New Scams You May Not Know About
Identity thieves rely on some common, old-fashioned techniques to get your information, such as stealing your wallet, going through your garbage to find personal documents or sending malware to your email. You already know how to protect yourself against those scams: keeping an eye on your wallet or purse, shredding anything with personal information on it, and not clicking on spam emails or pop-ups.
But what about some of the new ways identity thieves are getting their hands on your information? With advances in technology, there are many new methods for criminals to steal your information. Here are a few of the most popular scams and what you can do to protect yourself from them.
Pay with Bitcoin
Cryptocurrency is on the rise, and scammers are trying to take advantage. Top scams include:
- Blackmailing: Someone threatens an alleged affair or having something embarrassing on you and demands Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency in exchange for keeping quiet.
- Online chain referral schemes: Think of these like a chain letter in which you’re promised you’ll make cryptocurrency if you can recruit other people into the chain – if only you’ll pay for the right to recruit those people.
- Bogus investment or business opportunities: Someone might offer you investment or business opportunities that promise to make big money.
Protect yourself: Don’t invest in anything without researching the company, person or website first. Don’t be intimated by high-pressure tactics and demands to pay immediately. Report all cryptocurrency scams to the local police, FBI and the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.
A “skimmer” is a device that reads the information on a credit or debit card’s magnetic strip. In some cases, identity thieves install them in gas pumps or at ATMs. Skimming can also occur in retail situations, often restaurants, where a server will swipe your card through a handheld skimmer before running it through the establishment’s legitimate card reader. With the stolen data, identity thieves manufacture fake credit cards.
Protect yourself: Don’t swipe your card at any machine that looks tampered with or otherwise sketchy. If you’re eating out and are concerned about the risk of skimming by wait staff, bring your card up to the register so it doesn’t leave your sight.
Shimming is the new skimming, though this one is trickier to see – and harder for scammers to pull off. A “shim” is a paper-thin device inserted directly into the dip-and-wait slot on card readers. When your EMV-chip card is inserted into the card reader, both the card reader and the shim will simultaneously take your card’s information. While impossible to clone a chip card, scammers can use this information to create a version of your card with the magnetic stripe.
Protect yourself: Use machines in public, highly trafficked places, inside buildings or in brightly lit locations. Consider switching to contactless payment methods using mobile wallets such as Apple Pay® and Google Pay™.
Fake Tech Support
This typically starts with someone calling you claiming to be with Microsoft or Windos tech support and saying viruses have been detected on your computer. They’ll then ask you to call up a website and follow instructions, which may appear to show viruses being eliminated. In reality, malware is being installed to steal usernames, passwords and other personal data. Or, you could get a pop-up on your screen saying a virus has been detected and “call this number right away!”
Protect yourself: Hang up the phone. Neither Microsoft nor Windows make unsolicited phone calls and certainly aren’t closely monitoring your personal computer. For pop-ups, never call the number on the ad. If you’re concerned, call your computer manufacturer’s tech support number directly. Keep your software updated, which is free and includes new security updates built in.
Fake Tax Filing
As if filing your taxes isn’t stressful enough, some people get an unpleasant surprise when they find out an identity thief has already claimed their refund. In some cases, cybercrooks use stolen personal information to file a fake return, and then transfer “your” money onto a prepaid debit card. More rarely, victims get emails claiming their tax information was incomplete. The emails include a link that takes them to a fake IRS site and prompts them to enter their personal information.
Protect yourself: The IRS doesn’t contact taxpayers by email; any such solicitation is fake. An IRS notice informing a taxpayer that more than one return was filed in the taxpayer’s name or that the taxpayer received wages from an unknown employer may be the first tip off of victimization. Contact the IRS right away if you believe this happened to you.
Remember, financial institutions, credit card companies and billing companies will never email or call you asking for your personal information. Don’t click on links in emails; instead, always go to a company’s site by typing in the web address. If you ever get a suspicious email or phone call, do not reply or hang up and call the company at a trusted number right away.
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