ID Theft, Fraud & Scams

Identity Theft

Identity theft, financial fraud and scams are terms used to describe crimes in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data.

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act gives you specific rights when you believe that you are the victim of identity theft:

  • You can ask the nationwide credit agencies to place “fraud alerts” in your file.
  • You have the right to free copies of the information in your file.
  • You can request and obtain documents relating to fraudulent transactions made or accounts opened using your personal information.
  • You have the right to obtain information from a debt collector.
  • If you believe information in your files is the result of identity theft, you can request that the consumer reporting agency block that information from your file.
  • You may prevent businesses from reporting information about you to consumer reporting agencies if you believe the information is the result of identity theft.

File a police report. File a report with law enforcement officials to help you with creditors who may want proof of the crime. Keep a copy of the report.

Close accounts. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently.

  • Call the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or changed without your okay. Follow up in writing, with copies of supporting documents.
  • Use the ID Theft Affidavit at ftc.gov/idtheft to support your written statement.
  • Ask for verification that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged.
  • Keep copies of documents and records of your conversations about the theft.
  • Contact your bank to close accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently.
  • It can be difficult to get new credit while you are clearing up the confusion, therefore, you may want to keep a credit card open that has not been compromised.

Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigations.

  • Online: ftc.gov/idtheft.
  • By phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338).
  • By mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580.

Cyber Fraud

Beware of cyber criminals who are out to steal money and personal information.

Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

  • Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
  • Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
  • Be cautious of e-mails claiming to contain pictures in attached files; the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Scan the attachments for viruses if possible.
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
  • Always compare the link in the e-mail to the link you are actually directed to and determine if they match and will lead you to a legitimate site.
  • Log on directly to the official website for the business identified in the e-mail instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.
  • Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify that the e-mail is genuine.
  • If you are requested to act quickly or there is an emergency that requires your attention, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly.
  • Remember if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Fake Check Scams

Fake check scams can leave YOU owing money! If someone you don’t know wants to pay you by check but wants you to wire some of the money back, beware! It’s a scam that could cost you thousands of dollars.

How do fake check scams work? There are many variations of the scam. It usually starts with someone offering to:

  • Buy something you advertised for sale;
  • Pay you to work at home;
  • Give you an “advance” on a sweepstakes you’ve won; or
  • Give you the first installment on the millions you’ll receive for agreeing to transfer money in a foreign country to your bank account for safekeeping.

The scammers often claim to be in other countries and say it’s too difficult to pay you directly, so they’ll have someone in the U.S. who owes them money send you a check or money order.

The amount of the check or money order may be more than you are owed, so you are instructed to deposit it and wire the rest to the scammer or to someone else. Or you are told to wire some of the money back to pay a fee to claim your “winnings.” In some cases, the scammer promises to transfer money directly to your bank account. You provide your account information for an electronic fund transfer. Instead, the crook sends your bank a phony check or money order with instructions to deposit it in your account. When you check your balance, it looks like the funds have arrived. Whatever the set-up, the result is the same—after you’ve wired the money, you find out that the check or money order has bounced.

Q) How can I protect myself from fake check scams?

There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back—that’s a clear sign that it’s a scam.

If you think someone is trying to pull a fake check scam, don’t deposit it, report it!

  • Contact the National Consumers League’s Fraud Center, www.fraud.org.
  • For more information about fake check scams and how you can avoid them, go to www.fakechecks.org.