PROTECT YOURSELF FROM IDENTITY THEFT

PROTECT YOURSELF FROM IDENTITY THEFT

By David R. King
County Manager
Identity theft may be as old as Internet commerce, but crooks still come up with new ways to trick unsuspecting people into giving out sensitive personal information like credit card or Social Security numbers. I have asked Raymond Long of the county’s Information Services Department to help me educate Bottom Line readers about some of the more popular identity-theft scams.
Bank of America Scam
The scam: Someone posing as a Bank of America associate sent out a fraudulent e-mail asking BoA customers to enter personal financial information on a fake Web site posing as a BoA Web site. Fortunately, the bank became aware of this e-mail within hours, and they shut the scam site down.

The truth: Like most banks, BoA does not contact customers out of the blue to verify personal financial information. You may be asked to verify such information if you call the bank about your banking matters.

What to do: If someone – anyone – contacts you by phone or e-mail, asking you for sensitive personal information, be very wary. Contact the company they claim to represent directly, using a phone number or e-mail address from the company's correspondence or main home Web site, and confirm the story. Never be in a rush to give out your information.

eBay Scam

The scam: You receive an e-mail stating that your order has been completed and mailed, and that your credit card has been charged for your purchase. Of course, you never bid on the item in the e-mail. To cancel, you’re instructed to visit a Web site and enter your account information and Social Security Number. The scammer uses this dummy Web site to steal your information.

The truth: eBay never asks its registered users for their personal information by e-mail.

What to do: If you receive an odd request that looks like it comes from eBay, contact their Safe Harbor, which has departments dedicated to fraud protection, fraud prevention, and investigations. Visit http://pages.ebay.com/help/community/index.html

PayPal Scam

The scam: You have a PayPal account. You receive an e-mail that promises you a small payment if you visit the Web site and update your account (including, of course, your credit card information). The Web site is fraudulent, and the scammer steals your information.

The truth: PayPal representatives will never ask users for passwords or sensitive data.

What to do: As Pay Pal's security tips note, The only site you should ever type your user name and password into is at www.paypal.com." If you receive suspicious e-mails, never click on any Web site links they contain.
Visit http://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=p/gen/fraud-prevention-outside

IRS Lawsuit Scam

You receive an e-mail about a group of individuals planning to bring a class-action suit against the IRS for fraud, claiming that the IRS's tax collection since 1971 has been illegal, and that participants in the suit can expect to receive all their taxes back, plus 3 percent compounded interest. All you have to do is sign up on the Web site and pay for access to legal documents and pay to become part of the lawsuit. This scam plays on people's anger at the IRS, but don't be fooled.

If such a monumental lawsuit were in progress, you'd hear about it on CNN, not through a rambling e-mail that takes you to a poorly-designed Web site. The e-mail tells you to sign up at the Web site and enter specific referral IDs. This is a hallmark of multi-level marketing. Class action lawsuits are never MLM programs. Also, it’s worth noting that you NEVER pay to join a class-action lawsuit.

If you think you may have been physically or otherwise harmed by a product or service, visit ClassActionAmerica.com instead. It describes current class-action suits, lets you know if you qualify and how to participate. Visit http://classactionamerica.com

Conclusion

Variations on these themes abound, and you can bet that scammers will come up with more and more clever ways to try to get you to divulge sensitive information that they can use to steal your money. The bottom line is clear: Don’t ever give out credit card numbers, Social Security numbers or other sensitive information (such as your mother’s maiden name) to anyone who might use it to take advantage of you.