October is a really fun month. The weather is turning, fall is in the air, and of course, there’s Halloween! But how can consumers make sure that October is full of treats, while not falling for any scammers’ tricks? By arming themselves with the facts and the resources to protect their personally identifiable information.
• TRICK—Using Your Data to Open New Accounts
Possibly the single most prevalent type of ID theft occurs when a thief uses your information to open new accounts in your name, without your knowledge and obviously without your consent. Thieves can rack up thousands of dollars’ worth of bills before you ever knew it happened.
• TREAT—Credit Reports
Did you know that you are entitled to one free copy of your report each year from all three credit reporting agencies? Why not make October the month that you remember to request your reports and go over them with a fine toothed comb? If you do it early in the month, you can give your credit a good once over before the upcoming holiday shopping season. Contact information for the three reporting agencies can be found at the Identity Theft Resource Center website.
• TRICK—Charity Fraud
October also happens to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and everywhere you look, pink is on display. With so much national attention on breast cancer—and everyone from shopping centers to NFL players putting out their pink awareness—it's easy to fall for scams that claim to be legitimate charities. Even worse than handing over money to these heartless fraudsters is that you may have handed over your credit card numbers or other personally identifiable information in the process.
• TREAT—Know Your Worthy Causes
Luckily, there are websites that can verify a charity’s status, such as the BBB’s website, Charity Navigator, and more. After you’ve verified the status of the charity, consider making donations directly through the national organization. Never give money or information to a charity that reaches out to you through email or phone calls, and certainly not through door-to-door interactions.
• TRICK—Tax Refund Fraud
According to some experts, the IRS is expected to pay out as much as $21 billion in fraudulent tax refunds over the next five years. A tax thief gains access to your information and files a fraudulent return in your name before you do, then has the funds paid out to a prepaid debit card. The only way you find out about it is when your legitimate tax return—the one you submitted—is rejected for having already been filed.
• TREAT—Filing Early
It's not too early to start preparing. While filing your taxes might be the last thing you want to think about this month,it's important to stay on top of your tax return documents so you’re ready to file as early as possible; this is especially true for individuals who have reason to believe that their personal data has already been breached.