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.
Remember these tips to avoid being a victim of a telephone scam:
Register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. You may register online or by calling 1-888-382-1222. If you still receive telemarketing calls after registering, there’s a good chance that the calls are scams.
Be wary of callers claiming that you’ve won a prize or vacation package.
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.
Report IRS Imposter Scams
Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) if you believe that an IRS imposter has contacted you. Report IRS imposter scams online or by calling 1-800-366-4484. Forward email messages that claim to be from the IRS to email@example.com.
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 often happen when tickets for popular concerts, plays, special venues, and sporting events sell out quickly but there is a still a very high demand for tickets. Scammers including individuals and fake resale ticket sellers will 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 in the form of electronic tickets that they email to multiple buyers
Posing as sellers of tickets that are stolen and telling you a hard luck story about why they can’t go to the event at the last minute
Pretending to sell tickets online for the purpose of stealing your identity or 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.
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.
Register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. You may register online or by calling 1-888-382-1222. If you receive telemarketing calls after registering, there’s a good chance that the calls are scams.
Report spam text messages to your mobile carrier, then delete them.
Hang up on suspicious calls.
Don’t pay a fee, taxes, or shipping charges to receive a prize.
Don’t wire money to, or deposit a check from, any organization claiming to run a sweepstakes or lottery.
Don’t provide your credit card number, bank account information, or other personal information.
Don’t believe anyone who says they’re from the government or an official-sounding organization.
A pyramid scheme, also known as Ponzi scheme, is an illegal form of multilevel marketing. In these scams, your ability to earn profits is based on the number of new participants you recruit, instead of the amount of products or services you sell. Sometimes there actually aren't any real products that are being sold. These types of schemes are common with investment and independent direct selling opportunities.
These schemes rely on the income from new participants in order to pay fake "profits" to people that have been part of the scheme for longer amounts of time. However, the scheme falls apart when there aren't enough new recruits to pay into the system, so the earlier participants no longer receive earnings.
Tips to Avoid Being a Victim
Take steps to protect yourself from being a victim of a pyramid scheme:
Be wary of "opportunities" to invest your money in franchises or investments that require you to bring in more investors to increase your profit, or recoup your initial investment.
Be wary if the company sells non-tangible products or technical services, rather than physical items.
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.