This is the second in a series of articles about identity theft. The first article is here.
I read a blog post the other day about identity theft; apparently some company called the author and said someone was using her identity for fraudulent purposes. She didn’t remember the name of the company, which raised a red flag for me, and I left a comment to be careful, because a lot of times if someone calls you and says someone is stealing your information, they are the ones who want to steal your information.
They will call and get you scared and they act like they want to help you, and then when they have your trust, they ask for your information to “verify” your records. Well, my dears, that’s when they can get all your information, from your credit cards right down to your date of birth and your social security number. Do not fall for this. Don’t give anyone your information over the phone unless you called them. If they call you, they shouldn’t have to ask you anything.
For example, someone did get my credit card information somehow (my card wasn’t lost or stolen, so it was either grabbed and cloned from a card swipe somewhere, or it was hacked from someone’s website). Discover called me to ask about some odd charges. They didn’t ask for any verifying information like my password or any financial information; they just read the different charges that had been made on my account, some of which I recognized and some I didn’t (it was pretty simple, since all of the unauthorized charges were out of state). They read everything to me, and did not ask me for information. They then followed up with a letter.
In another example, a person saying she was from my bank called me to ask about a loan payment that was late. I had not received a statement that month for some reason, so I hadn’t caught it. She offered to take the payment directly from my checking account without any fee, and I said okay, but then she asked me to give the account number to verify. I politely refused, explaining that I don’t give any account numbers if I don’t initiate the call. I said she should have the information. She said she did, but since I had not paid that way before, she needed verification. I again declined, and she was very understanding. I said I would make the payment that day at the bank branch.
She probably was calling from the bank, especially because she did not bug me or press me for the information (that’s a big tip-off). What I could have done, in this case, was to ring off with her and call the bank myself to ensure I was talking to my bank for sure, and then I would have felt comfortable. If you receive such a call, always ask the person’s name, the company name, and get a callback number. Do not let anyone scare you into giving up information! Hang up, check the company out online, and call back. Reputable companies will gladly let you do this. Scammers will try to pressure you or resist your questions. Insist on the information. They might give you some excuse that you can’t call them back directly or some story. Just hang up! If they do give you a callback number, remember to check it online first, and only call back if it is legit.
You may also get scam emails trying to get your financial information. As a matter of fact, within an hour of leaving that warning comment on the post I had read, I actually received one such scam email myself, which I will talk about in my next post.