scams include: AOL, PayPal, MSN, Discover Card, Best Buy, and Bank of America. Even if you’ve recently purchased an item or made a transaction with a company, you should never comply with emails asking for personal or financial information. Most companies don’t conduct business in such a manner. To make sure, use the official phone number for the involved company to find out if the request is legitimate.
Get Your Free Credit Report Scams. Most correspondence related to getting a free credit report will turn out to be a scam in one way or another. Free is usually the relative word since most receive a bill charging for the service after it’s used. Other free credit report scams are simply after your Social Security number.
You’ve Won a Free Gift Scam. The phone call or email saying that you’ve won a free gift is luring. The scammer will claim the gift is free, but that they need your credit card information to cover the shipping and handling. With your credit card number in hand, they can use it for a lot more than shipping and handling. Just remember that few things are free and those that are don’t require a credit card.
You’ve Won the Canadian or Netherlands Lottery Scams. According to the FBI, this scam has collected approximately $80 to $100 million so far. Keep in mind that you first must buy a ticket or enter a lottery to win it. If you haven’t purchased a ticket, you haven’t won.
Questionnaires. This is a request for your personal and financial information under the guise of a friendly questionnaire. The scammer often claims to be a childhood or old social network friend. The questionnaire may blatantly ask you for your info or be subtly collecting information related to your account passwords by asking you your birthday, favorite things, name of your kids, and such. Delete the questionnaire. Giving false information only alerts the scammer they’ve reached someone willing to respond and possibly provide inadvertent information in the future.
IRS Audit Scams. Scammers have sent out emails claiming the recipient must undergo an e-audit within 48 hours or face penalties and interest. The e-audit questionnaire asks for personal and financial information. Be aware that the IRS doesn’t correspond with taxpayers about audits via email and certainly doesn’t have anything called an e-audit.
Resume Scams. Identity theft even occurs from sending out a resume. Scammers can place a print or online help wanted ad just like a real employer can. Never place your birthday or Social Security number on resumes. That information can be collected by legitimate employers during the interview stage.
The best way to stay safe is not responding, even with a don’t contact me or remove my name from the list email, to anything you feel has the potential to be a scam.