Your luck doesn’t have to be so bad as the California man, who, in a series of unrelated events, was hit by a car on Sunday, mugged on Monday, and shot on Tuesday. But, if you lose your identity to a con man, your foul luck level could be close.
With a con man-launched barrage, stolen identities are rising at a rate of up to 10,000,000 per year, creating a problem that is now approaching crisis proportions.
If we were a fire-eating, Bible-thumping preacher, we would deliver our sermon something like quoting from a legal thriller, something like this:
Con men everywhere are taking rifle-shot focus on a very specific target: your social security number. (Your bank account number would be nice too. That’s secondary targeting.) Once obtaining this they are finding it a cake-walk to taking over your paper identity, and, thus, opening up a free-flowing channel to all of your financial assets.
They count on–and are successfully cashing in on–a seemingly human axiom: a one-sided exercise in the “Law of Inertia.” So, you must surmount this inertia, conquer it, if it exists.
As never before, if you do not wish to provide the con man a feeding tube into your bank account, you must be highly selective about the handling of your financial affairs. All of them. The time is now.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. When ordering over the internet remember that URLs that begin with “http” are not secure sites. The sites that begin with “https” are. First step is to foil hackers as best you can.
2. Verify all email and telephone offers by checking them out directly through a customer service number you locate, yourself, in your phone book, then follow through with a phone call, only one you initiate. If you can’t find a phone number there, call the reference desk of your public library and you will probably have the requested number in minutes.
3. If you suspect an obvious, serious scam–many of which these days read like a legal thriller–don’t hesitate, looking for a cause dujour. Contact the FBI or your State Attorney General’s office. Do it with cat-quick speed. Famed French World War II hero and President, Charles DeGaulle, had a very forgettable message to leave from his death bed. His last words were, “It hurts.” This is the same near-death way you’d feel if, no matter what you’d accomplished in life, a con man cleaned you of your identity.
4. Never reship any product on behalf of a stranger in a foreign country.. If you don’t know the contents, which could be stolen goods, you might be unwittingly participating in a crime. You don’t want to become a self-indulgent, navel-gazing victim.
5. Never respond to email or phone calls asking you to verify anything. These requests are most often placed by the con man under the guise of being a bank, credit card company, retail store, government agency official–any manner of subterfuge. It’s always best to check out the “source” represented, independently of any reference numbers or call-back data provided by the inquirer. You don’t have to be a peripheral visionary to see these scams coming. They’re frontal. They’re clear. Act accordingly.
6. Ignore all “free credit report” offers you receive, either by phone or over the internet. Big majority of these are scams.
Your cooperation would be like singing along at the opera.
7. “Free” gift offers should be avoided. Unless they are entirely free. If asked to “pay only shipping and handling charges,” look out. This is a big red light.
8. Pyramid schemes and email chain letters. The answer to this should be obvious. Ignore, ignore, ignore. Never respond to these. The con man’s eerie vulgarity, his frothing-at-the-mouth greed, rears its ugly head pronouncedly on this one.
9. Never enter your social security number on a resume, one you are asked to send via email by anyone with whom you are not totally familiar. Some scam-fighters will say, simply enter 000-00-0000, but pause should be exercised before even doing this. If you wish to save yourself from becoming a drooling head-banger, by all means do not let your social security number fall into the hands of a con man.
10. Gift or order confirmations. These, from any vendor you have not contacted. Usually they are “phishing” expeditions, designed only to reel in personal information from you.
These are some of the cautionary high points. Be totally aware that the identity theft threat is now of epidemic proportions. and, sadly, it appears that–like all epidemics–the time-honored “Law of Averages” is about the only governor to dictate the length of time before it gets to you. When it finally hits, the jolt will be like unwittingly sticking your hand into a sealed box of scorpions.