Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S., announced a data breach that affects 143 million consumers. The hackers accessed Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.
Equifax has launched a tool that will let you know if you were affected by the breach. Visit Equifax’s website dedicated to this breach to learn if you were impacted. You will need to provide your last name and the last six numbers of your Social Security number.
If you are impacted, Equifax offers you a free credit monitoring service, TrustedIDPremier. However, you won’t be able to enroll in it immediately. You will be given a date when you can return to the site to enroll. Equifax will not send you a reminder to enroll. Mark that date on your calendar, so you can start monitoring your credit as soon as possible.
If you detect suspicious activity on your credit report due to the breach, learn how to report it immediately.
Telephone scammers try to trick you out of money or get access to your personal information. Scams may come through phone calls from real people, robocalls, or text messages. The callers often make false promises, such as opportunities to buy products, invest your money, or receive free product trials. They may also offer you money through free grants and lotteries. Some scammers may call with threats of jail or lawsuits if you don’t pay them.
Report Telephone Scams
Reporting scams to federal agencies helps them collect evidence for lawsuits against people committing these scams. However, federal agencies don’t investigate individual cases of telephone scams.
Research business opportunities, charities, or travel packages separately from the information the caller has provided.
Don’t give in to pressure to take immediate action.
Don’t say anything if a caller starts the call asking, “Can you hear me?” This is a common tactic for scammers to record you saying “yes.” Scammers record your “yes” response to use as proof that you agreed to a purchase or credit card charge.
Don’t provide your credit card number, bank account information, or other personal information to a caller.
Don’t send money if the caller tells you to wire money or pay with a prepaid debit card.
Banking scams involve attempts to access your bank account. Some popular banking scams include:
Overpayment scams - A scam artist sends you a counterfeit check. They tell you to deposit it in your bank account, and wire a portion of the money back to them. Since the check was fake, you’ll have to pay your bank the amount of the check, plus you’ll lose any money you wired.
Unsolicited check fraud - A scammer sends you a check for no reason. If you cash it, you may be authorizing the purchase of items or signing up for a loan you didn’t ask for.
Automatic withdrawals - A company sets up an automatic debit from your bank account, as part of a free trial or to collect lottery winnings.
Phishing - You receive an email message that asks you to verify your bank account or debit card number.
Report Banking Scams
The proper organization to report a banking scam to depends on which type you were a victim of.
IRS imposter scams occur when someone contacts you pretending to work for the IRS. The imposter may contact you by phone, email, postal mail, or even a text message. There are two common types of scams:
Tax collection - You receive a phone call or letter, claiming that you owe taxes. They will demand that you pay the amount immediately often with a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may even threaten to arrest you if you don’t pay.
Verification - You receive an email or text message that requires you to verify your personal information. The message often includes a hyperlink phrase “click here” or a button to a fraudulent form or website.
There are things to look out for to prevent being a victim of an IRS imposter scam.
Beware if someone calls claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS will always contact you by mail before calling you about unpaid taxes.
Ask a caller to provide their name and badge number and callback number. Then call TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484 to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you. If the person legitimately is from the IRS, call them back. Otherwise report it to the IRS.
Ticket selling scams happen when a scammer uses tickets as bait to steal your money. The scammer usually sells fake tickets or you pay for a ticket, but never receive it. They are common when tickets for popular concerts, plays, and sporting events sell out. Scammers, including individuals and fake resale companies, take advantage of the situation by:
Charging prices much higher than the face value of a ticket
Creating counterfeit tickets with forged barcodes and logos of real ticket companies
Selling duplicates of a legitimate ticket and emailing it to several buyers.
Pretending to sell tickets online to steal your credit card information
Report ticket scams
There are several options to report a ticket scam.
Prize scammers try to get your money or personal information through fake lotteries, sweepstakes, or other contests. Many claim that you’ve won a prize but must pay a fee to collect it. Others require you to provide personal information to enter a “contest.” These scams may reach you by postal mail, email, phone call, robocall, or text message.
State and local laws govern legitimate lotteries and sweepstakes. In the United States, 43 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands sponsor lotteries to raise money for the state's programs. States that sponsor lotteries publish the results of their lotteries online, or broadcast them on television.
Federal agencies investigate scams and pursue criminal charges against the scammers. They don’t, however, investigate individual cases. State consumer protection offices do sometimes pursue individual cases as well as investigate scams.
How to Protect Yourself
Remember these tips to avoid being a victim of a lottery or sweepstakes scam:
Check the postage on a mailed prize notice. If it was sent bulk rate, it’s probably a scam.
Try to remember if you entered a particular contest. If you don’t remember entering it, you probably didn’t, and the prize notice is a fake.
Contact the actual company to verify a prize notice from an organization known to run a real sweepstakes.
Pyramid schemes are scams that require a constant flow of new participants to keep them going. They are marketed as multi-level marketing programs or other types of legitimate businesses. They use new recruits’ required payments to provide “profits” to those participating longer.
Ask to see documents, such as financial statements audited by a certified public accountant (CPA), showing that the company generates revenue from selling its products or services to people outside the program.
Be skeptical of success stories and testimonials of fantastic earnings.
Don’t invest until you’ve verified that the business is legitimate.
Don’t get involved in businesses that require you to recruit new participants.
Don’t buy into franchises that guarantee big profits quickly.
Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. You may not be aware of the problem until you E-file your tax return and find out that another return has already been filed using your Social Security number. If the IRS suspects tax ID theft, they will send a 5071C letter to the address on the federal tax return. Keep in mind, the IRS will never start contact with you by sending an email, text, or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. Watch out for IRS imposter scams, when someone contacts you saying they work for the IRS.
Report Tax ID Theft
If you suspect you have become a victim of tax ID theft—or the IRS sends you a letter or notice indicating a problem—take these steps:
The U.S. Census Bureau is the federal agency responsible for collecting data about the people and economy of the United States. It must collect some personal and demographic information from people and businesses to do this research.
Some scam artists may act as if they work for the U.S. Census Bureau to collect personal information about you to use for fraud, including stealing your identity. These scam artists may send you letters that seem like official letters from the U.S. Census Bureau, or they may come to your home to try to collect information about you.
Follow these tips to ensure that your personal information stays safe:
If you are visited at home by someone claiming to be a census worker, request to see the person’s badge. The badge should have the photograph of field representative, a Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. Here are some other ways to identify a legitimate census worker.
Don’t provide information if someone claiming to be a census worker asks for your full Social Security number, bank or credit card account numbers, or your mother’s maiden name. The Census Bureau does not ask for these.
A Ponzi scheme is a type of investment fraud that relies on money from new investors to pay “returns” to current investors. To keep the scam going, the scheme organizers must continually attract new investors and discourage current investors from cashing out. When they can’t, the scheme collapses.
Government grant scammers try to get your money by guaranteeing a free grant to help you pay for college, home repairs, or other expenses. They ask for your checking account information so they can “deposit the grant money into your account” or withdraw a “one-time processing fee.”
If you’ve paid a fee to learn about or apply for a government grant, you can report it to your state consumer protection office. The government does not charge for information or applications for federal grants.
How to Protect Yourself
Remember these tips to avoid being a victim of a grant scam:
Be wary of advertisements and calls about free government grants. These are usually scams.
Register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive. Register online at donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.
Don’t give your bank account information to anyone you don’t know.
Don’t pay any money for a government grant. You can get Information about government grants for free at public libraries and online at Grants.gov. Government agencies don’t charge processing fees for grants they’ve awarded.
Don’t believe callers who claim they’re from an official-sounding government agency with news about a grant. Check out the name of the agency online or in the phone book—it may be fake.
Don’t assume a phone call is originating from the area code displayed on your caller ID. Some scam artists use technology to disguise their location and make it appear as if they’re calling from Washington, DC.