Common Identity Theft Scams and How to Spot Them

There are countless ways that identity theft can occur, and one of the best ways to prevent theft of your personal data is to be aware of common scams in use.  These scams differ from the direct theft of data through physically stealing documents in the trash, or watching you enter your password on a laptop in a café.  Most of the common scams attempt to get you to offer up your personal data voluntarily, by posing as valid representatives or communications from a company or government agency. If you have your identity stolen, then you can be in a world of hurt with your credit score and may even incur severe debts. Please read this over to help protect yourself!

identity theft scams

Telephone Scams

Phone scams are not new, but are still widely used especially against senior citizens who rely on traditional communication methods.  The scam consists of the caller posing as an agent or rep for a bank, utility company or government agency that need to “confirm certain account details”.  The way to spot this scam is if they ask you for very sensitive information such as social security numbers or to verify credit card numbers.  Simply ask for the caller’s name and then you can offer to call them back on the official company line.

Spam Emails

Most people receive dozens of spam emails every week, and they can be disguised as valid communications from a bank or other company.  These utilize a web link in the email that you are asked to click on to enter the company site, but usually they link you to a site that downloads malware to your computer, or redirects you to a fake site that appears legitimate where you will be asked to enter personal data.  Spotting these scams takes more attention, and you must look for company logos that appear fake or requests that seem out of place.  Also, the return email address may appear suspicious or personal, rather than from an official source.

Here are a couple of examples:

“You have unread Facebook messages – click here to go to your account.”

“Please verify your account data using this link, or your account will be closed.”

“Your account has been compromised – please click here to reset password”.

More examples can be found here.

SMS or Text Scams

This is a modern variation on the phone scam where you receive an ‘urgent’ text message to call a specific number or click a link in the text.  Just as with email scams, the link could lead to a site that is able to extract the personal data from your phone, or even request that you enter personal information to prevent some type of emergency.  Rarely will legitimate banks or other companies send you an SMS alert that request personal data, so you should assume texts of this sort are suspicious.  The best approach is to not reply to the text or call the number they send you, but rather look up the valid company number and dial it separately.

Summary

These types of scam are very ‘low-tech’ compared with more sophisticated methods of hacking computer networks for personal data.  However, due to the apparent authenticity of the communication, many people are drawn into replying especially if there is an urgent tone to the message.  The best rule of thumb is to assume that any communication is false that requests an immediate disclosure of personal data.  Take the time to verify the request with a phone call to the official company or government number, and save yourself the cost and time of having your identity compromised.

If you liked this article on common scams, then check out this article on preventing identity theft.

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