Fraud and ID theft surrounds us. It is a common reminder to never take an unknown caller at his or her word. The tricks and techniques to get innocent folks to voluntarily reveal personal information are battle tested and rather effective, particularly given that just a single victory out of any number of misses can spell quite a payday for the fraudsters.
Fraud (and for our purposes, ID theft) is particularly effective when accompanied by some immediacy; such as a deadline, fine, legal violation, personal embarrassment and so forth. It is all the more important to recognize the risk of fraud in the face of that immediacy. The New York Times article highlights cases of this. Please take note. A moment of inconvenience can lead to weeks or months of problems.
Avoid Caller ID Theft
Here are a few points to note when it comes to combating fraud and ID theft without breaching your duty of responsibility:
1. No reputable company will ask for your social security number by phone. One trick used by ID thieves is to ask you to validate your “record” (even though they called you) by stating your social or other items of personal information. If you are asked, immediately recognize the improper nature of the call.
2. If you believe that there may be truth, or if the nature of the call is one that cannot be ignored (such as a relative in the hospital), tell the caller that you will call back, never at the number they provide (or which is on your caller ID), but by calling the official number for the company the caller claims to represent. Go direct to the company’s website by typing the address into the address bar. ID theft requires that you take a track other than the company track. If you explain that you’ll be calling back on the company line (as found on the ‘real’ website), you may find an abrupt end to the call.
Remember, it is remarkably easy to obtain (800), (866) or other official looking numbers (just visit phone.com), and just as easy to use a fake company name (such as AT&T).
3. All agencies advise of issues via letter. When the IRS calls, trust that it isn’t really the IRS.
Living in a Skeptical World
It is no fun being reminded of the thieves lurking around every corner, phone call and Internet site. Yet the world we live in demands a sense of skepticism and awareness. Even the most miniscule amount of caution is likely to lead to significant benefits; all for a fraction of the time and energy that any less diligence would ultimately require.