Scams are designed to either steal your money now, or steal your identity now in order to steal your money later. Scammers have many techniques to collect personally identifiable information. Once they have it, they can effectively become you, using your identity to open accounts, file taxes or obtain medical coverage.
With your information, a scammer can commit a wide range of crimes that include making false applications for loans and credit cards, withdrawing money from your bank account or obtaining services that the scammer would otherwise be denied.
Identity theft may take a long time to detect. Scammers typically ensure that bills and statements for new accounts are not sent to your address. You may not notice what is happening until the scammer has already inflicted substantial damage on your assets, credit and reputation.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, it is very important to act quickly. Visit www.identitytheft.gov to learn how to stop and recover from identity theft.
• Look for unexplained withdrawals, charges and accounts. When reviewing your bank account, credit card statements or credit reports, you may notice unfamiliar charges, accounts or withdrawals. You may stop receiving certain bills because scammers have changed the address associated with your bank account or credit card. Debt collectors may call you about debts that aren’t yours.
• Tax ID Theft. Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. You may not be aware of the problem until you E-file your tax return and find out that another return has already been filed using your Social Security number. If the IRS suspects tax ID theft, they will send a 5071C letter to the address on the federal tax return.
• Data breaches are becoming fairly common. Sad to say, but it doesn’t matter if you have never made a keystroke on a computer. With the amount of information available, everyone is at risk.
• Check your credit reports regularly for unauthorized inquiries and accounts. You can check your credit report with each of the three credit bureaus once per year at www.annualcreditreport.com. Space these checks out across the year, and you will know fairly quickly if something is awry.
• Check your child’s credit report as well. Yes, frauds look for any possible avenue they can to steal identity. Our children’s Social Security numbers personal information are vulnerable, too.
The IRS will never start contact with you by sending an email, text or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. Continue to watch for imposter scams in email, text or phone call saying they work for the IRS.
I encourage you to add the BBB App to your iPhone so that you can quickly check a company or charity prior to purchasing or donating. Go to the App Store and find BBB. BBB monitors for scams so you can be notified, if you wish, of scams happening in our area. It’s a great tool that will help protect you and your loved ones.
Marjorie Stephens is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving northern Indiana. Contact the BBB at 1-800-552-4631 or visit bbb.org.