Law enforcement agencies have long held that when the economy goes down, property theft and financial crimes go up, particularly as unemployment increases. A hundred years ago, that might have meant more pickpockets and petty larcenists. Today, it means more criminals trying to get information they can use to create credit. To them, it’s a numbers game – as in bank account, credit card and Social Security numbers.
It doesn’t always take a data breach at a major retailer or government office, or your wallet being stolen, for your numbers to fall into the wrong hands. Phone scams involve what’s known as “phishing” – attempts by the caller to get you to divulge your credit card, bank account or Social Security number. These callers usually present themselves as a representative of a financial business or a government agency and often ask for you to verify information. They may even read you a phony account number, expecting you to give them the correct one. Don’t fall for it! Your financial institution will not contact you by phone and then ask for your account number, and the same is true of the Social Security administration or the Internal Revenue Service. If those entities are calling you, they will already have your numbers.
Identity theft doesn’t mean someone stealing your documents so they can pose as you. It means stealing your confidential information to access your money, investments or line of credit. An increasing phishing trend includes calls informing people they have won foreign or even domestic lotteries. The caller typically asks for financial information or payment up front to cover taxes before the “winner” can collect the prize. These calls are particularly common to the poor and the elderly, who have a tendency to increase gambling when the economy is down. Make sure you are keeping tabs on your family members as well, informing them about these phishing tactics so they don’t fall for these scams.
Desperate times push thieves to desperate measures and easy marks. Protect your accounts and Social Security number as you would the cash in your wallet – because sometimes that pickpocket is just a phone call away. If you’d like more information about identity theft and protecting your confidential information, you may want to consider consulting with a Certified Financial Planner.
Road Trip – The national average price of a gallon of gasoline finished Aug. 31, 2012, at $3.83, a gain of 21 cents a gallon during the three summer months of June-July-August (source: AAA, BTN Research).
Retirement Law – The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was signed into law 38 years ago (Sept. 2, 1974) by President Gerald Ford, just six days before Ford pardoned Richard Nixon as a result of the Watergate scandal. ERISA is the federal law that governs pension plans, providing protection for plan participants (source: Social Security Administration, BTN Research).
Every Day – An estimated 7,600 Americans will turn 65 years old each day this year (2012). An estimated 11,400 Americans will turn 65 years old each day by the year 2029 (source: Government Accountability Office, BTN Research).