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Friday, September 21, 2007

How To Avoid Identity Theft

Each year hundreds of people become victims of a scam. They unknowingly become a victim because of their lack of knowledge about such scams. Last year consumers in Wisconsin lost more than $188,000 to advanced fee loan scams. I will attempt to explain some of the top scams and a basic tip on how to avoid becoming a victim of these scams.

- A company guaranteed a consumer loan but required the person asking for the loan to first wire a collateral payment to Canada. Requiring an upfront payment is a red flag to a scam.
TIP TO AVOID THIS SCAM: You should never pay in advance to secure a loan. If you need a quick loan, check with your bank or credit union. All of the victims of these types of scams applied for their loans online.

- Check scams are camouflaged a number of different ways. However, they all have one thing in common: the scam artists send you a cashier’s check, ask you to deposit it into your bank account and wire the money out of the country. The check deposited is a counterfeit check and you become the victim personally liable for the amount of the check deposited into your account.

Some of the common scams are employment opportunities, secret of mystery shopping jobs, online auctions, and fake class action lawsuits.

TIP TO AVOID THE SCAM: DO NOT accept checks from unknown persons. If you receive a cashier’s check, submit it to your bank “for collection”. Even though the check looks real and the bank initially accents it could be bogus. Or, just throw the check away and forget about it.

FOREIGN LOTTERY SCAMS - The lottery scam is another version of the Check Scam. Her too you receive a check in the mail for asking you to deposit it in your account. Unfortunately the check is counterfeit and the victim is left owing the bank for the amount deposited.

TIP TO AVOID THE SCAM: It is illegal in the US to play foreign lotteries. So if any companies claim to be legitimate for such activity . . . they are not. Throw the winner letter in the trash and do not respond.

IDENTITY THEFT - ID thieves may use the following means to secure your identity: rummage through your trash, pretending to need to know information to claim a prize, stealing your mail, placing bogus newspaper ads for jobs and sending unsolicited e-mails posing as your financial institution. The last is known as spoofing, vishing, or phising.

: Check you credit report annually. This will ensure you that there have been no unauthorized transactions on your report. Shred any information that has your personal details. Never respond to unsolicited e-mail or phone calls requesting personal information.
Check your credit reports with: EQUIFAX – or 1-800-525-6285 TRANSUNION – or 1-800-680-7289

EXPERIAN – or 1-800-397-3742

The information for this article was found on the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau website,

In the Milwaukee metro area you can direct inquires and complaints to 414-847-6000. For toll free information from elsewhere call 1-800-273-1002.

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