The winter holidays are a busy season for everyone—including scam artists. One of the most common forms of fraud is known as “phishing.” Phishing attempts may happen as emails, texts, webpages, or automated phone calls that sound like they come from an official source.
Identity thieves have been known to pose as businesses or government entities to trick consumers into sharing their information with someone they thought was an authority. Often identity thieves will claim there is some sort of problem and that you need to cooperate with them. (You can understand how someone might panic if they got a phone call suggesting they were in trouble with the IRS, right?)
Another tactic may be telling you that you are entitled to money or other rewards, if you only give them what they need.
The best way to protect yourself against identity theft is to stay calm and view the situation for what it is. Not sure whether you may be dealing with an imposter? Consider…
How is the message arriving?
- Government agencies that have important matters to discuss with you will contact you via certified mail on official letterhead, not in a call or text.
- Expect official correspondence to sound professional and not contain obvious spelling or grammatical mistakes.
What are they asking for?
- There is no reason for government authorities to ask you for your personal information such as Social Security number or date of birth. (They already have access to it: officials would be able to look it up themselves!)
- If someone is legitimately trying to give you money, they should not need money from you to facilitate the payment that is supposedly coming your way, nor would they need your Social Security number or other compromising personal details in order to send you money.
Are they hurrying you?
- If you owe money to the government, officials will not try to get a credit card on the spot, and they will definitely not ask you to use PayPal or other online money transfer services.
- Remember that time is on your side. Very few legitimate issues are so urgent that you couldn’t hang up and take time to verify the situation.
Bundle up: add layers for protection.
One way that we work to protect your accounts in case of identity theft is LPL’s Trusted Contact system. If we ever suspect that a request is fraudulent or that you are being manipulated, your trusted contact is someone we have permission to talk to about the situation to make sure that you are not being defrauded of your hard-earned money.
Trusted contacts do not have authority to make changes on your accounts, but they can help verify that requests are actually coming from you and are on the level. It is up to you if you want to designate a trusted contact with us, but it is another layer of protection in case your identity is stolen.
Clients, when you have questions about this or other topics please reach out. We’re here to help.
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