Consumer Protection | Business Protection

4 Summer Scams to Watch Out For

August 18th, 2012

Allison here, with AllClear ID. Summer may be over for many kids across the country, but the season itself officially doesn’t end until the Fall Equinox. That means over a month of summer left, and plenty of time for scammers to swindle others. We previously covered the home projects scam, but that’s not the only scam swindlers are using to bait people into giving up money and personal information. Watch out for these four other summer scams:

  1. The Mugged-Grandkid-on-Vacation Scam – Many families, friends and college students spend their summers abroad. If they haven’t calculated their budgets right or happen to get pick-pocketed, this may sometimes put them in a bind for cash help from grandparents, a family member or even you. However, it’s all a con and scammers can do it much more convincingly now that social media has all the information necessary to make it look real, such as contact information and relationship details. If you think you received one of these emails, talk to that person first before wiring over some cash. You wouldn’t want to send money to a hacker.
  2. Moving Man Scam – Summer is a popular time to move, and with many colleges starting in the next few weeks, parents will be looking for movers to help get their kids in the dorms. In this scam, the movers take your possessions hostage, saying that it was all heavier than expected so they’ll demand extra money to unload your belongings. If you refuse to pay, they may store your stuff at your expense until it’s settled. If you’re moving in the next month or so, do it yourself if you can. If not, make sure to take the time to pick a quality mover. It’s not just the “three-quote” rule that must be followed, but also research their backgrounds and customer reviews to be sure that they’re legitimate.
  3. The Job-Offer Scam – This is a really unfortunate one since so many people are looking for work and desperately need an actual job instead of a fake one. The scammers even go through great lengths to set up the scam, scheduling interviews and setting up websites for their fake companies. What ends up happening is that the scammers “hire” you, and then ask for money to do the background check or a credit check. Or, they might ask you to complete a few forms for the company. Either way, the scammers get everything they need to steal your identity, and you still don’t have a job.
  4. The Vacation Rental Scam – How awful would it be if you paid money to spend time in a vacation home or at a time-share, only to find that the keys don’t work or the address was fake? Well, nearly 8,000 rental-related complaints were reported to the center between June 2011 and June 2012, including vacation rental scams, according to the National White Collar Crime Center. Just like with the moving man scam, take the time to research these vacation rental homes and companies, as well as the person offering you the deal. It’s likely that the research will uncover whether or not the offer is a scam.

The temperatures may be cooling down slowly, but scam artists never fizzle. In fact, they are always looking for ways to scam people, and there are scammers who are always on the prowl for new people to victimize. Even though these summer scams may be less common in just a month or two, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any more scams to worry about.

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Corporate Identity Theft: Business Identities at Risk

June 12th, 2012

Allison here, with AllClear ID. We talk a lot about personal identity theft, or the identity theft of an individual, but did you know that companies and businesses can have their identities stolen too? Corporate identity theft can affect anyone; if you own or work at a company that has a breach, there’s a lot to lose.

Corporate identity theft is the fraudulent or deliberate misuse of a company’s identity, which can come in a variety of forms. It can involve the identities of customers and employees, as well as company records. Any or all of these forms of theft can ruin a company’s reputation, costing a lot of money to fix. Forms of corporate identity theft include:

  • Spammers using the company name to appear more legitimate, like in FBI scams
  • Spammers posing as employees or vendors to retrieve personal information
  • Hacking into the website or servers to steal company, employee, and/or customer credit card and personal information

Many of the same tactics that apply to protecting personal identities also apply to corporate identities, such as being extra careful with personal and confidential information and checking statements for suspicious transactions. However, there are additional measures that businesses need to take to protect the identities of employees and customers while keeping the corporate identity intact. These include:

  • Ensure that you have the most up-to-date website security solution in place
  • Use a search engine to check for your company name. This can help in spotting fakes and seeing what your web visitors see when searching for your company. You can also set up a Google Alert to notify you whenever your company’s name is used on the internet.
  • Improve awareness among everyone with whom you do business, including customers, vendors, contractors and employees. Any one of them could accidentally leak information, just as you can accidentally leak theirs. Improving awareness lets them know that you’re looking out for them, and that you hope they look out for you.
  • Have someone in charge of spotting suspicious activity to prevent security breaches from happening. This includes deleting old login information and passwords of old employees and updating security measures regularly.
  • Create company policies and get these procedures in writing. They should include consequences for someone who is caught or help liable for a possible breach or leak.

As always, if your company does go through a data breach, you can count on us here at AllClear ID. Contact us via the web or by our Breach Hotline at 1.877.441.3009 .

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A New Twist to the Online Job Search Scam

March 15th, 2012

Kirsten here from AllClear ID.  With the country’s current economic position coupled with the fluctuating unemployment rate, people are searching and posting for jobs all over the internet. Unfortunately, as we have written before criminals have taken notice.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center reports they have “recently received over 250 complaints reporting a new twist to the online employment scam. The scam involves people who responded to online ads or were contacted via e-mail as a result of their resume being posted on job websites. The perpetrator posed as a research company, and asked people to complete a paid survey about services provided at wire transfer locations to improve the effectiveness of the company’s money-transfer services.”

How the scam happens: Per the IC3 “Complainants were hired and then mailed a cashier’s check or money order. They received instructions to cash the check/money order at their local bank, keep a portion as payment, and wire the remaining amount via wire transfer to a designated recipient. Victims were then asked to immediately e-mail their employer with the transfer number, amount wired, recipient’s name and address, and the name of the wire transfer location evaluated. Upon sending the information, victims received a questionnaire form regarding their overall wire transfer experience to complete and return. Those who did not promptly follow through with the instructions received threatening e-mails stating if they did not respond within 24 hours, their information would be forwarded to the FBI and they could face 25 years in jail.

Shortly after the transactions, victims were informed by their banks that the checks were counterfeit and were held responsible for reimbursing their banks. Most victims owed their bank over $2,500.”

Craigslist, a popular place to search and apply for jobs online, warns in its scam instructions to deal locally and/or with people you can meet in person before progressing with any transaction involving money.

If you do fall victim to any scam, contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center as your complaints can help them detect patterns of wrong-doing, and lead to investigations and prosecutions.

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Work from Home and Other Employment Scams

January 27th, 2012

Aaron here from the AllClear Investigations Team. With the country’s current economic position coupled with the fluctuating unemployment rate, people are searching and posting for jobs all over the internet. Unfortunately, criminals have taken notice and are finding ways to create fake job postings or hack into job boards to obtain the personal information of applicants.

When posting for a job, people are often asked to include their address, phone number, e-mail address, and even Social Security number. Criminals will then hack into these job boards or create fake job postings to gain the applicants information. This information is often sold to the black market and can eventually place the job seeker in financial ruin.

Another common example of employment fraud is the work from home scam. So many people get worn out from the grind of finding a job that the idea of working from home sounds like a good solution. These scam job postings usually claim flexible hours and earn great money for completing simple duties. In some work from home job scams the applicant is even asked to give money up front for processing fees or equipment fees. One common work from home scam occurs when the job seeker is asked to deposit checks into their own account. They then keep 10% of the deposit and give the rest to the “employer”. After the job seeker deposits the check, they are then an accessory to a crime and could be held responsible for the amount that was deposited.

As the scammers carrying out these crimes are usually faceless and nameless, it is very hard to catch the cyber criminals in these cases. However, anyone applying for a job online can be affected by identity theft, depending on the personal information they provide. Here are a few precautionary steps that job-seekers should take to protect themselves from identity theft when filling out an online application.

Limit the personal information you disclose:

  • Never provide your Social Security number on a resume or application
  • Do not give too much educational or personal information; it is best be vague
  • Only list cell phone numbers on resumes or applications; never give out your home phone number
  • Consider creating an e-mail account used strictly for job application

Always do background research on the company you are applying to and look into their company history, especially if considering a work from home job:

  • Check to see if any fees are involved
  • Find out what work schedule is expected
  • Ask about the pay policy
  • Look for reviews from old employees or customers

These scams are taking place on job boards all over the internet, as well as on sites such as Craigslist. Even with job boards working hard to verify the authenticity of each job posted, some fakes are tough to spot and slip through the cracks.  When in doubt, follow the caveat of “if it is too good to be true then it probably is.”

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Online Resume Identity Theft

January 3rd, 2012

Christy here with the AllClear Investigations Team. Job seekers’ resumes are being preyed upon by identity thieves. Whether it by gathering personal information or responding to the resumes and pretending to be a recruiter, it is a growing issue in area the identity theft. One hotspot for this type of theft are public job posting websites. “People looking for work just don’t realize how susceptible they are,” Heather Galler, who has been CEO of an online job site called JobKite.com, says. “Having your resume online these days is like the yellow pages for the entire world.”

This type of identity theft has grown in recent years due to the continuing trend towards a digital society, economic trouble, and the vulnerability of people in the position of looking for a job. We are putting more and more of our information out in the open these days, and job seekers are eager to react to any response from potential recruiters in hopes of finding “something better”.

Identity thieves are using the information in a number of ways. One method uses the geographical information on resumes to go to the job-seeker’s home and sort through their trash, in hopes of obtaining more personal information or account numbers in documents that were not shredded before being thrown away, or even stealing new mail as it comes in. Another method we’ve seen used involves a thief calling an old employer, claiming to be a potential new employer checking references in order to try and get more information. They may also use the basic information to search for you in public records databases in order to try and possibly find more information. One other known, sneaky tactic scammers use is calling job seekers and pretending to be a recruiter asking for more information like Social Security or driver’s license numbers, citing they need it for background checks for potential employers.

While there is always some degree of risk when putting your personal information “out there”, there are some things people can do to minimize it. These things include:

  • Protect your resume: Some suggest masking your information by not putting your name on an online resume or limiting it to just a first initial and a last name. While helpful, it tends to make some recruiters believe you are paranoid or are a troublemaker. Another safe option would be to take precautions such as using a post office box for your address, a cellphone number (since they could trace a landline number to an address), and/or an alternative email address just for job hunting. There are many free email services and establishing a job-hunting email could give the added benefit of making you look more professional. If you would like to completely omit some personal information, it is acceptable to put “Additional information is withheld for safety reasons and is available upon request.” Most recruiters will respect this. Also, it has become common to not list your references unless requested by a legitimate recruiter; this helps protect the privacy of your references.
  • Look for the details: People should always check the job site for a privacy policy, as any reputable site will have one. “Read it,” Galler emphasizes. “You want to make sure that you understand how long the resume will be active and how to delete it if you want. If there’s no privacy policy, forget it.”
  • Research those recruiters: Fake recruiters will watch for news of company layoffs and use that to look for potential victims. People should ask for references from any recruiters and look into the recruiter’s association, verifying they are associated with them. It is also important to remember to never give any money to a recruiter. There should be no need for monetary or bank account information until you are employed and signing into a direct deposit plan. Mother’s maiden name, SSN, or passwords should also never be requested by a legitimate recruiter.
  • Educational records protection: You are always entitled to the option of requesting that your educational records not be released without your permission. This is always a good idea. It is also a good idea to limit your educational information in the resume. While this is always an area to really sell yourself, but omitting your graduation date will help protect the privacy of your college or university records.
  • Beware the search engine: We’ve all done it – search your name or other information in a search engine to see what comes up. Sometimes people may search their Social Security number as well which is not a good idea. Internet savvy identity thieves can use the cookies on your computer to recall that information. It is best to limit to your name and the last four of your SSN, at most.

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Can Your Boss Do a Credit Check on You?

October 19th, 2011

Juan here, from the AllClear ID Investigations Team. As an investigator I work our customers’ cases and look out for identity theft scams that may be affecting a wide number of people.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer and biggest private employer, is performing background and credit checks on some of their new and existing employees in the U.S. without fully explaining to them what it entails or how it’s being done.

We’ve noticed that Wal-Mart has performed recent credit checks on management personnel, specifically those working in the sporting goods department, because the company is making changes to their gun sales policies.

Most employees are not aware that credit checks are being done on them. Some have said they were told that only background checks, not credit checks, would be done. The credit check information that Wal-Mart is pulling looks exactly like the information that is returned when someone applies for the Wal-Mart Dual Card (a rebranded Discover credit card that offers cashback rewards, gasoline discounts and special rates to Wal-Mart shoppers).  So while the Wal-Mart employee thinks new credit is being opened fraudulently, the real case is his employer is running a credit check on him.

Though this looks fishy, according to the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Wal-Mart may be doing nothing wrong. Employers may run a credit check when they hire new employees, and when they evaluate current ones for promotion, reassignment, and retention  –  as long as they comply with certain specific procedures at every phase of the credit-checking process.

Before running a credit check, the employer must notify the individual in writing that a report may be used. The employer must also get the person’s written authorization before pulling a credit report.

Before taking action, such as firing or demoting an employee, an employer must give that person a pre-adverse action disclosure that includes a copy of his consumer report and a copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” Then the employer must give him notice – orally, writing or by email – about their actions.

As the job-hunting website CareerBuilder states, more employers are checking new and current employees’ credit looking for a snapshot of a person’s economic life that may confirm or contradict the résumé. Whether you work at Wal-Mart or a company that’s miniscule in comparison, be prepared for your employer to inform you of background checks or credit checks, which can essentially be the same. As always, check your credit regularly so you can know if your boss is checking you out with or without your permission.

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Working from Home? Make Sure You Don’t Fall for an Internet Scam

October 10th, 2011

Tamara here, from the AllClear ID Investigation Team. As an investigator, I work our customers’ cases involving identity theft, and try to find ways to help them, as well as other people nationwide who may be experiencing similar problems.

As the stock market drops and the unemployment rate soars, more fraudsters are plying “work at home” Internet scams. They’re posting “jobs” online, requesting payment to either get the materials to pass an exam, for “certification,” to guarantee an interview, or to purchase a starter kit for assembly. The scammers’ targets: the sick, disabled or elderly; the stay-at-home mother, the low-income or no-income family; the person without higher education; and someone looking to leave their current job.

Here are three of the most common scams:

  • The “craft assembly” scam requires that you pays for a starter kit, which includes instructions and parts. Once assembly is finished, you’re told the assembly doesn’t meet the specifications, so you’re not paid for the labor.
  • The “envelope stuffing” ruse promises payment per envelope stuffed. The catch: you need to send payment for the kit. Victims either receive nothing or instructions to hang fliers further promoting the scam.
  • In the “medical billing” scam, you pay a fee to obtain medical billing equipment, only to find out that medical facilities either do their own billing or contract a firm. The facility will tell you that your equipment and/or your database is outdated. You are not refunded for the equipment, and no one hires you.

Work-at-home scam ads are posted in a number of venues from online on job websites (even well-known ones like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com), newspapers and posted on street lights near busy intersections.

Not only are victims sidetracked from finding a legitimate job, they lose a considerable amount of job-hunting time and, of course, money. It may even lead to legal trouble, as some victims are charged with abetting the scamsters who tricked them.

Monster.com and the Internet Fraud Watch offer advice for how to avoid getting roped into these scams and working for the wrong person.

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Did You Know: You Can Pull Your Official Employment History for Free?

August 15th, 2011

Vanessa here from AllClear ID.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FACT Act) is the law that lets you obtain a free credit report from the three credit-reporting agencies every 12 months.  You may not know that the FACT Act also lets prospective or current employers gather information about you for background checks.  This is a a great tool to know what they’re seeing about you – and to check for signs of possible identity theft.

Some credit reporting agencies and investigation companies compile what is known as “investigative consumer reports,” which are used in limited circumstances such as background checks for employment, insurance policies, and rental housing. These reports do not contain information about your credit record that is obtained directly from a creditor or from you. (For example, it won’t have information about a late payment).

Federal law requires your current or prospective employer to get permission from you to conduct the report.  The good news is that if the information in the report is used by the employer to make a negative hiring decision, the employer must give the applicant a copy of the report.

We suggest that you be proactive and get a copy of this report once every 12 months, for free, just like your credit report. You can check it to see if someone else with your name has a work history that may be confused with yours, or may be a result of identity theft. You also have the right to correct and dispute inaccurate information in an investigative report, just as with your credit report.

To order your report, check out the LexisNexis Personal Reports site. Its Full File Disclosure has information about your employment history and other  background information LexisNexis collects about you. There’s no guarantee that LexisNexis has a file on you however; as it says on its website, “our files would only contain information on you if LexisNexis provided your Employment History Report to an employer.”

Still, ordering is easy. Call 866-312-8075, Sunday through Friday, to start the automated process. You must give your Social Security number, current street number, zip code and date of birth for the report to be started. Have a pen and paper ready to write down the report tracking number, in case you need to call and follow up. If you’re not comfortable giving information over the phone, you can instead download a report request.

It takes 15 days for the report to be processed and mailed to you, and you can call the 866 number above to check on the status. And if there are errors on your employment history report, call the LexisNexis consumer center at 866-820-8977 to get them corrected.  And if they’re indicative of employment related identity theft, and you’re an AllClear ID customer, call us to open up a case.

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