Identity Theft: The Latest Ways Thieves Are Targeting Your Identity

Jury Duty Scam

Jury duty is one of the most important responsibilities we have as citizens.  Unfortunately, scam artists are targeting consumers with a clever ruse involving this requirement of citizenship.    

The scammer contacts you over the telephone and explains that he or she is calling from the court and that you have failed to report for jury duty.  Then you are asked to provide your Social Security number or other personal information to verify your identity.  Adding to the urgency of the call, citizens are sometimes told that a warrant has been or will be issued for their arrest.

Tax Scam

As tax time approaches, beware of callers claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service.  People report that they have received calls claiming they can pay their taxes over the phone, or that a refund check is ready to be issued.  As in the jury duty scam, the caller requests information to verify the potential victim’s identity.

Georgians are reminded that there are few, if any, circumstances when the court or the IRS will call you over the telephone.  Most communication is through written correspondence.  If you receive an “urgent” phone call in which you are asked for personal information, remember not to be caught off guard.

These scammers use the element of surprise to trick people into providing their information.  Think before you act, and remember these tips:

  • Guard your financial information.   Only disclose your credit card or bank account number when you’re paying for something with it.
  • Keep your Social Security number confidential.   Don’t give it to anyone unless you’re sure who it is and why they need it.   Ask your health insurer, the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety and others who may use this as your ID number to give you a substitute number.
  • Beware of imposters.  Be especially suspicious if you get a call or e-mail from someone claiming to be from a company you do business with, asking for information they should already have on file.   (In its most common form, this ruse is known as “phishing.”)  Contact the company directly to confirm the validity of the message.
  • Keep your mail safe.   Collect it promptly from your mailbox and ask the Post Office to hold it while you’re away.  Send bill payments from the Post Office or a public mailbox.
  • Get off credit marketing lists.   Mailings for pre-approved offers of credit are a gold mine for identity thieves, who steal them and apply for credit.  Get off these lists by calling 888-567-8688 (your Social Security number will be required).
  • Lock it up.   Keep your personal information locked up at home, at work, at school and elsewhere so that no one else will have easy access to it.  Don’t leave PIN numbers or passwords in your wallet or on your desk; memorize them.
  • Stay safe online.   Don’t send sensitive information such as credit card numbers by e-mail, since it’s not secure.  When you’re asked to provide financial or other sensitive information on web sites, the letters at the beginning of the address bar should change from “http” to “https” or “shttp,” indicating that your information is being encrypted, or scrambled, to transmit it safely.
  • Check your credit reports regularly.    If you find accounts that don't belong to you or other incorrect information, follow the instructions for disputing those items.  The Georgia Fair Business Practices Act [O.C.G.A. Section 10-1-393(b)(28)(C)] gives you the right to receive two free credit reports a year from the national credit-reporting agencies.  More information about getting free credit reports is available from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.ftc.gov/credit or by calling 877-382-4357.