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Thursday, February 28, 2008

IRS and other email scams

It's that time of year for paying your taxes and getting refunds, but beware - the scam artists are out there on the web. The IRS will never, ever contact you via email about anything to do with your taxes. So, if you get an email claiming to be from the IRS, delete it or report it for free to Spamcop. Just remember, it's not a scam *until* you fall for it. Until then, it's just spam!


The following was excerpted from the book Net Crimes & Misdemeanors 2nd edition





What To Do ...

… if you took the bait and gave away your financial information:*

· Report it to the card issuer as quickly as possible: Many companies have toll-free numbers and 24-hour service to deal with such emergencies.
· Cancel your account and open a new one.
· Review your billing statements carefully after the loss: If they show any unauthorized charges, send a letter to the card issuer describing each questionable charge.
· Credit Card Loss or Fraudulent Charges (FCBA): Your maximum liability under federal law for unauthorized use of your credit card is $50. If the loss involves your credit card number, but not the card itself, you have no liability for unauthorized use.
· ATM or Debit Card Loss or Fraudulent Transfers (EFTA): Your liability under federal law for unauthorized use of your ATM or debit card depends on how quickly you report the loss. You risk unlimited loss if you fail to report an unauthorized transfer within 60 days after your bank statement containing unauthorized use is mailed to you.


… if you gave out personal identifying information:

· Report the theft to the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion Corporation and do the following: Request that they place a fraud alert and victim's statement in your file. Request a free copy of your credit report to check whether any accounts were opened without your consent. Request that the agencies remove inquiries and/or fraudulent accounts stemming from the theft.

Equifax Credit Information Services - Consumer Fraud Div.
P.O. Box 105496
Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5496
Tel: (800) 997-2493


Experian
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, Texas 75013-2104
Tel: (888) EXPERIAN (397-3742)


Trans Union Fraud Victim Assistance Dept.
P.O. Box 390
Springfield, PA 19064-0390
Tel: (800) 680-7289


· Notify your bank(s) and ask them to flag your account and contact you regarding any unusual activity: If bank accounts were set up without your consent, close them. If your ATM card was stolen, get a new card, account number, and PIN.
· Contact your local police department to file a criminal report.
· Contact the Social Security Administration's Fraud Hotline to report the unauthorized use of your personal identification information.
· Notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of your identity theft. Check to see whether an unauthorized license number has been issued in your name.
· Notify the passport office to watch out for anyone ordering a passport in your name.
· File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
· File a complaint with the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC)
· Document the names and phone numbers of everyone you speak to or contact regarding the incident. Follow up your phone calls with letters. Keep copies of all correspondence.


The FTC also advises:

· If you get an e-mail or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply or click on the link in the message. Legitimate companies don't ask for this information via e-mail. If you are concerned about your account, contact the organization in the e-mail using a telephone number you know to be genuine, or open a new Internet browser session and type in the company's correct Web address. In any case, don't cut and paste the link in the message.
· Don't e-mail personal or financial information. E-mail is not a secure method of transmitting personal information. If you initiate a transaction and want to provide your personal or financial information through an organization's Web site, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a lock icon on the browser's status bar or a URL for a Web site that begins "https:" (the "s" stands for "secure"). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some phishers have forged security icons.
· Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to determine whether there are any unauthorized charges. If your statement is late by more than a couple of days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.
· Use anti-virus software and keep it up-to-date. Some phishing e-mails contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities on the Internet without your knowledge. Anti-virus software and a firewall can protect you from inadvertently accepting such unwanted files. Anti-virus software scans incoming communications for troublesome files. Look for anti-virus software that recognizes current viruses as well as older ones, can effectively reverse the damage, and updates automatically. A firewall helps make you invisible on the Internet and blocks all communications from unauthorized sources. It's especially important to run a firewall if you have a broadband connection. Finally, your operating system (like Windows or Linux) may offer free software "patches" to close holes in the system that hackers or phishers could exploit.
· Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from e-mails you receive, regardless of who sent them.
· Report suspicious activity to the FTC. If you get spam that is phishing for information, forward it to spam@uce.gov. If you believe you've been scammed, file your complaint at www.ftc.gov and then visit the FTC's Identity Theft Web site at www.consumer.gov/idtheft to learn how to minimize your risk of damage from ID theft.

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