Tax Season = Identity Theft Concerns

Everywhere you read there are red flags about being more concerned than ever about identity theft; after all, it is tax season!

Just yesterday New Hanover County, NC news headlines contained a request by authorities to find a couple accused of identity theft and credit card fraud… in a spree that started January 21st. The couple had secured cards and information from local credit union members, with activity continuing throughout Jacksonville and Myrtle Beach, SC.

And a few days ago KSTP 5-Eyewitness news reported significant crimes occurring in the Twin Cities: Children’s financial identities are being stolen and parents often don’t know it’s even happened until much later, according to law enforcement. The article referred to a Carnegie Mellon University study identifying that more than 10 percent of the minors experienced another person having used their Social Security number—a rate 51 percent higher than a similar report in 2011.

A big flag went up when I recently read about the influx of identity theft in Albuquerque and police officers recounting an event in 2013 when a young man returned home from work and found his laundry room open and a few high priced items stolen. At first glance, he felt he could deal with that, but… in the ensuing investigation, he found more disconcerting the theft of items from the fire safe hidden in the laundry room! Gone were immunization records, social security card—essentially everything he needed to verify his identity. It actually took him the better part of the week even convincing the investigating officers “he” was the owner of the home. His bank records had been changed, his accounts drained and several other credit cards issued to the thief.

What this tale notes so clearly for Arizona communities is that in the case of identity theft you are victimized twice! Once in the theft and again in having the struggle to reclaim your real identity, undo the damage done by the theft, and tend to the tasks of putting a stop to further criminal actions—often for many years future forward.

Although the home invasion is more personal, the damage done from mail being stolen from your mailbox can be just as bad. It may be inconvenient to use a paid postal box, but that is far better than the horrifying knowledge of just how vulnerable you are to the possibilities of someone walking along the street can grab sufficient information to replace you in life! Protect yourself at all costs; protect your neighbors should you see strange behavior around anyone’s mailbox by calling 242-COPS and download the following PDF for a list of tips and resources. http://bit.ly/2mjs0S3

Making MORE happen for my insurance clients…

Jan Vitale

Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years
http://www.lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com/
JanVitale@lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com
http://www.JanVitale.legalshieldassociate.com

 

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BIG ISSUES – Shady tactics, scams and identity theft

BIG ISSUES – Shady tactics, scams and identity theft

As an independent insurance agent, I pride myself in serving my community and take my responsibility very seriously.

From time to time, I am, in that responsibility… compelled to speak loudly and take a BIG stand for what I consider BIG issues. There has been a tsunami of scammers and hackers who are instilling an overall sense of public panic, and now people are being victimized by Obamacare “scams” that spread false information about potential changes to health insurance regulations – all with the intent to frighten people into turning over their money for an alternative coverage.

Social media, news headlines and threats of repealing the current program with yet another… all scammers have to do it point to the buzz and tell an unsuspecting, and an already frightened public to “Act now!”

This is not the first scam identity thieves have taken advantage of. We have seen IRS scams that resulted in delayed refunds and opened doors for scammers to convince people “they” can secure the much-needed refund earlier. Another controversial political events that leave us vulnerable includes student loans… debt forgiveness programs at a cost for a service that is actually provided for no fee.

What can we do to protect ourselves? Steel ourselves against knee-jerk, fear-filled reactions; take a calm mature approach to any corrective action we may need rather than buying into something that plays on the human attraction to immediate gratification. Keep in mind that most of these shady tactics and scams are more often designed to steal your money AND your personal identity, which follows. Before saying yes to any offer that seems too perfect, too good to be true – do your research – and the greatest percentage of the time, you will discover it is not to your best benefit to say yes.

I hope you have enjoyed this article; that it has made you think and reconsider just how cautious you must be: unfortunately, just short of being paranoid!  What I want to effect with the Identity Theft articles in the newsletter is to impress upon my readers how easy it is for almost anyone to fall victim to these predators.
I also want to reiterate it you don’t have some sort of identity theft protection, the financial devastation could be huge. As part of my insurance portfolio, I do offer an Identity Theft Protection Plan through my professional relationship with Legal Shield. If you would like to know more about this plan, I invite you to review my website: https://www.legalshield.com/hub/janvitale.
You can make your purchase right from the website, or call me at 480 720 3600 to discuss any questions you may have about the product and services.

 

Making MORE happen for my insurance clients…

Jan Vitale

Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years
http://www.lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com/
JanVitale@lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com
http://www.JanVitale.legalshieldassociate.com

Identity Theft: Craigslist and the FBI

Because identity theft is far too prevalent and because I promote an identity theft protection product, my reticular activator just goes crazy and I am seeing articles and posts everywhere! Recently, Jill Krasny, aIdentity theft word cloud writer for Credit.com published a guest post on the online version of TIME. Just when you think you have seen it all—something else crops up and Krasny’s article really turned my head… scammers on Craig’s List trapping innocent people looking for rental homes!

Honestly! Stop and think about how difficult it is—searching for rental homes in the first place—and now renters have to be skeptical of whether there is a landlord or an identity thief on the other end of the on-going communication. Krasny speaks to how “fraudsters” direct potential renters to a particular “trusted” site for a credit report, which they require before scheduling a tour of the home. Apparently, the quality of copywriting on the site is good, but the scam was uncovered when it was discovered the URL ran through several redirects before landing on a site existing only to steal personal information—and charge a fee for future credit reports.

Unfortunately, this kind of theft is difficult to counter and Craigslist did not immediately respond other than to advise users to never share personal information, refrain from renting or purchasing “sight-unseen,” and refuse background or credit checks until you have personally met with a potential landlord.

Although a landlord is entitled to know your creditworthiness, anyone who is credible will not make that requirement for a viewing of the property. Even they should understand the sensitive personal information contained in them, and appreciate your reticence to share it with a stranger. If they do not; don’t get set up for the possible nightmare of identity theft.

Another one that just makes my blood boil is the IRS/FBI scam! Constance Brinkley-Badgett, also a guest author for TIME, stirred up the pot in late June with her message to consumers, “Beware of this new scam!” The long and short of it is how phone scammers are promoting themselves as the FBI coming down on you for unpaid IRS obligations, in the hope of swindling you out of cash and/or personal information. This one has made it to the FBI field offices who are issuing warnings that “a phone scam that fakes the FBI’s name and actual telephone number on the recipient’s caller ID has recently occurred.” I cannot imagine I would be so dumb as to believe anyone who told me there was a “federal warrant out for their arrest, which will be thrown out in exchange for immediate payment,” but apparently many victims have been traumatized.

What I did like about this particular article is that it did not just report the matter, but encourages victims to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.IC3.gov.

What is so frightening about this particular scam is how much the caller already knows: the name, background, and personal cell phone number of the intended victim, and just how far-reaching the scam is in terms of who it targets.

Just for your edification, the FBI has clarified the agency never calls or emails people to demand money or threaten arrest! It also recommends you:

  • Are always suspicious of unsolicited phone calls.
  • Never give money or personal information to someone with whom you don’t have ties and did not initiate contact.
  • Trust your instincts: if an unknown caller makes you uncomfortable or says things that don’t sound right, hang up.
  • If you think you may have been a victim of this or similar scams, it’s a good idea to check your financial accounts, credit reports and credit scores frequently for signs of fraud, like unauthorized transactions or unfamiliar entries. Be sure to immediately address these issues by notifying the authorities and even considering a credit freeze. 

I hope you have enjoyed this article; that it has made you think and reconsider just how cautious you must be—unfortunately, just short of being paranoid!  What I want to effect with the Identity Theft articles in the newsletter is to impress upon my readers how easy it is for almost anyone to fall victim to these predators.

I also want to reiterate it you don’t have some sort of identity theft protection, the financial devastation could be huge. As part of my insurance portfolio, I do offer an Identity Theft Protection Plan through my professional relationship with Legal Shield. If you would like to know more about this plan, I invite you to review my website:

https://www.legalshield.com/hub/janvitale.

You can make your purchase right from the website, or call me at 480 720 3600 to discuss any questions you may have about the product and services.

Making MORE happen for my insurance clients…

Jan Vitale

Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years
http://www.lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com/
JanVitale@lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com
http://www.JanVitale.legalshieldassociate.com

CLICK HERE FOR MORE Identity Theft Articles…

Identity Theft: Seniors and Holiday Seasons

Identity Theft Seniors and HolidaysIdentity theft surrounds us and threatens our senior population. As we head into the holiday season and think about wrapping up the year-end, I want to draw attention to the segment of our society—which is more financially exploited— during a time that should be filled with sharing and giving. The financial “abuse” of seniors is not widely publicized, for myriad reasons, but one rarely addressed is how seniors are robbed not only as their means of subsistence but the self-esteem and trust that are eroded when a relative, friend, caretaker or scam artist manages to drain away savings, credit status and assets it took them years to establish.

Seniors are highly susceptible to criminals, who believe this population has higher cash reserves, but are also far less likely to check their financial statements carefully, or with any frequency. This diminished level of detection increases the target risk; thieves believing seniors are less aware of identity theft and current scams – making it easy for unscrupulous people to exploit them.

Identity Theft and SeniorsIf you have a loved one who is a senior, have frequent conversations with them to ensure they are protected from anyone being able to:

  1. Use their personal information to establish credit.
  2. Have access to checks and credit cards and using them without permission…
    • to drain bank accounts,
    • rack up credit card debt,
    • secure loans,
    • obtain medical care, or
    • commit other crimes with the victim’s identity.
  3. Deceive seniors to sign contractual obligations such as a Will or Power of Attorney.

You can counsel them to be aware of the ways identity thieves work to obtain their personal data; seniors tend to…

  1. More frequently have their wallets, purses or other vital documents stolen. Social Security and Medicare cards make them prime targets for caretakers, relatives, friends, and devious thieves.
  2. Not “shred” documents containing their personal information, leaving them more vulnerable to dumpster divers.
  3. Be more trusting and/or feel threatened by thieves in guise as insurance companies, financial services, charities and governmental agencies, and too quickly share vital information over the phone.

Phone scams, online fraud, mail theft… each begins with the elderly person placing confidence and trust in someone. Have the difficult conversations to keep them aware, and work with them frequently enough they are not so vulnerable and at risk.

Our seniors are reluctant to report financial abuse or identity theft; their level of incapacity may be why… or they may just suffer the stigma attached to becoming a victim. Many are afraid if they report the incident they may lose their independence or be found to be incapable of managing their affairs; others feel embarrassed and responsible for even falling victim. Identity thieves count on this reality… and plan to take advantage of the opportunities it creates. Communicating with your loved ones increases their ability to be a less attractive target—at so many levels, and small changes will help protect their identities and prevent any kind of financial abuse/identity theft.

If you suspect that you or a senior you know may be a victim of financial exploitation, please use the resources below for assistance.

  1. Free annual credit report, call toll free 1-877-322-8228 or go to www.annualcreditreport.com.
  2. Department of Justice – Elder Justice Initiative: https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/find-support-elder-abuse
  3. Department of Health & Human Services Administration on Aging abuse hotline toll-free 1-800-677-1116.
  4. Arizona residents: https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/support/resources/az?state=AZ

The information in this article should not be used in lieu of legal advice, and I encourage you to consider an identity theft insurance product through my website: https://www.legalshield.com/hub/janvitale or call me at 480 720 3600

Making MORE happen for my insurance clients…

Jan Vitale

Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years
http://www.lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com/
JanVitale@lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com
http://www.JanVitale.legalshieldassociate.com

MORE on IDENTITY THEFT… click here

Postal Mail Theft… a society gone wrong!

Let’s call it what it is – a society gone wrong! Never before in my life have I been faced with—on such a regular basis—the kind of diminished moral turpitude as now faces us on a daily basis. If you put out a Google alert for trending issues on identity theft, fraud and/or theft, your head will spin at the numbers of articles that pop up.

Consider the recent rash of break-ins experienced by the Anthem communities where mailboxes have been targeted in the recent past. Authorities have best assessed the situation as a team of thieves who have driven through the clustered communities, and at some point, found themselves “safe” enough to pry the back from the mailboxes – availing themselves to the private information of every mail recipient. From what investigators have been able to determine, the thieves were after specific items, such as balance transfer checks regularly sent by credit card companies, and any form of government documents.

Generally, the materials stolen in this kind of situation is sold to third parties so it takes several weeks for any indication of identity theft to surface. We must act early and in proactive concert with each other… for each other! If you see any suspicious activity in your communities, report it right away, using the Postal number 1-877-876-2455 and select option 3.

I hope you have enjoyed this article… my focus on Identity Theft this month is to bring a serious focus on just how cautious you must be: unfortunately, just short of being paranoid! I want the articles to impress upon my readers how easy it is for almost anyone to fall victim to these predators. For more stories, tips, resources, etc. click HERE.

I also want to reiterate it you don’t have some sort of identity theft protection, the financial devastation could be huge. As part of my insurance portfolio, I do offer an Identity Theft Protection Plan through my professional relationship with Legal Shield. If you would like to know more about this plan, I invite you to review my website by clicking HERE. You can make your purchase right from the website, or call me at 480 720 3600 to discuss any questions you may have about the product and services.

Making MORE happen for my insurance clients…

Jan Vitale

Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years
http://www.lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com/
JanVitale@lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com
http://www.JanVitale.legalshieldassociate.com