How to Protect Your Family, Friends and Colleagues from Identify Theft

A little bit of advice for the season

The techniques being used by thieves to steal from people and businesses are becoming a lot more sophisticated. It is now almost impossible to tell the difference between a legitimate communication from a company you work with and a scam.

The basics of any security process always require you to have something and you know something. The idea being that you should have in your possession some piece of information that no one else knows and you should have some item that only you possess.

This is why a credit card has a series of numbers on the front or back that are not raised. If someone were to take an imprint of your card, there would still be some piece of information that only you have, and there is a secret code, pin or word that only you know.

Here’s how scammers are getting around this. They send you a new card with a label on the front that asks you to call to enable it. When you call, they ask you to provide your secret code. But here’s the trick that card they sent you wasn’t real, and the number they have asked you to call wasn’t your credit card company. That card you have in your hand is a scam, but the scammers now know your secret code and they can now use your account to make purchases. All they had to do was send you a fake card, a letter that looked like it came from your bank. They may even tell you that the new card will be activated in 24 hours, so you keep using the old card for a while, so you won’t notice that the new one doesn’t work until they have had a chance to steal from it.

This same trick works with credit card companies, tax collectors, insurance, loan offers, utility bills, gyms and any other place where you would be willing to provide personal information if you believe the person you are speaking to is real.

Here’s how you avoid being caught. Don’t believe any communication! Always assume the worst. When you receive a communication by phone, text, email or letter don’t believe it, instead find your previous card (or other previous communication) and call the number listed on that.

When you receive a call from your bank to alert you of a potentially fraudulent transaction, don’t give them any personal information. Instead dig out your credit card and call the number on the back of that and see if they really are trying to reach you.

Don’t believe any communication, unless you initiated it, and to a number or address that you already know to be valid.

This is a simple way to block a lot of the most obvious scams. It won’t stop every scammer, but it will stop a large percentage.

Tell your families, your friends and your colleagues.

Let’s make theft just that little bit harder.

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