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ITRC Solution 25

Today, thieves are coming up with more and more devious ways to try and trick you into giving them your personal information. A criminal can open up a new line of credit in your name, rent an apartment, purchase cars, homes, and other goods, get a job, get out of criminal acts, or take over your bank account. In other words, the instant you give up certain personal information to a thief, you are in jeopardy.

What information do thieves want?

  • Social Security Numbers
  • Bank account or credit card numbers
  • Driver’s license number
  • Insurance policy numbers (medical and auto)
  • Date of birth
  • State or employee identification number.

Here are some basic things to look out for when trying to determine if something is a scam or not.


  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
  • When in doubt, check it out.
  • A bank, credit card company or utility company will never ask for your personal information by email, whether you have an account or not, period.

Companies you may already be doing business with

  • Banks will always conduct all business conversations with you either in writing via postal mail or over the phone. In both instances, they will identify you by name and already have your account information in hand.  They have no need to request your account information.
  • Companies that do business strictly online (such as PayPal or Amazon) will address you by name. Never by “Dear Customer” or “Dear”
  • When in doubt, access your account directly with the company. Do not click on any links in any emails. Do not go to any websites they ask you to view. Always go directly to that company’s homepage and access your account. If there is a legitimate problem, the company will tell you when you access your account.

I want to get a line of credit with this company, is it legitimate?

  • Does the company advertise anyone can get credit – even without a Social Security Number? If so, it’s not likely legitimate.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau. See if this company is registered with them.
  • Do an online search. See if you come up with any articles that state that this company is a scam.
  • Is this company based in another country? If so, do they have a license to operate in the United States? If not, it is most likely a scam.
  • Does this company have a website? If so, is this website secure? Look to see if the website address includes https:// and has the picture of the lock. If not, it is not a secure website and could be open to fraud. If you are required to post personal or account information on the website, you must ensure that the page is presented by a secure link.
  • Does this company use a free email service or do they use an email address connected to their website. Use of free email services could be an indication of fraud.

I just got a notice that I won a prize/lotto. Is it legitimate?

  • Did you enter this contest or buy a ticket? You cannot win if you did not enter.
  • If it appears to be from a known company, contact the company and see if they legitimately have funded this contest.
  • Is this contest/lotto in the United States? If not, then it is most likely a scam.
  • England, Canada, Spain and the Netherlands (to name a few of the most popular variations) do not have a national lottery.
  • If the conditions of receiving your prize include sending money to “pay for taxes and fees” then it is a scam. Most legitimate prize-giving institutions take the tax fees out of the winnings so you don’t have to deal with it. If not, you will be asked to pay the taxes after you receive the prize money as part of your regularly scheduled yearly tax period. If there are “up front” costs before the prize is awarded, it is most certainly a scam.
  • A common scam trick is to send a check to the victim, requesting the victim to keep some of the money and send the balance back. This is always an indication of a scam.

Some rich person in another country or some US soldier stationed in another country wants to share their fortune with me or needs help moving their fortune to the United States. Is this for real?

  • This is a scam. Any checks they send you will likely bounce and you will be responsible for any and all money you have withdrawn from the bank.
  • It is illegal. You could be charged with money laundering, which is a federal offense.

For more information on scams, please visit the ITRC website section on Scams & Alerts.


This solution sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to