The Nation’s Fastest Growing Crime
Is it you applying for that loan or someone posing as you? Identity thieves obtain key pieces of personal information … driver’s license number or mother’s maiden name … and they become you, stealing your credit and your financial security. The Federal Trade Commission says identity theft is the fastest growing crime today with more than 700,000 victims in 2000. Crime statistics estimate losses to be in the billions, with the crime growing at a rate of 30% to 40% a year.
How Your Identity Is Stolen
Stealing wallets to obtain credit card numbers is almost old-fashioned for today’s sophisticated identity thieves. They now…
- pose as an employer, loan officer or landlord and order your credit report.
- use spy equipment or simply “shouder surf” to capture your PIN number at an ATM.
- steal or hack into company records.
- steal mail from mail boxes.
- check the trash for unshredded credit card bills, bank statements, pre-approved credit offers, health insurance forms or tax information.
How to Reduce Your Risk
The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) (www.idtheftcenter.org) offers these tips to lessen your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Completely destroy papers you don’t need by shredding. This includes bills or records that may have critical information.
- Limit the number of cards you carry, and do not carry your Social Security card; only provide your number when necessary.
- Make a photocopy of the contents of your wallet … both sides of your credit cards, license, etc. and keep the photocopies in a safe place.
- Check your credit report each year. Investigate any account you did not apply for directly.
- Don’t let a salesperson walk away with your credit card. Don’t throw your receipt away at the counter or ATM booth.
U.S. government’s central website for information about identity theft : http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/
Washington State Employees Credit Union for information about identity theft : http://www.wastatecu.org/x495.xml
TELEPHONE SCAM WARNING “9-0-#”
A telephone scam has recently been identified that allows unauthorized individuals to have complete access to your telephone line. This full access enables individuals to place long distance calls and subsequently bill them to your telephone number. Information indicates that the scam has been originating from many local jails/prisons.
The scam works like this – you receive a telephone call from an individual identifying himself as an AT&T Service technician who is conducting a test on telephone lines. He tells you that to complete the test you should touch nine (9), zero (0), the pound sign (#), and then hang up – that’s it.
By pushing 9-0-#, you give the requesting individual full access to your telephone line, which enables him or her to place long distance calls billed to your home phone number. UCB, Telecom-Pacific Bell, MCI, Bell Atlantic, GTE, and Verizon have verified this process.
Please beware. DO NOT press 9-0-# for ANYONE.
Home Repair Fraud
Warm weather lends well to spring cleaning and repairs, but watch out for home repair fraud. If your plans include hiring an outside source to make repairs, keep in mind the following tips:
- Be suspicious if someone offers to do an expensive job for an unusually low price. Once you sign the contract and pay the fee, you learn why: they never deliver the service!
- Always get several estimates for every repair job, and compare the prices and terms. Check to see if there is a charge for estimates before asking for one.
- Ask your friends, neighbors, and co-workers for recommendations, or ask the firm for references, and check them out.
- Be wary of high pressure sales tactics.
- Pay by check, never with cash. Arrange to make payments in installments, for example one-third at the beginning of the job, one third when the work is nearly completed, and one-third after the service is finished.
- If you suspect fraud or have been a victim of fraud, contact your local sheriff’s office.
- When you find repair people you trust, stick with them and tell your friends.
Alerts and Scams
New Identity Thefts
There are three new types of identity thefts targeting the senior citizen population:
If you paid your home off long ago, you may become a victim. The latest scam is using seniors’ identities to take out home-equity loans on their property or to sell the home outright. Crooks look for homes that haven’t had any financial activity in awhile. Seniors can check with the county assessor’s office to make sure their home is OK. Never answer home info on the phone, unless you are making the call.
There is a new popular scam to get seniors to give up personal information essential for ripping them off. People call at night telling seniors they have to sign up for the Federal Trade Commission’s “do not call list,” or to continue dealing with annoying telemarketing calls. NO ONE from the FTC is going to call to register you for the “do not call” list. To register on the “do not call list,” call (888) 382-1222.
Identity thieves steal dead spouses’ identities and then open charge cards or even buy cars leaving the deceased’s survivors with the bills. To prevent this from happening, you can call the credit-reporting agencies and put on a credit freeze. It isn’t free unless the survivor is a victim of ID theft, so it may cost about $115 to do the freeze for all three credit-reporting agencies.
Fraud to Medicare
Some senior citizens have received a call telling them that there had been several changes in Medicare that may impact coverage. For $400.00 and a checking account number this caller would be able to assist with understanding the changes to each person’s coverage. No Medicare representative, volunteers, or advisor ask for checking account information or money for any notification or Medicare changes. If you are contacted about changes to to your coverage, call the Medicare Medicaid Assistant Program (MMAP). In the Detroit area call 1-800-852-7795, in West Michigan call 1-800-803-7174.
Fraud to Bank Account
Police are looking for a man who impersonated an officer of the law and persuaded an 86-year old woman to give him several thousand dollars from her bank account. The victim called police to report that her purse was stolen while playing bingo. A short time later a man claiming to be a police officer called her saying he found her purse but needed her help with another investigation. He told her to go to the bank and withdraw several thousand dollars to check for counterfeit money. The man, who was not in uniform, picked her up and took off with the money. Later, the victim grew suspicious and called police. A captain in the police force said “officers would never ask someone to withdraw money for an investigation”…this is a scam. To report a scam call your local police department or the statewide Vulnerable Adult Helpline at 1-800-996-6228.
An unusual investment pitch
“Put up $12,500 to secure the capture of a Middle East billionaire with ties to terrorists and collect more than $100,000.” An elderly could sent the money to a New York man who has been charged with mail fraud. Prosecutors said it was just one of many investment scams that happen to seniors. An elderly couple sent over $137,500 to the man after he told them that he was involved in a variety of businesses. The money ended up in his bank account. He would send letters and make phone calls to senior citizens informing them of investment opportunities in buying weapons for the rebels in Sudan or capturing terrorists in the Middle East. He would send a note to the senior citizens thanking them for the money and encouraging more contributions. He also told seniors of an opportunity involving the capture of a man linked to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida terrorist network. The man claimed that the investments would entitle the seniors to vast sums of reward money once the man was captured. This is a scam.
FEMA releases citizens’ preparedness guide
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced the availability of a new publication to help individuals prepare themselves and their families for disasters. Are You Ready? A Guide to Citizen Preparedness brings together facts on disaster survival techniques, disaster specific information and preparation and response to disasters.
Are You Ready? A Guide to Citizen Preparedness pro- vides a step-by-step outline on preparing a disaster supply kit, locating and evacuating a shelter, planning for people with disabilities and planning for family pets. The guide also details man-made threats from hazardous materials and terrorism.
For more information and to obtain an online copy of Are You Ready, visit www.fema.gov/areyouready.
Warning: IRS Audit Scam
Please be aware of the following email scam!
Some taxpayers have received e-mails from a non-IRS source indicating that the taxpayer is under audit and needs to complete a questionnaire within 48 hours to avoid the assessment of penalties and interest.
The e-mail refers to an “e-audit” and references IRS form 1040. The taxpayer is asked for social security numbers, 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.
That e-mail is not from the IRS. Any e-mail received of this nature should be saved so that a computer forensics investigation can be conducted to determine the originator. Law enforcement personnel should remain cognizant of this latest identity theft ploy. And this social engineering exploit is not limited to the U.S.A. A criminal in your country can also pull a scam like this.
Be Warned! More info at: firstname.lastname@example.org – Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.