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Identity theft: current scams

Spies' eyes can ruin you!
Spies' eyes can ruin you!Photo by Idea go/freedigitalphotos.net

The number of crimes committed in the United States rises every year. The fastest growing one is identity theft. Now more than ever, crooks are lining their pockets with your money by utilizing more creative ways to get your vital, secret information. What are some of the most popular scams and frauds? How can you guard against them?

Telemarketing companies do an unbelievable amount of business in the U.S. According to the FBI, there are many legitimate ones operating here. However, there are also several hundreds of illegal ones doing the same. Furthermore, the numbers are drastically rising of those that take advantage of U.S. residents but operate from Canada and other countries.

Over 26% of adults in the U.S. have been victims of telemarketing fraud, with about 57% over the age of 50. It causes approximately $40 billion in losses each year!

It’s important to know the difference between the terms “phishing” and “smishing.” The former is when a perpetrator (posing as a legitimate entity) uses email and fake websites to try to get personal information from you. The latter is the same but uses text messages. Both are seeking things like user names, passwords, account numbers, pin numbers, etc.

Currently, illegal phishing, smishing, and telemarketers are contacting people whose credit/debit card numbers they already have. They need the code on the card which gives them the vital last component to use it.

Be aware of methods that ask questions about your financial accounts or alert you to a “problem.” In this scam, crooks ask you to click on a link or call a number to update an account or correct a “made-up” issue. While the sites and messages appear legitimate, they’re set up capture all the hidden information on your computer.

Another current scheme is to phone proposed victims offering to lower their interest rates. Some are bold enough to call regarding cards the person doesn’t have! If the potential victim insistently disavows ownership of the card, the crooks hang up. Unfortunately, they use certain types of phones (like TRAC) which can’t be traced.

Too many victims have unwittingly and unwillingly given vital information to identity theft criminals. Knowledge of them is your first line of defense so you won’t fall prey to them. Watch for future articles addressing some of these threats. For now, be aware of these scams and guard against them.