During the next few weeks, the Sonora Police Department will post information to help safeguard you from several different forms of identity theft, which are becoming more and more prevalent in the Mother Lode.
The information for these posts was gathered from several different sources such as; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigations, U.S. Government’s Online Safety Site, Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, as well as the Federal and State Departments of Justice.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your consent, or knowledge, for financial, as well as other gains. This is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. It’s estimated 12 million people were the victims of identity theft last year alone.
Identity theft has topped the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s ranking of consumer complaints for the last five years. “Prime targets” are normally children, college students, members of the armed services, veterans, as well as seniors. However, it can happen to anyone at any time.
Typically, identity theft involves someone stealing your personal information to pose as you in one way or another. A newer and growing variety of this crime is called Synthetic Identity Theft. In Synthetic Identity Theft, your personal information is combined with fake data to create a brand new “bogus” identity. A thief may combine your Social Security number with a different name or other fake credentials. Synthetic Identity Theft can be harder to detect, which can lead to extensive damage to your credit. Often times this is discovered when reviewing your credit report and notice accounts opened under your name, which you didn’t open; or during the filing of your taxes when someone else is using your Social Security number with their name or a “bogus” name.
While no one is safe from identity theft, there are steps you can take to lower your risk. During the next few weeks we will look at ways to help protect you and others from these types of crimes. Next time we will look at scams, plus how to prevent from becoming a victim of one.
If you ever have any questions regarding identity theft, you can always call the Sonora Police Department at 532-8141, and ask to speak with an officer.
Operating a scam or fraud is one way individuals commit identity theft. Over the last year, these types of identity thefts have hit the Mother Lode hard. Several people have become victims of simple scams or frauds, which we are constantly warning people to be on the lookout for. Each victim could have safeguarded themselves by taking a few simple steps and verifying information before sending money or giving someone their credit card number.
These criminals may contact you in person, by phone, postal mail, or electronic mail (email). They may also use the internet to attempt to trick you into giving out personal information. You can help safeguard yourself by following these few simple steps.
Stay aware of current scams in our area. Watch, listen, or read the news, as well as check law enforcement websites and posts. All our local news agencies do a great job at reporting the most recent scams occurring in our area. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers information and tips on current scams as well. Their web address is; consumer.ftc.gov. To check on the latest internet scams, you can go to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center’s web site located at; ic3.gov.
Before giving out personal information to anyone, know whom you are talking to. Independently verify any information provided to you. Find the physical address and phone number of who contacted you by yourself. Don’t rely on the information they give you! Don’t trust email addresses given to you by unknown people. Search online to confirm the email address and check for consumer ratings.
Recently, our area has been hit by the PG&E and IRS scams. Just four weeks ago*, a local business owner became a victim of the PG&E scam and lost $1,500. Just by calling the PG&E main business line they could have easily determined this was a scam. Last year another business person became a victim to the IRS scam. A simple check on the phone number provided by the caller would have revealed the caller was calling from South Africa, probably safe to say they were not representing a U.S. government agency. Both of these are international scams. Once you send them money, there is no way of getting it back. These people are also rarely caught and prosecuted because they are outside the U.S.
Never respond to messages asking for personal information, weather the message was received over the phone, by email, or text message. Wait! Did I just read text message? Yes, you did! A recent scam is using text messages to claim you won a large cash prize or a trip. When you answer the text, they ask for a bank account number to deposit the funds in, or ask for a credit card number to secure the trip. Of course, once you text them these numbers, your account is quickly drained or your credit card is maxed out. So NEVER send money, bank account, or credit card information in reply to a notice that you won a “free” prize or trip.
We continue looking at how to avoid charity scams here.
*the original post was May 2016.