Scam of the day – March 19, 2013 – Philadelphia identity thief sentenced

The FBI recently announced that identity thief Lawrence Fudge was convicted and sentenced for running an identity theft ring in Philadelphia for at least six years before being caught.  Fudge obtained personal information  from rogue employees he bribed in banks and insurance companies who accessed their company’s records and gave the information about their customers to Fudge who used it to both steal money directly from the victims’ bank accounts as well as use their names and credit to open accounts in his victims’ names which he used to make purchases for himself.

TIPS

You are only as secure as the weakest security of a company with which you do business.  This is an unfortunate fact of life.  However, recognizing this fact, it is important to both limit the personal information you provide companies with which you do business as much as possible as well as make sure that you regularly monitor all of your accounts such as bank accounts on a monthly basis, at least.  You also should get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies as is your right under federal law.  The law permits you to get a free copy from each of these companies, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax once a year, however, a smart tactic is to get a free report from one of them and then four months later a free report from one of the remaining companies and finally four months after that a free copy from the last of the companies so that you can get free copies every four months.  Review these reports carefully to uncover any signs of identity theft.

Free Credit Report Scam

Your credit report is an important document that can affect not only your ability to get a loan, but even your ability to get a job, an apartment or insurance.  Federal law provides for you to be able to get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies annually.  This is an important thing for everyone to do to make sure their credit report is accurate and that you have not become a victim of identity theft which is often first noticed on your credit report.

Scammers use the free credit report law to scam you in two ways.  “Legitimate” companies may offer you a free credit report, but if you read the fine print, you will learn that you also have signed up for services that you may not wish to have that the companies charge you for each month.  True scammers will set up realistic looking websites that appear to offer a free credit report, but when you input the necessary information to obtain your free credit report, such as your Social Security number, you actually are providing it to an identity thief who uses the information to steal your identity.

TIP

Criminals often flunked grammar so one thing to look for to determine if you are on the legitimate website to obtain your free credit report is to look for misspellings and grammatical errors that scammers often make.  Although the domain names for websites offering what appear to be free credit reports appear to be legitimate, the actual official free credit report website address is www.annualcreditreport.com.