Posts Tagged: ‘Identity Theft’

Scam of the day – April 15, 2014 – Attorney General, Eric Holder victim of income tax identity theft

April 15, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Today being the deadline for filing your federal income tax return is also a good time to remind you that identity theft and income tax identity theft can happen to anyone.  It can even happen to the Attorney General of the United States.  Recently convicted of this crime were Yafait Tadesse and Eyaso Abebe, a man whose Facebook page describes him as an importer/exporter for Vandelay Industries, which if it sounds familiar is because it was a fictional company created by the George Costanza character in the old Seinfeld television show.  Obtaining the Social Security number of a real person and then filing a phony income tax return on behalf of that person before the potential victim files his or her legitimate federal income tax return is the key to income tax identity theft.  In this case Tadesse and Abebe purchased Social Security numbers including that of Attorney General Holder on black market websites and used the information to file phony returns and collect refunds.

TIPS

The two keys to protecting yourself from income tax identity theft are to protect the privacy of your Social Security number as best you can and file your federal income tax return as early as you can.  Even if an identity thief has managed to get your Social Security number, if you file your income tax return before he or she can file a phony return using your Social Security number, you will suffer no harm.  If an identity thief does manage to file a return using your Social Security number before you do, it can take many months before you can straighten the matter out and get your true refund.

Scam of the day – April 14, 2014 – The last income tax scam of the season

April 14, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Tomorrow is April 15th which is the last day for filing your federal income tax return unless you are a procrastinator who has filed an extension.  Identity thieves and scammers love income tax season as it provides them with an opportunity for a wide variety of scams to steal your money.  I have described these scams in numerous Scams of the day.  As the income tax season comes to an end, scammers and identity thieves are busy with one last scam about which I want to warn you.  It starts with you receiving an email that appears to come from the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service in which you are told that there is a problem with your recently filed federal income tax return and that IRS computers have found errors in your return.  In order to resolve the problem, you are told to click on a link in the email that purports to take you to the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service website where you are told you will find information about the problem and the name of the taxpayer advocate assigned to your case.  If you click on the link, you will not go to the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service, which is a real organization.  Instead you will be sent to a legitimate looking, but phony website that will solicit you to provide information that will enable the identity thief behind this scam to make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

The easy way to avoid this scam is to remember that the IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers by email.  If you get an email, text message or phone call purporting to be from the IRS initiating contact about anything, you can be sure that it is a scam.  As a general rule, however, it is important to recognize that whenever you get an email, phone call or text message, you can never be sure of who is contacting you and whether or not they are legitimate.   Therefore never provide information to anyone who contacts you in this manner and do not click on links or attachments in unsolicited text messages or emails which may either be seeking personal information from you to be used to make you a victim of identity theft or will automatically when you click on the link download keystroke logging malware on to your computer that will steal the information from your computer and again use it to make you a victim of identity theft.

Scam of the day – April 11, 2014 – Windows XP support scams

April 11, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Scammers and identity thieves are quite adept at taking advantage of whatever concern people may have at any particular time and, as you are aware, the announcement by Microsoft that it would no longer be issuing security updates for the Microsoft XP operating system has left many consumers concerned about what they should be doing if they are still using that system on their computers, laptops or tablets.  Scammers and identity thieves have been taking advantage of this situation by starting to contact people by phone claiming that they are a part of Windows Helpdesk, Windows Service Center, Microsoft Tech Support or any of a number of different entities and that they can help by providing updates remotely or by directing them to websites where they can sign up for help.  All of these offers are phony.  Neither Microsoft nor any other entity connected to Microsoft is making unsolicited calls to consumers.  Allowing the caller to get remote access to your computer will only result in the identity thief getting access to the personal information contained in your computer which will be used to make you a victim of identity theft.  When you are directed to websites, in other variations of the scam you are prompted to provide your credit card which will be used to steal from you or you will be prompted to provide personal information that will be used to make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Remember, anyone who makes an unsolicited call to you offering to help you with your Microsoft XP is not connected with Microsoft or any related company.  As always, you can never be sure of who is calling you whenever you receive a phone call even if your Caller ID indicates it is a legitimate caller.  Caller ID can be manipulated by scammers through a technique called spoofing.  The best thing you can do is to consider upgrading to another operating system.  Windows XP is outdated and continued use of it will make you vulnerable to various hacking scams.  You can go directly to Microsoft at www.microsoft.com to learn what other options may be available to you.

Scam of the day – April 4, 2014 – Debit card texting scam

April 4, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

The Attorney General of Vermont is warning people in Vermont about a scam that is also turning up around the country in which people receive a call or a text message informing them that the bank account accessible through their debit card is frozen.  The potential victim is then given a telephone number to call to straighten the matter out.  The number is of course phony and not tied to any bank.  If the number is called, the potential victim can be turned into a real victim by providing the asked for personal information that is inquired about by the identity thief who then uses the information to access the victim’s bank account.

TIPS

If you receive such a call or a text message, you should ignore it.  Many people have received purporting to be from banks where the people receiving the calls don’t even have bank accounts.  This happened to me.  Never provide information to anyone who calls or texts you because you can never be sure who they are.  Even if you have Caller ID that indicates that the call is from a legitimate source, you cannot trust the call because Caller ID can be fooled into showing what appears to be a legitimate call through a technique called spoofing.  If you are concerned that the call may be legitimate, merely call your bank at a number that you know is legitimate and you will soon learn that the original call or text was phony

Scam of the day – April 1, 2014 – Military identity theft worsens

April 1, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

According to a study done by the Federal Trade Commission members of the military are twice as likely to become a victim of identity theft.  One of the primary reasons for this is the military personnel’s Social Security number.  A Social Security number is the key to identity theft.  Once an identity thief has this, he or she is off to the races.  Until recently all military ID cards used the Social Security number and although the Department of Defense has changed its policy and is now issuing military IDs with a unique Department of Defense number, the transition to these numbers only started in 2011 and will take four years to complete so many members of the military still have the old ID cards.  In addition, while Veterans Identification Cards no longer show the veteran’s Social Security number on the card, the person’s Social Security number is still embedded in the magnetic stripe on the back of the card so identity thieves who, through various pretenses manage to scan the card can obtain the Social Security number.  These cards are also being phased out, but many veterans still have these cards.

TIPS

Members of the military with the old-style cards should be particularly careful about providing the card as identification and should limit its use as an identifier whenever possible.  Although members of the military are eligible for an Active Duty Alert to be placed on their files with the three major credit reporting agencies that requires creditors to verify the identity of anyone before issuing credit in the name of the member of the military, a credit freeze, which locks your credit report and requires a PIN to make it available is probably a better choice.  You can find instructions as to how to put a credit freeze on your credit reports on the right hand side of this page.

Scam of the day – March 31, 2014 – Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) scams

March 30, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Today is the deadline for the applying for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) under the initial open enrollment period.  People required to enroll who have not started the process by today face being assessed with a financial penalty.   This is a great opportunity for uninsured people to purchase health insurance.  It is also a great opportunity for identity thieves and scam artists to take advantage of the confusion that surrounds the Affordable Care Act and try to steal your money and your personal information which they can use to make you a victim of identity theft.  There are a number of phony Affordable Care Act websites and people are also receiving calls from identity thieves and scammers posing as legitimate insurance brokers where the goal is merely to obtain your personal information and make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Never give personal information to anyone over the phone who calls you regardless of who they say they are because you can never be sure of their true identity.  Even if your Caller ID indicates that they are legitimate, scammers and identity thieves are able to manipulate Caller ID through a technique called spoofing whereby they are able to make their call appear to be from a legitimate source.  As for websites dealing with the Affordable Care Act, the problems initially occurring with the functioning of the website have been eliminated.  The best source of information both as to how to learn about the Affordable Care Act and to sign up for a plan is https://www.healthcare.gov/

 

Scam of the day – March 19, 2014 – Missing Malaysian airline scam

March 19, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

The mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 has captured the attention of people around the world so it should come as no surprise that scammers and identity thieves are using this event as an opportunity to steal people’s identity through malware infected phony news reports, photos and videos.  In 2011 similar scams tied to the Japanese Tsunami were common.  Throughout the Internet and on social media including Facebook and Twitter links to phony stories, photos and videos are appearing with tantalizing headlines such as “Shocking video, Malaysian Airlines missing flight MH 370 found in Sea,” “Malaysian Airlines missing flight MH 370 found in Sea – 50 people alive saved” and “CNN UPDATE Breaking – Malaysian Airplane MH 370 Already Found.  Shocking Video.”    Some phony links even promise videos of the plane in the Bermuda Triangle.  Unfortunately, if you click on these links, all you will succeed in doing is unwittingly downloading keystroke logging malware that will steal your personal information from your computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone and use that information to make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Never click on links unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate because they may well be just a lure to get you to unknowingly install malware on your computer, laptop or smartphone.  When looking for information upon which you can rely in regard to anything, stay with websites that you know are legitimate news sites.  Also, make sure that you have proper anti-malware and anti-virus software on all of your electronic devices and keep that software up to date with the latest security patches and updates.  The creators of malware and viruses are often ahead of the makers of anti-malware and anti-virus software, but it is important to keep your devices as safe as possible.

Scam of the day – March 7, 2014 – Another major retailer hacked – what it means to you

March 8, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Sally Beauty Holdings, a multi-billion dollar beauty products retailer with 3,300 stores around the world including 2,600 in the United States has announced that it has suffered a security breach which appears to have compromised the credit cards and debit cards of hundreds of thousands of its customers.  Unlike the  recent data breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus and Michaels, it appears that Sally Beauty’s own cyber defense technology may have detected the intrusion at the same time that a number of banks identified Sally Beauty Supply as being a victim of a data breach.  In the Target, Neiman Marcus and Michaels data breaches it was banks that monitored credit cards that first noticed the pattern of stolen cards being tied to the particular retailers.  Recently, on black market criminal websites large numbers of stolen credit cards and debit cards tied to use at Sally Beauty were being offered for sale.  Investigators are now theorizing that it is the same criminals that are behind all of these recent retail breaches and we all should expect more retail breaches in the upcoming days and weeks ahead.

TIPS

If you have shopped at Sally Beauty Supply in the last few months and used a credit or debit card, you should monitor the use of your card carefully for evidence that your card was among those stolen.  You may wish to change your credit card and debit card in order to be ahead of the game.  This is also a good time to remind you that you should not use your debit card for retail purchases.  Limit its use to ATM withdrawals because you do not get the same consumer protections if your debit card is breached that you would have if your credit card is stolen.  The inconvenience to you even if you do not actually lose money as a result of a debit card data breach is far worse than you would suffer with a stolen credit card.  You also may wish to protect yourself further by putting a credit freeze on your credit report so that even if an identity thief manages to get access to your personal information sufficient to gain access to your credit report, they will not be able to use the credit report because it will be PIN protected and frozen.  You can find instructions as to how to put a credit freeze on your credit report on the right hand side of this page of Scamicide.

Scam of the day – March 4, 2014 – Latest Google Chrome security updates

March 4, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

I constantly am providing you with the latest security updates for many of the software programs that we all use.  I do this because identity thieves and hackers are always working to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in these programs and use these vulnerabilities to make us victims of identity theft and other scams.  It is important to keep your software updated  and download these latest security updates and patches.  Additionally, however, even if you know it is important to keep your software programs updated, many people are wary of whether they are updating with legitimate security updates and patches or malware put out there by identity thieves and scammers posing as providers of security software.  It is for that reason as well that I regularly provide you with links to the latest security updates and patches that you can trust as they become available.

TIPS

Google Chrome is a web browser used by many people.  Google has just identified some security flaws in its software and has issued an advisory with links to the necessary security patches that you need to install to keep using Google Chrome safely.  Here is the link to that latest advisory as provided by the United States Department of Homeland Security.

https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2014/02/21/Google-Releases-Google-Chrome-Update

Scam of the day – March 2, 2014 – Wells Fargo sued over criminal identity theft

March 2, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Florida resident, Carlos Gomez is suing Wells Fargo Bank for malicious prosecution relating to an incident of criminal identity theft.  Gomez was falsely arrested in a predawn raid at his home in Kendall, Florida on crimes never committed by him, but were actually done by a bank employee at a local Wachovia Bank (Wachovia is now owned by Wells Fargo) where Gomez had a bank account.  The rogue employee stole Gomez’s identity to launder more than a million dollars that he had stolen from the accounts of other bank customers.  It took seven months for the identity theft to be discovered and for Gomez to be cleared of all charges.  In his lawsuit, Gomez accuses the bank of being lax in its security procedures which, he says, should have been sufficient to prevent this crime.

Although, Gomez’s nightmare is over, many victims of identity theft have more difficulty clearing their names.  Victims of criminal identity theft often find themselves in constant jeopardy of being arrested and jailed for crimes committed by identity thieves who have stolen and used their names to commit crimes. 

TIPS

If you learn that you are a victim of criminal identity theft and that someone has stolen your name and committed crimes using your name, you should contact the police and District Attorney’s office immediately.  File a report indicating that you are a victim of identity theft.  Get a letter from the District Attorney explaining the situation so that if you are ever stopped by a police officer or arrested, you can prove that the criminal is not you.  For more details on what you can do, get a copy of “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age” which can be ordered from Amazon by clicking on the link on the right hand side of this page.