July 19

Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft, Scams

By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions

The alerts have been numerous. They have been included in many of the e-mails that I have received from State Senators and Representatives in Illinois.

One of the e-mails that I received on Friday highlighted a CBS Chicago news report from earlier in the week that was headlined “Scammers are Impersonating Nearly Every State Department in Pfishing Scheme, and People are Falling for It.”

The Illinois Secretary of State Office, Department of Labor, Department of Transportation, and Department of Employment Security were all mentioned.

One of the scams mentioned in the CBS story involved people getting a text message that appears to come from the Illinois Department of Transportation about the need to provide information to validate your driver license. The Department of Transportation has nothing to do with driver licenses; driver licenses are the province of the Secretary of State.

Here is a link to the CBS Chicago story https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2021/07/12/scammers-impersonating-illinois-state-departments-phishing-scams/

Other e-mails called attention to a different drivers license scam. The alert advised us to “Watch Out for Scam Targeting Drivers!

Those holding an Illinois Driver License are being targeted through e-mails and text messages by scammers phishing for information. The license holders are receiving an e-mail or text message that appears to be from the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. The message says the individual’s license has been suspended. Recipients are asked to verify or fill-in missing personal information that the scammers can use to steal your identity.

The alert notes that the Secretary of State’s Office would not be using e-mail or text messages to communicate important information such as a license suspension. Important communications would only be sent by mail.

Officials advise you to delete the e-mail or text message; do not open or respond.

The Daily Herald posted a news story about the scam. https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20210705/its-a-scam-thousands-of-drivers-targeted-by-text-email

As was mentioned during an informational program conducted earlier this month at the Deer Path of Huntley affordable assisted living community, identity theft is happening more frequently.

Police Officer Megan Carney of the Police Department in Huntley, Illinois conducted the program.

Calls about scams and identity theft are one of the most prevalent calls the department gets, she said. The reason why is that identity theft is a high reward, low risk crime. The chances of being caught are slim, particularly because the scammers usually operate from outside the United States.

 

During the informational program, Officer Carney offered a checklist of steps you can take to help protect yourself.

  1. Never divulge personal information such as your Social Security, credit card, bank account, Medicare numbers unless you are the one who has initiated the contact. Social Security, Medicare, banks, and credit card companies are very unlikely to call you and ask for your account number. They already have it.
  2. Use separate credit cards with specific limits for vacation or internet purchases.
  3. Have fraud alerts set up on your accounts.
  4. Contact your bank or credit card company immediately if you suspect any unusual or suspicious activity rather than waiting for your monthly statement to arrive.
  5. Do not carry around more checks, credit cards or other bank items than you expect to use.
  6. Pick passwords and Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) that will be tough for others to figure. She suggests something different than your mother’s maiden name.
  7. Promptly remove incoming mail from your mailbox. Deposit outgoing mail in the Post Office’s collection boxes, especially any outgoing mail that contains checks or personal information.
  8. Keep thieves from turning your trash into their cash. Any paper that contains personal information that you are not keeping should be shredded using crisscross shredding, especially credit card applications and receipts, cancelled checks, bank statements, expired charge cards, and other documents or information that someone can use to create counterfeit or order new checks or credit cards.
  9. Practice home security. Safely store extra checks, credit cards, documents that list your Social Security number, and similar items. Stop delivery of your newspaper when you will be away. Ask a neighbor to pick up items that are delivered to your house.
  10. Review your credit card and bank statements and contact the credit card company or financial institution immediately if you see a discrepancy or notice something suspicious. Also, contact the credit card company or bank if a bill or statement does not arrive on time. This could be a sign that someone has stolen your account information and changed your mailing address in order to run up your bill in your name from another location.
  11. Get caller ID on for your phone. If you do not recognize the number, let it go to voice mail.
  12. Beware of websites that sell fake products. If you are going to purchase something on-line, do some research to make sure the company is legitimate. Check with the Better Business Bureau.
  13. Beware of individuals who knock on your door claiming to the utility workers. They may be wearing safety vests and carrying clipboards. They may have what appears to be an identification badge. You can always call the police department to check it out.
  14. Check your credit report. Look for signs of any possible fraud and for anything suspicious in the section of the credit report that lists who has received a copy of your credit history. You can obtain a credit report at no charge once a year from these three major credit bureaus:

 

Equifax

P.O. Box 740241

Atlanta, GA

30374-0241

1-800-525-6285

 

Experian

P.O. Box 9532

Allen, TX 75013

1-888-397-3742

www.experian.com

 

TransUnion

P.O. Box 6790

Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

1-800-680-7289

www.transunion.com

Since you can obtain a report at no charge once a year from each of these major credit bureaus, one idea is to obtain one from one of the three bureaus today; another report from another of the three credit bureaus four months from now; and another from the third bureau eight months from now.

If you spot signs of possible fraud in a credit bureau report, contact the bureau.

In addition to the identity theft and fraud protection tips mentioned by Officer Carney, the FBI offers tips to avoid becoming a victim of phishing and spoofing types of scams at https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/spoofing-and-phishing

 

 

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