They say white-collar crimes tend to increase in times of economic stress. This is one of those times. And it’s all the more important to be watchful.
For most of us, our personal identities extend beyond just our name. In many ways we are also our online profiles and our credit, too.
Identity Theft: A Growing Problem and Cost to All of Us
Right now, there are scammers out there trying to steal not just what you own but trying to steal you. Identity theft is a real problem and a drag on our economy. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimated in 2006 that more than 3.6 million households affecting over 9 million people were victims of identity theft. One study noted that the cost to consumers was nearly $57 billion dollars (that’s with a ‘B,” folks) in 2005.
And according to the Government Accounting Office (GAO-02-363, March 2002), this costs the federal government (and us taxpayers), too. The average cost for a financial crime investigation is about $15,000 for the Secret Service, more than $11,000 for the US Attorneys and nearly $20,000 for the FBI.
I have a client whose niece works for a regional office of the FBI who has sent out around this notice for a new twist on a “phishing” scam.
Watch Out for Folks Gone Phishin’
Phishing is where the scammer posing as a legitimate company or authority tries to get an unwary consumer to divulge valuable personal information like a Social Security number, account number or other details like a date of birth.
The Jury Duty Hoax – A Twist on An Old Scam
In this latest reported scam, the FBI has confirmed that scammers are calling and posing as “jury duty coordinators” saying that an arrest warrant has been or will be issued for failing to show up for a recent jury summons.
If you protest that you never received a notice, the “coordinator” will ask for your Social Security number, date of birth and address so that he can verify the information and cancel the arrest warrant.
Most of us are sufficiently deferential (or even scared) of the court system so the scammers are relying on us to simply roll over and give them what they ask for on the phone. In some cases, the “coordinator” uses intimidation and bullying tactics to get you to comply.
Once you give them your information the scammers have hit the jackpot.
So far this type of phishing scam and fraud has been reported in eleven states including Illinois, Ohio and Colorado.
So be wary of unsolicited calls asking you to provide your Social Security number and other personal identifying information. No legitimate government agency or business you deal with will ever ask you to just give them your stuff. They may ask you to verify what they have (if not ask them to read out what they have). And if you’re ever unsure, ask for the website and a call back number so you have time to check it out independently.
So protect yourself and others you know by letting them know about this scam.
Go to the FBI website to check out details on this and other scams.
And if you ever suspect a scam, you can also check out the website for the Federal Trade Commission as well.