Identity theft schemes are multiplying and ever-evolving. A basic understanding of identity theft is fundamental, but keeping up to date maintains our safety. The list of scams that are out there (i.e., slow-tech identity theft schemes, secured credit card marketing schemes, etc.) is as long as your arm – and will only get longer! It’s an increased risk of having your credit ruined or even getting into debt. Nonprofit credit counseling agencies want to warn consumers about these new identity theft scams, so you’re not caught off-guard.
The Government Impersonator Scam
As authentic as some scammers sound on the phone, it’s crucial to know that the government will never call you to verify your Social Security Number. If a real government agency needs to contact you, they start out by sending you a letter. A government impersonator calls unsuspecting people with the goal of getting their personal information or money.
It’s a problem everyone should be aware of, and scammers will take advantage of certain populations if the opportunity presents itself. For example, during Pride Month this year, the FTC wanted to warn the LGBTQ+ community in particular. Specifically, they warned them about name change identity theft scams. A scammer would call someone who changed their name, and talk about their tax return. The scammer said that because of this name change, that person’s tax return had to be done differently. Then, the scammer said they needed the person’s Social Security Number to fix it.
That’s their hook. Once the scammer gets the person’s SSN, they’ll take over their identity and steal their money. If a caller is asking for your SSN, you can always hang up on the spot. This will help you avoid identity theft scams and subsequent credit issues.
Stimulus Check Scam
Millions of Americans received critical stimulus checks from the government – and criminals came up with the robocall check scam. Related to the earlier “government imposter” scam, the scammer pretended to be the IRS and called people to ask them for their personal financial information. They claimed to need this in order to deposit the stimulus check into your account – oh, and they asked for a fee as well, to deposit the check. These scammers wanted to use this information to impersonate their victims – so that they could claim the checks for themselves, drain their victims’ bank accounts, and keep that fee they asked for.
In a confusing time with the constant influx of updates and information to mentally absorb, it’s understandable how people could get tricked by scammers. The important takeaway is to not give your personal information over the phone, even if you think the person sounds articulate and official enough. The government already has your information, from when you filed your taxes.
Phishing Identity Theft Scams
2020 was the boom for Zoom – and scammers found their next opportunity. They formulated another identity theft scam. In the earlier months of the pandemic, scammers registered Zoom-related internet domains. Then they created emails, texts and social media messages with the Zoom logo. Afterward, they pretended to represent Zoom by sending these messages to people. The messages prompt you to click on a link, claiming that your account is suspended or that you missed a meeting. Once you click on the link, it downloads malicious software to access personal information – which leads to identity theft. Whenever you open a message and see a link, take a pause. If you’re in doubt about whether there’s a problem with your account, visit Zoom’s actual website directly and follow customer support steps.
When it comes to phishing, a criminal’s goal is to look like the brand you know and trust. They design their messages to be up to brand-standard. That way when you open the message, you wouldn’t think that it’s actually a scammer – with no connection whatsoever to the company – who’s behind it. Other examples of 2020 phishing scams include the COVID-19 relief payment scam, CDC impersonators, and holiday charity fraud.
These recent identity theft scams remind us of the basic principles that will protect us from future ones. You might not know what kind of scam criminals will think of next. Fortunately, the FTC updates their page with alerts. In the meantime, remember the basic rules of self-protection. Be careful with who you give your personal information to (and don’t post it online, either) and if you get a suspicious call, email, or text, don’t reply, and research the source online.
If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us.