Tax Season is Bringing Out Identity Thieves

A number of clients have recently reported to their tax preparation services that they have been receiving calls from someone posing as a representative from the Social Security Administration. The caller began the conversation by talking about the pending Congressional leader’s announcement where a deal with the White House on the economic stimulus package would give most tax filers refunds of $600 to $1,200, and more if they have children. The caller went on to solicit from consumers their Social Security number stating confirmation of their number would ensure they received their rebate checks within the next 6 – 7 months.

The Social Security Administration is not making a conscience effort to confirm consumer identification numbers. You need to be aware that identity thief’s are however and they use a number of tactics to steal your identity. Spoofing is generally used by thieves as a means to convince individuals to provide personal or financial information that enables the perpetrators to commit credit card/bank fraud or other forms of identity theft. An attempt to fraudulently acquire sensitive financial or personal information, such as credit card information or a Social Security number, by impersonating a business representative or trustworthy person is also known as a Phishing attempt and is usually initiated through e-mail, phone calls or Instant Messaging.

Thieves do not just collect Social Security Numbers. They are also after your telephone records, date of birth and your bank and credit card account numbers. This information is a personal asset as well and people who illegally solicit this information are also known as pretexters.

It is yet another name for identity theft and Pretexting is (like the other practices mentioned) a means of getting your personal information under false pretenses.

Pretexters sell your information to people who may use it to get credit in your name, steal your assets, or to investigate or sue you. Pretexting is against the law. Whether it is by means of Spoofing, Phishing or Pretexting the tactics are all designed to get your personal information.

According the Federal Trade Commission For example, a pretexter may call, claim he’s from a survey firm, and ask you a few questions. When the pretexter (let’s just call it a thief) has the information they want, it is used to call your financial institution.

The thief pretends to be you or someone with authorized access to your account. They might claim that they have forgotten their checkbook and need information about their account. In this way, the criminal may be able to obtain personal information about you such as your SSN, bank and credit card account numbers, information in your credit report, and the existence and size of your savings and investment portfolios.

Keep in mind that some information about you may be a matter of public record, such as whether you own a home, pay your real estate taxes, or have ever filed for bankruptcy.

It is not pretexting for another person to collect this kind of information. Identity thieves don’t just use the schemes we’ve just talked about to get your personal information they also procure your identity by:

* Stealing wallets, purses and your mail (bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks and tax information);

* Stealing personal information you provide to an unsecured site on the Internet, from business or personnel records at work and personal information in your home;

* Rummaging through your trash, the trash of businesses and public trash dumps for personal data;

* Buying personal information from “inside” sources. For example, an identity thief may pay an employee for information about you that appears on an application for goods, services or credit.

Even though the laws are on your side, it’s wise to take an active role in protecting your information. The Federal Trade Commission recommends the following actions;

1. Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you’ve initiated the contact or know who you’re dealing with. Pretexters may pose as representatives of survey firms, banks, Internet service providers and even government agencies to get you to reveal your SSN, mother’s maiden name, financial account numbers and other identifying information. Legitimate organizations with which you do business have the information they need and will not ask you for it.

2. Be informed. Ask your financial institutions for their policies about sharing your information. Ask them specifically about their policies to prevent pretexting.

3. Pay attention to your statement cycles. Follow up with your financial institutions if your statements don’t arrive on time.

4. Review your statements carefully and promptly. Report any discrepancies to your institution immediately.

5. Alert family members to the dangers of pretexting. Explain that only you, or someone you authorize, should provide personal information to others.

6. Keep items with personal information in a safe place. Tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, bank checks and other financial statements that you’re discarding, expired charge cards and credit offers you get in the mail.

7. Add passwords to your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SSN or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.

8. Be mindful about where you leave personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates or are having work done in your home by others.

9. Find out who has access to your personal information at work and verify that the records are kept in a secure location. Checking your credit report annually can help you catch mistakes and fraud before they wreak havoc on your personal finances.

Order a copy of your credit report from the three nationwide consumer reporting companies every year. To order your free annual report from one or all the nationwide consumer reporting companies, call toll-free 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form avail at their Website annualcreditreport.com, and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

If you do not have the time or expertise to put measures in place to protect you and your family’s identity consider visiting a credit protection service that can put the appropriate measures in place to preserve your good name, credit and assets.