Online scam criminals use tricks and technology to convince consumers to send money or give out their personal information.
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, the number of reported U.S. data breaches in 2016 hit a record high of 1,093 – 40% higher than the 780 reported in 2015. The business sector was the leading target with 45 percent of the overall data breaches followed by healthcare/medical industry (35%), education sector (9%), government/military (7%) and banking/credit/financial sector (5%). For the eighth year in a row hacking/skimming/phishing topped the list for types of occurrences, accounting for about 56% of the breach attacks.
In an effort to help consumers avoid these scams, national nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling describes different types of scams and what they might look like.
Fraudulent telemarketers have found yet another way to steal consumers’ money – from their checking account in the form of unauthorized debits (withdrawals). In this type of scam consumers will either get a postcard or a telephone call saying they have won a free prize or can qualify for a major credit card, regardless of past credit problems. Near the end of the sales pitch, the telemarketer may ask the consumer to get one of their checks and read off the numbers at the bottom. Once they have the checking account information it is put on a demand draft. Unlike a check, the draft does not require the consumer’s signature, so when it is received by the bank, the amount is taken directly from the consumer’s account and put into the telemarketer’s account.
Consumers may have seen Web sites or received unsolicited emails offering credit reports, sometimes for free. Be aware that some of these online operators may not actually provide credit reports, but may be using these sites as a way to capture the consumer’s personal information. From there, they may sell their information to others who may use it commit fraud, including identity theft.
Flyers with instructions, such as “Claim $5,000 in Social Security Reimbursements,” are attempts to trick people into revealing personal identifying information that could, in turn, cost them money or damage their credit ratings.
When consumers list their personal assets, they often think of their home, car, savings and investments. But what about Social Security number (SSN), telephone records and bank and credit card account numbers? To people known as “pretexters,” that information is also a personal asset. Pretexters use a variety of tactics to get your personal information. For example, a pretexter may call, claim he’s from a survey firm, and ask the consumer a few questions. When the pretexter has the information he wants, he uses it to call the consumer’s financial institution and pretends to be the consumer or someone with authorized access to your account.
Beware: while secured credit cards can be an effective way to build or re-establish credit history, some marketers of secured cards make deceptive advertising claims to entice consumers to respond to their ads. The ads may offer unsecured credit cards, secured credit cards, or not specify a card type. The ads usually lead consumers to believe they can get a card simply by calling the number listed.
ACCC is a 501(c)3 organization that provides free credit counseling, bankruptcy counseling, and housing counseling to consumers nationwide in need of financial literacy education and money management.