ID thieves are always on the lookout for a new way to obtain your sensitive personal information. It’s critical that you stay one step ahead, and one of the easiest and most effective ways is to remain educated and up-to-date regarding identity thieves latest techniques.
By knowing what to look out for, you can make better choices to protect your identity. Whether it’s scams involving the 2010 Census, social media sites or performing civic duties, identity thieves will try and take advantage of any way they can secure your sensitive personal information. Find out more about the latest scams and techniques to know what you should be on the lookout for.
The 2010 Census
Every 10 years, the Census is conducted to determine how to distribute government funds to communities and to ensure each state has the proper number of political representatives. The questionnaire consists of ten non-personal questions addressing issues like name, gender, age, race, etc. Since many people are unfamiliar with the Census due to its infrequency, it’s the perfect opportunity for identity thieves to trick people into giving them their personal information.
It’s important to know what information the Census Bureau will never ask you for in order to determine what inquiries could be scams. The Census Bureau never asks for:
- Your full Social Security Number
- PIN codes
- Bank-account numbers
- Credit card information
- Any other personal financial information
- Money or donations
- Political affiliation
One of the most significant scams predicted for this year’s Census involves “phishing” — the fraudulent effort to acquire sensitive personal information via e-mail by claiming to be a trustworthy entity. You should know that the Census Bureau does NOT conduct the 2010 Census via the Internet nor does it send emails about participating in the 2010 Census. If you receive an e-mail fraudulently claiming to need private information for the Census, don’t open any attachments or click any links. Learn more about the Census and how identity thieves may take advantage of it by visiting the Equifax Census Scam Alert Center at www.equifax.com/census.
Staying safe socially
With the rapidly growing popularity of social media sites, more people are sharing an increasing amount of personal information over the Internet. Even if you don’t consider some of the information you display on social sites “sensitive personal information,” you should still use strict privacy settings. Why? In the words of Maneesha Nithal, the Associate Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Privacy Division, “Technology has rendered the conventional definition of personally identifiable information obsolete. You can find out who an individual is without it.”
Numerous studies have shown that with the right technology, determined identity thieves may be able to eventually piece together seemingly insignificant facts about you along with publicly available information to steal your identity. The best way to prevent this is to share as little information publically as possible and ask that your friends be subtle in the information they share about you; your best efforts to safeguard your identity can be negated by a careless friend’s wall posts. Jon Kleinberg, a researcher of social networks at Cornell University, puts it best with his advice: “When you’re doing stuff online, you should behave as if you’re doing it in public — because increasingly, it is.”
The Jury Duty Scam
Identity thieves often prey on people’s fear and — in this case — their civic obligations. The “Jury Duty” scam, for example, is remarkably easy to fall for. Imagine this scenario: you receive a call from a jury coordinator informing you that a warrant has been issued for your arrest due to your failure to appear for jury duty. When you explain that you never even received a summons for jury duty, the coordinator asks for your Social Security number and date of birth in order to verify your information and cancel the warrant. Of course you’re willing to provide this information; there’s obviously been a mistake and you want to avoid arrest at all costs. Problem is, this is all part of the scam. There never was a warrant, and you’ve just had your identity stolen.
This scam has been reported in a number of states. So if you receive a phone call that seems suspicious or threatening, don’t panic. Simply ask for more information, the caller’s supervisor, or a number at which you can reach them after doing more research. Nothing foils an identity thief like an educated response.
From the Equifax April 2010 Newsletter.