Each week, the Identity Theft Resource Center works with some of the top industry experts to provide consumers with updates about threats to their personal data.
Scam Detector leads the way by publishing a top ten list of scams, fraud attempts, and other threats each week, ones that are either new or gaining in popularity. Take a look at some of their more recent top scams or fraud attempts.
#1 – Final Expenses Mailer
We’ve often said that scams that target the elderly are especially atrocious, and this one’s no different. In this postcard scam, which uses physical correspondence in order to target senior citizens who may not have access to computers and email, cards are deposited in mailboxes in neighborhoods with a high elderly population. The mailers look very official and promise low-cost “final expense” insurance, also known as a burial policy. The recipient is encouraged to act quickly to take advantage of a full $15,000 policy (or higher), which only costs a nominal, one-time administration fee.
Of course, once seniors pay the fee, there is no policy. Not only did the thief make off with that fee, he now has all of their personal information and can use it to steal their identities. Remember to only pay for policies that have been verified through a reputable insurance company and are genuine.
#2 – Genealogy Search Scam
A number of websites have sprung up offering to trace your roots for you, but be warned, they’re not just looking for your ancestors. Some of them are looking for your financial information.
While there are legitimate fee-based search websites out there, the imitation sites are the real threat. Not only do you have to pay a fee to receive your genealogy results, you also have to put in a lot of highly personal information about yourself, enough data that a scammer can use it to steal your identity. At best you’re paying a significant fee for someone to do a simple Google search that may not even be accurate… after all, how would you know whether or not your great-great-great-great-grandfather was really a deckhand aboard a British ship?
Make sure you’re only working with reputable websites that have genuine reviews from satisfied customers. In the case of family tree searches, make sure the amount of data you have to input is worth it and is secured.
#3 – American Red Cross Scam
We’ve had a rash of natural and man-made disasters lately, and one of the names that is synonymous with disaster relief and preparedness is the American Red Cross. Unfortunately, scammers know that the public often wants to help following any major event—especially one with significant destruction or loss of life—but can’t physically go respond in person. Scammers have stolen countless dollars from well-intentioned individuals under the guise of working for the Red Cross.
It’s vital that we all pitch in and give, especially when disaster strikes, so don’t let fear of scammers keep you from supporting worthy causes. Just be sure that your dollars are going to a verified source of relief, and only make your contributions directly to the organizations you’re trying to support.
For the rest of this week’s top scams, visit Scam-Detector.com or the ITRC website under the Current Scams & Alerts section. Be sure to share this information with others so they can stay informed and protect themselves.