Every year millions of dollars are lost to fraud. And while there are laws throughout our country to help prevent fraud, ultimately fraud prevention comes down to you. To help you avoid becoming a victim, we've collected resources and best practices to help educate you on how to protect yourself and what to do if you think you are victim of fraud. This information isn't all encompassing, and the fraud prevention landscape is constantly changing, so consider this just a starting point!
Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.
With enough identifying information about an individual, a criminal can take over that individual's identity to conduct a wide range of crimes. For example:
- False applications for loans and credit cards,
- Fraudulent withdrawals from bank accounts,
- Fraudulent use of telephone calling cards or online accounts, or
- Obtaining other goods or privileges which the criminal might be denied if they were to use their real name
You can help guard against threats to your computer and mobile devices by taking these precautions:
Other ways to stay protected
- Make sure your operating systems, software and browsers are up to date and that you have anti-virus and firewall software
- Clear your devices' caches and history to protect passwords and payment history.
- Be extra cautious when using public computers or Wi-Fi and don't use them for financial transactions
- Be aware of privacy policies and terms and conditions on sites you use and on anything you download.
- Set passwords and enable screen locks to prevent others from using your computer or devices.
- Check for a padlock symbol and "https" in your browser's address bar before sharing payment information or payment details
- Download apps and software only from authorized vendors to avoid viruses
- Sign out of your digital banking session when you finish.
- Carry your social security card, passport, or birth certificate with you except when absolutely necessary
- Give out your social security number, mother's maiden name, or account information over the phone - unless you are sure the caller is legitimate or you initiated the call
- Place paid bills in your mailbox for pickup
- Carry only necessary credit cards and identification
- Have your mail held by the post office if you will be away from home
- Shred credit card receipts, solicitations, cancelled checks and other financial documents before discarding
- Have your name removed from mailing and solicitation lists
- Request a copy of your credit report every 12 months at www.annualcreditreport.com
There are many forms of online scams that scammers use in an attempt to trick you to send them money. Before you send funds, check to see if you recognize any of the following signs, and realize that you may be a potential victim of a scam:
- Have you been communicating with someone over the internet through email, Facebook or chat-rooms but never actually met him/her in person?
- Has this person started an online friendship/romance or offered you a way to earn money?
- Does this person always claim to have bad luck – he/she is in a car crash, or arrested, or mugged, or beaten, or hospitalized? Are their close family members dead or unable to assist, or do they claim to have a young child overseas who is ill or hospitalized?
- Does this person claim to have been born and raised in the United States or United Kingdom, but uses poor grammar and spelling, likely indicators of a non-native English speaker?
- Does this person claim to be in the U.S., but he/she asks that the money be sent to an account in another place or country?
- Has this person asked you to send them money for ANY REASON?
These fraudulent schemes can include online friendships, romances, lotteries, U.S. Green card offers, inheritance notices, work permits/job offers, bank over-payments, or even make it appear that you are helping a friend in trouble. Sometimes you are asked to pay money to obtain something of value for yourself such as a prize, a romantic relationship, or more money; or you are asked to pay money to help a friend in trouble. In any case, the main indicator of a scam is that you are always asked to give money.
To avoid falling victim to such a scam, always be suspicious of anyone asking for money or bank account information through the Internet.
Reporting Identity Theft
- Do not send money. Unfortunately, any money you have already sent will probably not be recoverable.
- End all communication with the scammer immediately, rather than attempting a resolution directly. If you feel threatened, contact your local police at once. Do NOT attempt to personally recover the funds lost.
If you would like to report that you are a victim, please contact the appropriate investigative agency as follows:
Victim of Online / Mobile Fraud
- File a Police Report with your local city.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP, 1-877-ID-THEFT, or online at www.ftc.gov.
- Contact all three-credit bureaus to advise them you are a victim of identity theft and place a freeze on your credit with all three bureaus. Effective September 21, 2018, credit freezes are free.
- Request a Freeze with ChexSystems.
- Report the case online with the IRS in regards to your Social Security Number being compromised or call at (800) 908-4490
If you believe you are the victim of an Internet scam:
- If you communicated with the fraudsters through your email or provided your email information - please change your password.
- If you communicated with the fraudster with an electronic device –
- Call or Take your mobile device to your cell phone provider and request they scan your device for viruses.
- Call or Take your computer to store (i.e. Best Buy’s Geek Squad- Apple Store) to check for viruses.
- Report the fraud to the website/app/or social media site that you interacted with the fraudster. Inform the site that a fraud scam was accessible through their site, so it can be removed.
- Report you are a victim to the FBI by submitting a claim at www.ic3.gov.
- Report you are a victim to the FTC by submitting a complaint at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
Reminder: Always remember to be cautious with your account information and cease all contact with the individuals.
What to do if you suspect your identity/account is compromised
If you believe someone has unauthorized access to your personal information, follow these steps immediately:
IRS tax scam
- Change your passwords from an uninfected computer.
- Ensure all firewall, anti-virus and spyware detection software you have installed is current.
- Run a virus scan on your computer and remove any threat that is detected.
- Check your account information frequently and report fraudulent transactions immediately.
IRS tax scams are growing concern. It can be difficult to identify potential scam situations, but please note that IRS or State Treasury officials will never do the following:
- Threaten to call police or other law-enforcement.
- Demand taxes be paid without the opportunity to appeal the amount owed.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Click on the following link to report you are a victim: www.tigta.gov