The Federal Trade Commission has been tackling the plague of robocalls for a long time and has had victories against this menace in the past. Now, a new report demonstrates that their initiative has had even more successful results. The program has been taking aim at robocallers and reminding them that their actions are illegal, especially if they are calling consumers who have placed their numbers on the national Do Not Call registry.

Operation Call It Quits

Operation Call It Quits has already resulted in action against 94 separate robocallers, many of whom were fronting for other businesses and contacting people on the Do Not Call registry. These groups were responsible for more than one billion robocalls in the U.S., ranging from credit card offers to utility companies. The FTC has initiated 145 cases against these callers.

“We are all fed up with the tens of billions of illegal robocalls we get every year,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a press release on the program. “Today’s joint effort shows that combatting this scourge remains a top priority for law enforcement agencies around the nation.”

While robocalls are certainly annoying, with some households receiving multiple calls per day at inopportune hours, a lot of people do not realize the danger that some of these calls present. Scams and bogus offers have been associated with robocalls, especially ones that pose as credit card, medical health coverage and utility offers.

Tracking down and stopping the robocallers is only one part of Operation Call It Quits. The initiative also gives these tips on how to respond to unknown or unwanted phone calls:

Do not answer the phone

If you do not recognize the number on your caller ID, ignore the call. If it is a genuine or important caller, they will leave a voice mail. You can also return the call later, which will result in a “number not valid” message.

Do not trust the caller ID

With spoofing software, a caller can put any phone number and name on your phone’s screen. They could lure you into thinking the call is from your child’s school, your neighbor up the street, the IRS or the local police. Never go by what is on the screen when making a determination about a call.

Take advantage of call blocking

If your phone carrier offers call blocking, consider signing up for it. You might also install a call blocking app on your phone, but be sure to read the reviews on the app first. You might find that the free version of the app is just as good as the paid version.

Report any robocallers to the FTC

Operation Call It Quit’s success depends on going after the robocallers, but the FTC has a hard time doing that if consumers are not informing them of the problems. Report any robocalls to the FTC at

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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With so many digital ways to attack someone’s personally identifiable information, it might seem strange that “old-fashioned” methods of mail fraud are still prevalent. A new report of mail scams in southwest Florida shows how easy it can be to attack an unsuspecting victim and steal their identity.

Change of Address Tactic

Using the change of address cards from area post offices, scammers target individuals by filling out the cards and redirecting their mail to a new address. After receiving the victim’s mail, the scammer can access sensitive documents that arrive by post and take advantage of credit card offers.

Security experts used to tell the public to be on the lookout for any strange activity whether it was collections phone calls, hits to their credit score or notifications from financial institutions. Perhaps the most telling sign of all was simply that their mail would stop arriving. If your regular mail does not appear for three or more days, someone may have changed your address without your knowledge.

According to the recent report, scammers have begun targeting two-person households for mail fraud. By changing only one spouse’s address, the victims are less likely to notice anything unusual. Meanwhile, the scammers are receiving the mail that should go to the other party.

Once a criminal controls the mail delivery, they can request new credit cards, sign up for utilities in your name and use the utility bills with your name and address to enroll kids in school or sign up for government benefits for example.

Other Signs

In order to prevent mail fraud, it is important to be on the lookout for suspicious changes to your mail delivery or any other signs of fraud. Do not assume a debt collector just has the wrong person, determine why they think you are the right person instead. Report any suspicious matter to your financial institutions and confirm the information they have on file is correct.

Preventative Steps

You can also take preventive steps with your credit card companies by signing up for eBills instead of paper and blocking mailed credit card offers, just make sure you. If there are any odd communications from your utility company, that could be another sign of mail fraud.

Social Media 

Social media is the other aspect of this recent wave of mail fraud, which has saved a few more victims. Once residents began posting online about being victimized, other people began to look into their own mail. Some victims only learned someone had stolen their mail after reading about it online.

Do not ignore the little red flags. Check up on them to be sure no one has used your address.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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Sparking joy has taken on a whole new meaning thanks to the KonMari method of tidying up. Cleaning up your physical and digital life are some ways to minimize your risk of identity theft.

Marie Kondo is taking the world by storm with the premise of decluttering your life, tidying up your home and work spaces, and basically living by a simple principle: if it doesn’t “spark joy,” you don’t need it. The mindset behind the so-called KonMari method has proven so effective that second-hand stores and thrift shops are seeing record-setting levels of donations.

This decluttering concept can be applied to physical possessions, but you should also consider its ability to benefit other areas of life. You might clean up your email inbox or desktop for example. There’s another level of protection that consumers can take from this “spark joy” concept, and that’s keeping their identities out of a criminal’s hands.

Before You Begin

There are a number of steps that can help you organize your identity before you ever have to deal with cluttering consequences. These would include things like halting subscriptions to magazines and newspapers you don’t read, blocking credit card offers with your financial institutions, going “paperless” on bills and bank statements, and more. By ensuring these things don’t arrive at your home, you’ll have less clutter to deal with and fewer security pitfalls that a thief could exploit.

Another possible vulnerability is your email inbox. Adopt the good habit of not just deleting unwanted emails, but actively unsubscribing from them. This will require you to open them, scroll all the way down, and click unsubscribe. Do NOT follow this procedure for emails that appear to be scam attempts, as clicking a link can redirect you to a harmful website or install malicious software on your computer. Are you holding on to an old email address?

Physical Mail

As for identity tidying in your home or workplace, that can seem very daunting. Don’t worry, it’s not. Following commonly shared methods from organizational experts like Marie Kondo and others, you can start by creating “piles.” Establish a temporary spot for everything that could be linked back to your identity: a pile for bills, a pile for junk mail, a pile for important papers, and more.

The bills: your monthly bills must be accessible but protected, so find out where you are most likely to see them but keep others from coming across them. As you pay a bill, shred the remaining mailer portion so that you don’t end up with random piles of paper that will need to be addressed later.

Junk mail: it’s too easy to toss some junk mail on the counter and think you’ll deal with it later. It’s even easier to throw it in the trash unopened, but that could lead a dumpster-diving identity thief to pieces of your overall data puzzle. Keep a basket near your cross-cut shredder to stash these items until you’re ready to shred.

Important papers: a lot of people would agree that tax documents, health insurance statements, and other key papers don’t exactly “spark joy” and therefore should be done away with immediately. However, that’s not wise. What is useful, though, is investing in a small file cabinet or file box where important papers can be stored when not needed. It’s important that this file be accessible in an emergency but not left out in the open where anyone could rifle through it.

Digital Clutter

It’s easy to forget that your identity is vulnerable online, too, but the same principles behind decluttering can help you in the virtual space. Investing in an external hard drive or cloud-based storage subscription can protect the things you want to keep while getting them out of your physical space. Even better, if there’s a paper you might need at a later date, you can simply photograph it or scan it, then store it in these outside spaces. That way, you can discard the original but retain a protected printable copy if you need it.

Mobile Apps & Privacy Settings: First, take a look at all of the apps on your device – are there any you’re not using anymore? Delete those.

Second, visit your mobile device settings to see what information your applications are collecting from you and update them for increased privacy. For example, you might need to let a map app see your location for example, but does it need to be active all the time or just when in use? Same thing for photos, do all of your apps need access to your media library? Definitely not. It’s also a good time to run any updates for your phone software or apps. Read the descriptions carefully and note any cybersecurity language before choosing to update.

You should also be concerned about the permissions you allow (see trustjacking) the mobile apps on your device. Through these apps, third-parties might be tracking information about you that you might not realize like your location, search history and even your photos. Even if they aren’t actively using this collected data, they’re still storing it which can leave your personal information vulnerable to cyberattacks should the third-party fall victim to a breach.

Also, think twice before discarding that old device. Be sure to reset to your factory settings.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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