With all the inventive ways scammers have developed to steal one’s identity, the best tool to help prevent becoming a victim of identity theft is to be informed about how to spot scams before it’s too late.
Although it can be difficult to detect a scam before suffering financial loss, American Consumer Credit Counseling provides useful tips for how consumers can protect themselves:
1. Don’t give out your account number over the phone – Unless you know the company and understand why the information is necessary, you should never divulge private account information over the phone. Be aware of fraudulent tele-marketers calling to say you have won a prize or can qualify for a major credit card regardless of past credit history. Companies do not ask for bank account information unless you have specifically agreed to this payment method. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and find out why they need the information they are asking you for.
2. Beware of any unsolicited emails – You may have seen websites or received emails offering free credit reports. Some of these online operators use these sites to capture your personal information to either sell to others or commit fraud. If you receive an email offering free credit reports, don’t reply or click the link in the email. Double check the email address you are responding to. Be skeptical of any misspellings or grammatical errors as well as unusual email addresses. Use only secure websites or ones that display a lock symbol or “https” in the browser bar. Keep in mind that no legitimate credit report site will ask for a PIN, the three-digit code on the back of your credit card, or your passport number.
3. Keep your personal information personal – While it may seem harmless to answer a few survey questions, it can be detrimental to your bank account. Pretexting is the practice of gaining your personal information under false pretenses. This information is often then used to call your financial institute, pretend to be you, and gain access to your account. Be careful and aware of the information you are giving out.
4. Avoid offers of easy credit – No one can guarantee credit. There are deceptive ads that may offer unsecured credit cards, secured credit cards, or not specify a card type. The ads usually lead you to believe you can get a card simply by calling the number listed. Before deciding whether to give you a credit card, legitimate credit providers examine your credit report. These businesses also may offer to clean-up your credit history for a fee. However, only time and good credit habits will restore your credit worthiness.