Category Archives: Identity Theft

10 Tips to Avoid Tax-Time ID Theft

When is the one time during the year you have every single financial document in one place?

Answer: Tax time!

Here are tips from WhatHappensNow and our interview with the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse:

  1. Start a Tax Folder – Keep all of your tax forms, files and scratch paper together in a folder or binder. Keep the folder safe and with you at all times.
  2. Extra Documents – Need a copy of old tax returns, filing instructions or other important information? Head to IRS.gov for fact sheets and other publications.
  3. Don’t Throw! Shred! - Throwing away old records? Use a cross-cut shredder before discarding. Make sure you know what to keep and what to toss: read the IRS’s information on how long you should keep your records.
  4. Phishing for Information
    Watch out for “phishing” e-mail scams. These fraudulent emails might look like they’re coming from a financial or government institution (IRS) but are really scammers trying to get your personal or financial information.
  5. E-filing
    Check your to see if your spyware and anti-virus software is turned on and up-to-date before entering data and sending off your completed forms.
  6. Direct deposit refunds or payments
    Make sure to double-triple-quadruple check your account and routing numbers on your paper or online forms before sending them in.
  7. Keep Copies
    Make sure to keep copies of all the forms and returns you send in.
  8. Sending Tax Returns or Checks by Mail
    Do not leave outgoing checks or mail with sensitive information in your mailbox – they could be stolen. Instead, avoid mail theft by mailing all items at the post office.
  9. Refunds in the Mail
    If you’re expecting a refund or important information, pick up your mail as soon as you have the chance. If you’re headed out of town, arrange for your mail to be held at the post office or have a friend or neighbor pick it up.
  10. Think you might be a victim of ID theft? Read this.

– Susan

Safe Purse, Safe Wallet – Tips for Safe Shopping

Making post-holiday returns? Or maybe getting those terrific shopping deals? Either way – here are quick tips to keep your purse and wallet secure and safe while deal-hunting.

  • Zip It. Choose a purse/bag with a strap and a zipper and keep it closed.
  • Keep ‘Em Separated.  Keep your keys and phone separate from your handbag. Why? If your purse is stolen, you’ll be stranded with no car keys and no immediate way to call anyone.
  • Pocket It.  Quick errand? Leave your purse or wallet at home and carry only what you need in pants or shirt pocket.
  • Never Been Touched.  Take rarely used credit cards from your wallet and store them in a safe place at home.
  • No SS#s. Carry only what you need.  Medical cards or other ID cards often use your social security number as your account number – carry your card only as needed.
  • SmartPhone. Your smartphone (the one with all your PIN numbers and passwords in it?), make sure it’s password-locked when not in use.
  • Big Ones.  Big purse? Carry it with one arm across it or with the strap crossing your body. Wear the strap under your jacket or sweater.
  • Where’s Wallet? To minimize leaving your wallet somewhere, establish the habit of returning it a secure inside pocket.
  • Clean Receipts Out. After shopping, take credit card, ATM and store receipts from your purse or wallet and put them in an envelope or folder.
  • The Mentalist. Before each shopping trip, mentally itemize what’s in your purse and wallet. This will give you an idea of what to report to an insurance agent in case of theft.
  • At Home and at the Office. Keep a list of emergency phone numbers (bank, credit card companies, insurance agent) at home and office. Why? Many people use lunch hours for shopping (maybe you?). In case of a theft or loss, you’ll have emergency numbers nearby.

Happy Shopping!

– Susan

Stop – That’s My Purse w/My Phone, Wallet, Makeup … oh crap….

Make your life after a purse or wallet theft as easy as possible.

How? Keep a copy of your wallet’s inventory form in a safe place at home and at your office.

Why? So you have the information on hand when you call credit card companies about the theft. It also helps jog your memory about what is in your wallet and purse.  You may be covered by insurance…

Here’s advice on getting it together after your purse is stolen.

Tom Cruise Shows Up at Law School

Socialite Life mentions that Tom Cruise (who is currently filming in Boston) showed up at an entertainment law class at Harvard.

I don’t believe anyone famous showed up while I was in school (of course, we’d have to take into account that there were many days when I wasn’t actually in class, so I may have missed something….).

Here’s info to pass on to your kids – written by our college blogger, Lauren –

Wallet Stolen at College – First Things to Do

Surviving the First Month of College

Top 10 Roommate Tips

Actually, I’m not sure that Tom Cruise went to college – this guest appearance at Harvard may have been it.

– Susan

Reader’s Home Burglarized – Send Advice

What is it with the burglaries this summer?  A reader contacted us over the weekend about a home burglary (he was out of town at the time).

While the burglars didn’t take much (thankfully), and he’s going through the Get Help – Theft page item by item.

However, he’s also concerned that they did take enough personal info to start a rash of ID thefts.  We sent him the advice on what to do if you suspect ID theft.

If you have advice to share with this reader on what you learned after an ID theft or home burglary, email us (Susan (at) WhatHappensNow.com) and we’ll pass it on and add it to the site.

– Susan

New Mortgage Scams Surface

The TODAY Show aired another set of warnings about mortgage scams on May 27, 2009. The expert reports there are currently millions of Americans on the brink of foreclosure and some illegitimate “Foreclosure Consultants” are taking advantage of their dire situations.

  • WHN Tip: Contact your lender directly before you get behind in your mortgage payments. Ask for options to renegotiate the terms of your loan.

Real estate expert Barbara Corcoran outlined the newest scam along with several that have been wreaking havoc with desperate homeowners for months.

The latest scam involves President Obama’s Rescue Plan designed to help seven to nine million families avoid foreclosure. People are paying thousands of dollars to illegitimate counselors who promise to research facts about qualification and the application process. Of course, they don’t conduct the research and, instead, keep the money.

The information you need is free and can be accessed in two simple ways. First, the Internet site makinghomeaffordable.gov provides everything you need to know. Second, a call to 888-995-HOPE delivers the same assistance.

Make sure you are visiting a legitimate website. The scam artists often create websites with official-sounding addresses that may end with “.gov”. Don’t assume a site with this type of name is legitimate. If you have any questions about the legitimacy of a site, conduct a Google search with the name and the word “scam” or just search “mortgage scams”. Go to the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission sites as well.

One of the most dangerous scams is called “Bait and Switch”. An illegitimate counselor hands the prospect a document to sign. Instead of a mortgage application, the document is actually a transfer of title. Once signed, the scam artist owns your home and you are evicted.

A “Rent-to-Buy” scheme is equally dangerous. The representative offers to buy your home at a very low price and promises to sell it back when you get on your feet. In the meantime, they propose you pay rent. Soon, the rent soars well beyond your means, they own the home and you are evicted.

The “Middleman” scam preys upon your vulnerability and lack of self-confidence. Besides requiring you to pay thousands upfront, you are required to supply confidential information such as your social security numbers, bank account numbers and/or driver’s license details. (WHN NOTE: Never release your confidential information until you are certain the company is legitimate and it will not be used for identity theft.) The illegitimate counselor then tells you to “leave it to me” and collects your mortgage payments with a promise to pay the bank while they renegotiate your loan for you. Of course, they take your money and your confidential information and disappear. They had no intention of ever speaking with your bank.

In the “Bankruptcy” scheme, the scammer promises to work with the lender on your behalf. Instead, they file bankruptcy on your behalf and you lose both your home and your credit rating.

According to Barbara Corcoran, there are legitimate mortgage consultants in the country. WHN recommends that you start by working directly with your lender or the government. Again, the information is free and readily available. You can make a few calls or visit the legitimate websites to get the ball rolling without spending a dime.

There are websites to help identify scams and provide advice about how to safely deal with a mortgage renegotiation or refinance. One to visit is scambusters.

If you have questions or would like to share your experiences, please email me: Leann (at) WhatHappensNow.com.

Best of the Day – Madoff in Jail

Bernie Madoff  is in jail after pleading guilty to 11 counts in his Ponzi scheme.

He’s looking at up to 150 years for charges that include money laundering, fraud and perjury.  Sadly, it seems he’ll get 20 years if the sentences are consecutive.  Well, he’s 70.

The problem with Ponzi schemes is that they are hard to identify. However, there are a few red flags that can tip you off to something else – identity theft.

The Best Online for Baby!

This is a great stroller - We got it online!

Post holidays means it’s the season to save if you’re shopping online for babies!

And as you shop – keep your identity safe and read our article Protecting Your Identity Online.

Then, check out these great websites – awesome deals and valuable information.

· www.babycatalog.com – This site offers free shipping for purchases over $49.00. They also have an annual membership (The Baby Club – $25) which gives you and up to three friends a 10% discount for the year. This membership is free for members of the Military.

· www.strollers.com Looking for a stroller? Strollers.com offers a 100% price match guarantee. They also have free shipping on orders over $49.

· www.breastpumpsdirect.com– This is great for all things nursing related. There are tips and tricks, comparison charts, reviews, and more. They offer free shipping on all electric pumps and also offer a price match guarantee.

These are just a few of our favorite sites. Keep an eye on our posts for more great baby related websites.

Thanks Sarah and Linda!

Linda Bauchwitz and Sarah Chambers are a mother/daughter team and owners of Before & After Baby Planning LLC, a concierge and consulting service that helps new and expectant parents prepare for their new arrival.  They can be reached at 763-494-3201 or www.planning4baby.com.

Your Identity Isn’t Foolproof

wallet.jpgLifelock CEO, Todd Davis, after two years of encouraging people to steal his identity in anyway shape or form got exactly what he asked for: a man used Davis’ SSN to receive money from an online payday loan service.

He claims his service, LifeLock, still works – after all, there were 87 previous attempts by others trying to use Davis’ SSN. Others disagree and are suing Davis for false advertising and practices.

The lesson learned here? No one’s identity is safe from theft, not even the identity of a CEO of an identity theft prevention service. So is there still hope for the rest of us? I’d like to think so!

Learn how to spot and prevent identity theft with these top articles and tips from safety experts:

Experienced identity theft? Share your story below!