The following information has been provided by the Blairsville Police Department
According to an online poll by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, approximately 8.4 million people fell victim to identity fraud in 2007 costing a total of $49.3 billion to the victims. This averages out to about $5,720 per victim.
This is a growing problem in the United States, and thieves continue to come up with more and more ways to fraudulently gain access to your accounts or your personal information. The following is a common list of ways that thieves gain access to your personal information and some common remedies to protect against this.
Thieves can gain access to your information by going through your mail and taking certain pieces that appear that they may have account information, personal information, etc. Banks, utility companies, and even your employers are bad about sending you letters through the mail that clearly state on them“Statement enclosed” or “Important Tax Documents”. This is a dead giveaway for criminals that are looking to fraudulently gain access to your accounts or your identity. One remedy to help fend against people gaining access in this way is to, if possible, set up to receive online bank statements and bills to avoid this. Always remember to shred documents that you decide to discard that may have identifying information on them. This includes bank statements, utility bills, tax information, credit card offers, loan offers, etc. Some thieves will go to the hassle of going through your trash to obtain these documents, but if they are shredded then it is less likely that they will take the time to fool with it.
Another common method of gaining access to your personal information or finances is simply by calling you and asking for it. There has been a huge emergence of this lately, even in our little town of Blairsville.There are a few different scenarios that are common.
Firstly,someone may call you and tell you that your loved one has been arrested and that you must send money to bail them out of jail. Most of the time the caller will say that your loved one have been arrested in a foreign country, such as Mexico.They will then ask for you to wire money or provide a credit card number.
Another method is by calling and saying that you have been approved for a loan and asking you for your account information so that they may credit your account with the funds. This is often accompanied by low interest rates or by telling you that you will not have to pay back the loan.
Another method that has popped up recently is the person calling you will tell you that you are being investigated for a crime and that if you send them money they will “deal with it” so that you do not have to go to jail.
There are a few things to remember when dealing with people over the phone. NEVER give out any personal information over the phone (account numbers, credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc) without first confirming that the people are who they say they are. If someone calls you claiming that they are from your bank or credit card company, tell them that you will call them back. Then simply look up the number for this department and call them and confirm that what the people were saying was true. NEVER wire anyone money without first confirming their identity. Wire transfer companies are beginning to catch on to a lot of the fraudulent activities to help keep consumers safe; however, do not rely on the companies to protect against this type of fraud.
Often the people that make these phone calls will become threatening and harassing whenever you make a stand to confirm their identity. Do not let this intimidate you. They will threaten you with legal action or possibly incarceration, but do not let this worry you until you can confirm the legitimacy of their phone call.
Remember:Thieves particularly like to defraud those that may be partially susceptible to their particular ruse. These groups include teenagers, elderly persons,disabled person, or the mentally handicapped. If you believe that your loved ones may become susceptible to these types of fraud, please alert them of the different means by which they may fall victim and the remedies against this.
This article does not include all types of fraud, but does cover some of the most common to our area. Be on the lookout for these types of fraud. Remember to frequently check your bank accounts, credit card accounts, etc to notice any discrepancies that may appear. It is also a good idea to get your free credit report every year to make sure there are no fraudulent activities taking place.
Some of these criminals are very hard to track down, because they may reside in another country when they obtain your personal information; therefore, the best way to ward off these criminals is prevention and early detection.
If you feel you may have fallen to any type of fraud, alert your local authorities. More information on this topic may be found through the IRS website or the Departments of Justice’s website.
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