Elliott Greenblott | Fraud Watch: To Stop Scammers From Committing Crimes, Use Defenses | Chroniclers
Identity theft is identified as the most common form of fraud reported in recent years. According to statistics, someone’s identity is stolen every two seconds. Does this worry me? Not really!
It’s a reality that shook me when I first started exploring and researching frauds and scams, and while identity theft is still a real threat, there is a clear reality: virtually everyone. is already a victim of identity theft.
Your personal information has been compromised, not once, but several times. Do you have accounts or have you shopped at Walmart, Apple, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Microsoft, Bank of America, Walgreens, Walmart, Target, Amazon, or pretty much any national merchant? Your information has been compromised during data breaches. The same goes for your information held by the Census Bureau, IRS, Anthem Blue Cross, Google, Yahoo, and Facebook.
Let’s start by assuming that your identity has been compromised several times.
Criminals already have your Social Security number, driver’s license number, address, demographics, and more, and if you’re a homeowner, they likely know your home’s value, given that property records are often available online as public records.
The job is not to protect yourself from identity theft. This is to protect you against criminal use of your identity. This means taking two rather easy steps: Obtain copies of your credit report from the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Free credit reports are available from many sources, but the best provider is annualcreditreport.com, or 877-322-8228.
This federally sanctioned site provides free copies of the reports from the three bureaus at no cost. Until April 2022, requests for a free copy can be made every week, but it’s really not necessary. Once every few months would be invaluable.
There are other places through which you can order free credit reports, including the credit bureaus themselves. If you choose to use any of these alternative sources, including LifeLock and FreeCreditReport.com, be prepared to see some strenuous efforts to sign up for other services, such as identity protection. Plus, signing up on some of these sites includes signing up for additional services, so read the fine print.
The second step in self-defense is to order a credit freeze with major credit bureaus.
A credit freeze, in effect, blocks access to your credit report to anyone other than you. This is a critical step in self-defense. Credit freezes prevent others from using the stolen identity to open new bank, credit card, or loan accounts. Your use of existing accounts is not hindered, and you can lift the freeze if you need to apply for additional credit, loan, lease, or purchase.
Credit freezes must be requested separately from each of the credit bureaus:
Equifax: equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services; 888-548-7878;
Experience : experian.com/freeze/center.html; 888-397-3742;
TransUnion: transunion.com/credit-freeze; 888-397-3742.
Note: You will be asked to provide your social security number.
If you’ve requested freezes, are you protected against scams and fraud? No! The real threat is when the criminal takes the stolen information and uses it to gain access to current assets and accounts. This is where phishing and identity theft pay off.
Using the information obtained, including phone numbers, email addresses, and demographics, the scammer assumes the identity of a business or agency and requests additional data, such as contact numbers. account and passwords.
For example, a scam website is created to impersonate your ISP’s website or Amazon’s website. You receive an email asking you to click on a link to verify your account, which takes you to a web page that looks legitimate. By entering the requested information, you authorize access to your account, allowing the criminal to change your username and password, then order new services or products for which you will be billed.
Your best defense against these crimes is to use a reliable contact, such as found on a known invoice or website, and ask if there is a problem. Do not use any of the contacts provided in the message you received.
Questions, concerns? Contact me at [email protected]
Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and the Vermont coordinator of the AARP Fraud Watch Network.