It’s Get Smart About Credit Day!

Every year, the American Bankers Association hosts “Get Smart About Credit” Day to educate the public on good credit card practices, smart spending, and more. But there’s one crucial aspect to having good credit that consumers need to remember all throughout the year, and that’s the link between your credit card accounts and identity theft.

A few weeks ago, First Orion released the results of a study that looked at how American mobile device users responded to scams and fraud attempts, specifically where their credit card information and personally identifiable information were concerned. The results from the 1,000 respondents are pretty shocking, considering the increased awareness of identity theft crimes from individuals, policymakers, and law enforcement.

According to the study, “Over 4 percent of those surveyed gave away credit card information to a scammer amounting on average to over 15 million Americans, which is double the number from last year. While only 1 percent gave up social security numbers in 2015, 2.4 percent did this year, which suggests that nearly 10 million mobile subscribers in the US will provide their social security number to a scam caller this year.”

Where are all these scam attempts coming from? First Orion is a company that helps cellular carriers recognize and block numbers that originate from an untrustworthy source, meaning, a likely scammer. According to their study, “nearly 3% of those surveyed received 10 or more scam calls in the last month, which amounts to over 1.5 billion calls per year. Almost 5% of the total changed their telephone numbers to end the constant harassment, which equates to about 20 million people.”

Even worse, 59% of the people surveyed do not know their rights when it comes to being bothered by unwanted telemarketer calls, bothersome phone calls from debt collectors, and more.

How to protect yourself from scam calls:

1. Never give out your personally identifiable information (like your Social Security number or any account numbers) over the phone, no matter who the caller claims to be. Even if the caller claims to be from a company you do business with and states that you need to “verify your information,” do not give it to them. They called you, remember? If you think there might be any truth to their call, simply hang up and contact your company directly using a verified customer service phone number.

2. You are not required to make a payment over the phone. While it’s convenient to submit your payment from your credit card or bank account this way, remember that you should only use this option if you contacted them, not the other way around. If you’re ever called and threatened with any kind of consequence for failing to make payment immediately, then you’ll know it’s a scam

3. Be on the lookout for spoofed phone numbers. Just because your caller ID states that it’s a recognized number or even a number associated with your bank or credit card company, that doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s actually pretty easy to “mask” a phone number so that the caller appears to be genuine.

4. Don’t answer! If in doubt or if you don’t recognize the phone number who called you, simply ignore it. If it was actually a legitimate communication concerning your account, the representative will leave a voicemail; even then, be careful of the phone number left in the message, and instead return the call by using a verified phone number for that company. If you ignore the call and dial it back, you may also discover that it was nothing more than a telemarketing robocall.

Being credit smart is a must, and knowing how to protect yourself from scams and fraud attempts is absolutely critical. If you develop the good habit of protecting your information and safeguarding it at all times, you won’t need to worry about whether or not the next phone call is a scam.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

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