Editorial: Look out for scamsAnyone can fall prey to scam artists, but certain groups are more susceptible than others.
Anyone can fall prey to scam artists, but certain groups are more susceptible than others.
Youths ages 20 to 29 are likely to be victims of identity theft, according to the Wisconsin Bureau of Consumer Protection. They need to learn the importance of protecting their identities, which include name, address, phone number, email, social security number, mother’s maiden name, ATM pin, date of birth and account number or user names. Any combination of these can provide enough information for an identity thief to steal from a young person.
Here are some protection recommendations:
—Check credit reports frequently. These can be obtained free from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion by calling 1-877-322-8228.
—Check mail daily. Shred credit card offers, bills or any items containing personal or financial information.
—Check bills and bank statements monthly. Look at statements as soon as they’re received to see if there are any unauthorized charges or withdrawals and, if so, report them immediately.
—Protect computers and smartphones. Verify computer security settings to be sure there’s firewall, virus, spam and spyware protection on the computer. Log off or lock the computer between uses.
—Don’t carry around a social security card and don’t use the number as a PIN or password, if possible.
—Give out such information as account, credit card or social security numbers only when initiating the contact and being able to verify it as a legitimate source.
—For personal and identity safety, lock the residence at all times. Keep sensitive documents in a safe place, locked up.
—Avoid leaving a credit card as a bar tab. Limit the number of credit cards in one’s name to more readily track expenses.
—Notify the U.S. Postal Service at www.usps.com with a forwarding address when moving.
—Limit the number of identification cards carried. If it’s not needed, don’t carry it—especially documents like birth certificates and passports.
Scammers are known to try to take advantage of veterans, too. The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau (BBB) has cautioned about the many types of offers and scams that can put veterans in jeopardy of becoming victims of fraud, paying more for items than they should or identify theft, as follows:
—Look out for firms targeting veterans and charging them for products and services they can receive free or at lower cost elsewhere, such as military records and forms.
—Be cautious of scammers who contact veterans saying they need to update their credit card information or other records with the Veterans Administration. The scammers then use the information to commit identity theft.
—Be wary of bogus charities with names referencing the Armed Forces and seeking donations.
—Hang up on fraudsters calling themselves veterans’ advocates who try to convince veterans they get more benefits by transferring their investments into an irrevocable trust, which often contains unsuitable investments.
—Flashy offers for loans promising “up to 40 percent of your monthly take home pay,” “guaranteed loans,” “instant approval,” “no credit check” and “all ranks approved” often come with sky-high interest rates and hidden fees designed to bilk borrowers out of cash and damage financial security.
—Ads for housing promising military discounts and too-good-to-be-true incentives use stolen photos of legitimate rental properties to bait renters out of security deposits via money transfer schemes.
—Low-priced vehicles posted on classified ad websites tout discounts for military personnel or claim to be from soldiers who need to sell fast because they’ve been deployed. Schemers convince buyers to wire money; however, there is no car for sale because the picture of the car and all of its information is stolen.
—Particularly when it comes to younger veterans, scammers may pose online as representatives of government contracting firms. When the veterans contact them for a job, they ask for a copy of the veteran’s passport before they can officially offer them a job. Of course, there’s no job to offer and the con artist now has personal information to be used for identity theft.
Among BBB’s advice is never wire transfer money to strangers. Actively deployed military personnel can place an “active duty alert” on their credit reports to help minimize the risk of identity theft. With this alert, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires creditors and businesses to verify identities before issuing or granting credit. The Federal Trade Commission is also a source of advice to help military families deter, detect and defend from identity theft.