Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing types of financial fraud. Your financial identity can be stolen with as little information as your social security number. It is also called “account-takeover fraud” or “true-name fraud”, and it involves someone assuming your identity by fraudulently applying for credit, running up huge bills and stiffing creditors – all in your name.
Take these steps to protect yourself:
- Order copies of your credit report once a year to ensure they are accurate. You can receive a free annual credit report from each of the three national credit reporting agencies. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228.
If you have been denied credit in the past 60 days, the credit reporting agency that sent the report to your prospective creditor must provide you a copy of the report for free. However, it will not be sent automatically so you have to request a copy from the credit reporting agency.
- Keep an eye on your accounts throughout the year by reading your monthly/periodic statements thoroughly. This is an easy way for you to be sure that all of the activity in your accounts is accurate.
- Thieves are known to go through trash to get personal information that can give them just enough information to get credit in your name. Shred pre-approved credit offers, receipts and other personal information that link your name to account numbers. Don’t leave your ATM or credit card receipt in public trash cans.
- If you do not receive a credit card or monthly statement within a reasonable period of time, contact the issuer to determine if the item has been mailed to you. If it has, contact the Postal Service to see if someone has forwarded your mail to another address.
- Don’t write your personal identification number (PIN) on your ATM or debit card. Cover your hand when you are entering your PIN number at an ATM. Don’t write your social security number or credit card account number on a check.
- Don’t carry your social security card, passport or birth certificate unless you need it that day. Take all but one or two credit cards out of your wallet, and keep a list of your account information and customer service telephone numbers at home. Then if your wallet is lost or stolen, you will only have to notify a few of your creditors.
- Never provide personal or credit card information over the phone unless you initiated the call. Scam artists are known to call stating that you have won a prize and all they need is your credit card number for verification. Remember the old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Phishing is a type of email scam that thieves use to get customers to divulge their account numbers, login IDs, passwords and other privileged information. They send thousands of counterfeit email messages designed to look like they are from reputable businesses, frequently a bank.
The emails come under many guises, but they all encourage you to divulge personal information in an effort to defraud you. Unsuspecting people who respond are directed to one of the aforementioned phishing sites, where their financial information is collected – and then used to scam their accounts.
First National Bank of Sycamore will never solicit this personal information via email. Never provide the following information via an unsolicited email, link in an email, or website that you have not intentionally accessed:
User IDs Passwords Social Security Number Card or Account Numbers Credit Card Security Code
Cashier’s Check Fraud
Online auction sites are a popular way to buy and sell collectibles, jewelry, even cars; however, internet auction transactions are not always safe. Cashier’s check or “advance fee” fraud has become more prevalent as online auction sites and classified ads have gained popularity. In many cases, large ticket items lure this type of fraud artist to a victim.
The typical fraud scenario is somewhat confusing, which is probably one of the reasons why the fraud artist is successful.
This is an example of cashier’s check fraud: Say you post an ad for your car on an online auction website for $3,000. A foreign buyer bids on the car for the full asking price. When payment is arranged the buyer says that a broker in the United States will deliver the car to him for $2,000. He sends you a check for $6,000 and asks you to send $2,000 to his broker. You agree because he sent you an extra $1,000 for brokering the deal. You receive the cashier’s check, deposit it, and because cashiers’ checks are mistakenly thought to be as good as cash, wire the leftover sum to the broker. Ten days later your bank informs you that the cashier’s check was fraudulent and that you’re responsible for any money you’ve drawn against it. Unfortunately, you’ve lost your money and the merchandise to a scam. There are many variations of the scheme. A seller could just as easily attempt to scam you, and not all scammers are from outside the U.S.
Here are some suggestions to protect yourself from this type of fraud:
- Use caution when dealing with foreign buyers and sellers.
- Beware if the buyer or seller asks you to send money quickly. Banks often take 10 days or more to determine if a cashier’s check is counterfeit. Do not ship goods or spend any of the funds sent to you until 10 -14 days after you deposit the cashier’s check.
- Have the bank verify the legitimacy of the check before depositing it.
- These fraud artists tend to target vulnerable people, senior citizens and young adults. Alert any family members who may be at risk.
- No legitimate company will offer to pay you by arranging to send you a check and asking you to wire some of the money back.
- Be wary of those who try to lure you away from a legitimate website with promises of a better deal. If you are suspicious about a pending transaction, contact the auction site’s designated security officer.
- Save all transactional information.
- Never provide your social security number, driver’s license number, credit card number or bank account number.
- Never agree to travel to meet your buyer or seller.
The Department of Justice is committed to fighting for justice for older Americans through a robust and holistic response. Learn about the Department’s Elder Justice efforts and how to protect yourself, and the ones you love, from financial fraud and scams by visiting www.justice.gov/elderjustice today.
Reports of elder abuse can be made by calling or visiting: