I Didn’t Open All of These Accounts on My Credit Report. What Should I Do?

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See your payment history?

Payment history is the record of when—and if—you pay your bills. And, it’s one of the main things that creditors look at. Payment history makes up 35% of your credit score—the biggest part. Your report card shows your grade, total late payments and more. See your payment history now »

See How You’re Using Available Credit

How you use credit affects your credit score. Use too much and your score goes down. Your credit utilization ratio, or how much of your credit limit you use, makes up 30% of your credit score. Your credit report card shows your ratio, credit card debt, credit limit and how different factors affect your score. Get your debt usage now »

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Take a Peek at Your Credit’s Age

Credit age, aka credit history, is the age of your oldest account, not how long you’ve used credit. Creditors want older credit histories. And older accounts are better for your score. Credit age makes up 15% of your score. See your credit history and the ages of the oldest and newest account on your credit report card. Know your credit age now »

See Your Account Mix

Revolving credit, installment loans and the mix of the two—student loans, auto loans, mortgages, etc.—make up 10% of your credit score. A good mix shows creditors you can handle different types of debts. See how many revolving credit accounts and loans you have in your free credit report summary. Check your account mix »

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Know How Many Inquiries You Have

Every time you apply for a new credit card or loan, it can show up as a hard inquiry on your credit report. That’s true even for denied credit. And hard inquiries make up 10% of your score and can cause it to drop. Applying for credit too frequently is a red flag to creditors. When was your last inquiry? See how many inquiries you have and how long you’ve had them on your report card. Check your inquiries now »

See Why—and How—Your Score Changed

If you want the details of why your score changed, it’s all there. Simply select “See details” for “Why did my score change” to see the historical view of your credit score—and what’s changed it.

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Source: credit.com

The Job Scam That Even You Could Fall For

This might be the most sophisticated job scam I’ve ever seen. Thanks to a near-victim, you’ll get a rare chance to see a real pro almost pull off a nearly perfect digital caper.

You do things when you are job hunting that you wouldn’t normally do. You meet strangers. You share a lot of personal information with the world, on resumes and through job sites. You’re vulnerable. And most critically: You generally need money. It’s a scammer’s dream, and that’s why job-hunting scams are so persistent and prevalent.

Every chance I get, I try to explain that “smart” folks fall for scams all the time — and those at greatest risk are those who think they are too clever for criminals. This is one of those stories.

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Josh Belzman is not just a tech savvy worker; he’s spent the better part of the last decade as a social media professional in Seattle. He’s been working in and around the internet’s cesspools for years.

Still, he recently went halfway down the aisle with a criminal offering the false hope of an exciting job in social media. Like all victims and near victims, he couldn’t stop blaming himself as he described the sequence to me— but I can see exactly why Josh danced with the devil.

  • I just watched a documentary on the dark web, and I will never feel safe using my credit card again!

  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.

  • I need that peace of mind in my life. What else do you get with ExtraCredit?

  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.

  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.

  • …we live in Oklahoma.

Josh, 39, is job hunting, and he received an email from a woman named Morgan who said she worked for a big law firm and needed contract social media work for $39-$45 an hour. That kind of short-term gig is exactly what people like Josh need while they look for their next career step.

“I probably should have trusted my spidey sense and not engaged at all but you know how it goes when looking for work— your guard and confidence can drop,” he said.

Morgan asked for a Google hangout chat as a first step. Josh did his due diligence, and Googled her. Up came a LinkedIn profile that checked out. She had a long professional history in the Seattle area, including alleged stints as a ski instructor at nearby Snoqualmie Summit. It said she had worked at various law firms dating back to 2009. The firm (I won’t mention it) was real. So he jumped online, ready to answer her questions and ask a few.

Generally, con artists betray themselves during real-time interactions. They speak poor English, they show obvious lack of subject matter knowledge, and there are awkward delays. Morgan exhibited none of those. In fact, her questions for Josh were spot on. Here’s a partial list I pulled from a transcript of their chat.

“Could you give us an example of a limitation on a social platform that you have experienced? How did you overcome this?”

“Have you ever had to handle a Social Media crisis? If so, could you provide an example and how would you describe your work ethics?”

“How would you allocate our Social Media advertising budget and How do you evaluate new social platforms? How do you stay on top of the latest updates and innovations in Social Media?”

“Do you have your own blog? Do you currently write content for various Social Media platforms and why should we hire you?”

Josh answered each one deliberately. After each response, she replied, “good,” “very good,” and eventually “great.” All what you’d expect, or even hope for, during an interview.

Reading through the full transcript, you can see in retrospect that all these questions could have been cut and pasted from a script. In fact, I suspect the criminals somehow lifted them from an actual interview involving a social media position— perhaps they’d applied for a job themselves earlier just to understand what “marks” would expect.

Only once was there something more that might have tipped off Josh. When he, smartly, tried to interrupt and ask his own questions, Morgan’s reaction was a bit off.

Josh: Mind if I ask a few questions about the role?

Morgan: Sure when we done with this process so you can get all the details you need to know.

But that’s it. The rest of the interview went as you might expect. LinkedIn page and all. Until …

Morgan: How soon can you begin work if luckily chosen for the position, do you need any our Company benefits and what means of Payment would you prefer; Check Or Direct Deposit?

Morgan: What bank are you with for Direct deposit/Check so we can see if it tallies with our preferred banks and do you have any question before i move forward?

Josh: I’m not comfortable sharing banking info online.

(Morgan may not be on Hangouts right now. Your messages will be seen later.)

The “line” went immediately dead.

Fortunately, after an hour of “seduction” and with the lure of a $35-an-hour job, Josh did listen to his spidey sense and threw up a roadblock. And as soon as Morgan saw he wouldn’t play along, she “hung up” on him.

An hour or so wasted, but it could have been much worse.

“I should have never entertained this — the initial email was sketchy but I chalked that up to some office admin being asked to help find candidates,” he said. “Going back through I see very few comments in ‘her’ voice— just a lot of cut-and-paste questions and ‘OK good.’ Amazing the tricks your mind plays in you when you’re visualizing a certain situation.”

After the disconnect, Josh called the firm and was told no one by that name worked there.

I, however, did find someone with her name who had posted a resume that was similar. It’s likely the con artists assumed elements of her identity for the scam. I emailed her, and got no response. I also emailed the person who chatted with Josh and got no response.

“The initial email was unsolicited with that odd name but I saw the LinkedIn profile and I’ve had some of those mails come through (job sites),” Josh said. “The hangout thing raised eyebrows but I suspended some of that because I got caught up answering the questions.”

Tips for Avoiding Scammers

So what should you do? The big one: Always trust your gut. I pretty much never talk to anyone who falls for these things who doesn’t say they had a queasy feeling in their stomach at some point.

Also, do what Josh did. Say it out loud: “I’m not comfortable with that.” It’s a handy phrase. A real person will react with an apology to that, like “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” A con artist, or a bad person, will push you instead. Or hang up.

Finally, be realistic. If you are out of work, you are vulnerable. No matter how smart and put together you think you are. Know that going in. You’ll be more likely to hit the pause button if things go south, and generally, hitting pause is enough to scare off bad guys.

Here’s a handy list of ways to spot “Work at Home” scams. And if you think you’ve already fallen prey to an identity theft scam, it’s a good idea to keep an close eye on your credit. New accounts you don’t recognize on your credit reports or a sudden drop in credit scores are signs that fraud is afoot. (You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and view two of your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.) You can find more steps to take if you are an identity theft victim here.

Image: PeopleImages

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Source: credit.com

5 Cyber-Security Myths We Need to Ditch

Pick a subject, any subject, and there are myths and pure nonsense that someone will buy into.

  • Birds will die if they eat the uncooked rice flung at newlyweds. (Nope)
  • If you eat Mentos and drink Diet Coke simultaneously your stomach will explode. (Hardly)
  • You only have one credit score. (Wrong)
  • Napoleon was short. (At 5’ 6”, his height was average in his day).
  • “President Obama was the founder of ISIS.” (Oh, come on Donald!)

Cyber-security has its own set of misconceptions as well. Here are five.

1. Software Will Protect You

Say it with me now: “Software alone is not going to stop cyber-crime, even a little.”

There is no more harmful notion than the one that leads people into doing whatever they want on their computers or smartphones because they downloaded a software update. While software has its benefits, they often have to do with containing damage, not stopping an attack.

The false sense of security fostered by the idea that software can protect anyone from the kinds of daily mutating, highly sophisticated attacks out there today is dangerous.

  • I just watched a documentary on the dark web, and I will never feel safe using my credit card again!

  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.

  • I need that peace of mind in my life. What else do you get with ExtraCredit?

  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.

  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.

  • …we live in Oklahoma.

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2. Cyber-Crime Is Mostly About Credit Card Fraud

The idea that cyber-crime is just about credit card fraud is a pernicious misconception that, ironically, can lead to credit card fraud and other forms of credit-related crimes.

There is no right answer to the question regarding the most prevalent forms of cyber-crime. But by far the majority of the capers out there are focused on grabbing colossal amounts of personal identifying information from organizations that do business with millions of people or, alternately, stealing confidential business information that can be sold to the highest-bidding competitor. Sure, there are other forms of attack, some of them very much on the rise, such as ransomware schemes, but by and large the focus among cyber-criminals is on sellable information and making a lot more money than can be had from a credit pump-and-dump.

That said, the ways that stolen information can be used leads back to consumers and can very easily result in credit fraud, since stolen data can be easily purchased by identity thieves for next to nothing on the dark web.

3. Cyber-Crime Is Only About Making a Buck

If cyber-crime were only about making money, we’d all be a lot safer than we are right now.

Let that sink in.

Make no mistake, there are hordes of hackers out there driven by ideology. Many are far less interested in making money than in making money disappear or taking down the electrical grid or rigging an election. For them, mere monetary reward is not a motivation unless it is needed to facilitate an attack.

This is the stuff of nightmares and blockbuster Hollywood films, and there isn’t a thing most of us can do to stop any of it from happening.

In a world where the Stuxnet worm that was used to attack Iran’s nuclear program is quaint technology and detonating a hydrogen bomb would inflict less casualties than a cyber-attack that shuts off the power grid, having our credit ruined by a pajama-wearing identity thief is the least of our worries.

4. Cyber-Criminals Don’t Target Small Businesses

The myth that cyber-criminals don’t focus on businesses that aren’t at the top of the food chain can be debunked with one name: Target. The company was hacked by one remove. The criminals managed to get malware on a far-flung point-of-sale system by coming in the side door. They merely had to compromise a smaller HVAC vendor.

No matter how small the enterprise, it must have serious security protocols and a meaningful cyber-defense plan, lest it suffer an extinction-level event and potentially bring down a whole lot of other folks with it.

5. There Is No Way to Stop a Cyber-Attack

This is the biggest myth out there, in my opinion. Except, of course, that in the final analysis it is true: There is no way to stop every single cyber-attack.

That said, for many attacks, PEBCAK is the answer. Unfamiliar with this approach? It’s an oldie but goodie that anyone in IT will recognize, the letters forming an acronym that neatly states why countless attacks are successful. PEBCAK stands for Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard.

While it is true that cyber-threats abound, the only way to contain the pandemic and meaningfully push back is if everybody does what they are supposed to do. That is a big “if.” But one can hope, and while fixing the human problem is a Herculean task, it’s a worthy goal.

If you’re concerned you’ve been a victim of identity theft, it’s important to keep an eye on your credit as new accounts in your name or a sudden drop in credit scores indicate fraud has occurred. You can view two of your free credit scores, updated monthly, by visiting Credit.com.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

Image: PeopleImages

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Source: credit.com

7 Texts You Should Ignore

Whether you’re trying to win tickets to a sold-out concert, remind your partner to buy milk, vote for your favorite reality TV personality or ask your headphones-encased kid a question, there’s a text for that. While texting is a great convenience and time saver (not to mention an international obsession), if you respond to a wrong text — think: Wyle E. Coyote and the Roadrunner — look out below!

Phishing via text works the same way as email, the only difference is format, tone and, of course, length. The goal remains to commandeer as much information about you as possible (to use for fraud) and/or take control of your device. The pilfered information can be seriously harmful to your sanity, not to mention your finances, since scam artists are always looking to make a quick buck at your expense.

There are many texts you should handle with kid gloves, and still others that you should ignore.

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I’m not talking about the obvious “don’ts” here, like looking at texts that were not sent to you. (Oh, and in case you missed that memo, sneaking a peak at your partner’s texts is and always will be a one-way ticket to relational oblivion.) What you need to worry about are texts that could have plausibly been sent to you.

This latter category of text is not always obviously fraudulent. The same thing that makes texting second nature to you is what makes it a potential hazard to your personal information safety.

  • I just watched a documentary on the dark web, and I will never feel safe using my credit card again!

  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.

  • I need that peace of mind in my life. What else do you get with ExtraCredit?

  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.

  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.

  • …we live in Oklahoma.

Regardless of their apparent merit, instead of replying to unsolicited texts directly, you should call the purported sender directly to be sure they aren’t trying to contact you.

With that in mind, here are seven texts you’ll want to be wary of.

1. Texts From Your Bank With Links

Automatic transaction alerts are an excellent security measure. You can set an alert on your checking and savings accounts to cover all kinds of parameters, such as the minimum balance you have to maintain without incurring a fee, a trigger amount on a withdrawal and more. These can be delivered via text, and here’s the thing: the SMS version from your bank will never contain a link. If you get one that does, ignore it. You can also call your bank directly.

2. Texts From the IRS

This is the easiest phishing scam to detect. The IRS never sends texts — ever. It’s also worth noting that the IRS won’t email you about official business either. The only way to do business with the IRS is via the United States Postal Service or by telephone — and if you are contacted by phone, it’s a good rule of thumb to tell the person who called you that you are concerned about security, and you need a reference number or department because you are going to call back on the IRS main phone line about whatever the matter may be. Also keep in mind that just because your caller ID tells you the incoming call is from the IRS does not mean it is the IRS since many phishers are consummate “spoofers.”

3. Texts From Your Credit Card Company With a Call to Action

This is similar to a text from your bank, but with more options for failure. You may have transaction alerts set that get delivered via text. You may have also consented to promotional notices. The bottom line with texts from your credit card company: whatever they are allegedly saying to you via text, they will say to you on the phone. Ignore any texts with a call to action, even if you want to take the action, and call your credit card company directly on the number designated on the back of your credit card. Especially ignore the text if it says that clicking on the link (or calling the number) is the only way to get a particular promotion.

4. Unsolicited Texts From Your Doctor, Lawyer, or Accountant

Businesses that collect a lot of personal information from clients, like medical practices, law firms or accounting firms can be prime targets for hackers. If you get a text from any of these folks, no matter how convincing, and no matter how much about you they seem to know (remember, these same professionals may not have the best defenses against hackers), ignore the text and call them.

5. Random Texts From Your Mortgage Company

I am guessing you’re getting the gist of this game, but any seemingly official notification about one’s mortgage somehow has the ability to completely unhinge people, especially if there is a problem. As data breaches have become the third certainty in life, it is quite likely your mortgage information is out there. If a scammer gets ahold of it, they might try to scare you into taking an action via text, like sending payments to a new address. Ignore them and call your mortgage holder.

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6. Scary Texts From Your Auto Lender

Nothing is quite as classic in the storybook of personal finance as the repo man coming to take your car. Because it’s a common nightmare scenario, we are liable to fall for it. Ignore any texts you get from your auto lender. Instead of replying, always call to find out what you already know: someone just tried to scam you.

7. Promotional Texts From Your Favorite Game

Don’t be embarrassed. We all have a game we like to play, and so do our kids. The problem here is that for real devotees, there is very little one won’t do to get an edge. Whether it’s buying points or weapons or secrets, or getting the latest upgrade the second it’s released, true gamers are a juicy target for scammers who send texts hawking special promotions, and they are less likely to be careful about whom they give their contact information to, since getting more game time is more important than anything. Same rule applies here: ignore any text that you get, and make sure your kids do as well. Go online and find the promotion from a reputable site.

If you think you’ve responded to a phishing text, you should monitor your credit for signs of identity theft. (You can do so by pulling your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and viewing your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.)

When it comes to staying safe, let restraint be your co-pilot. A little pause goes a long way and you don’t want to end up being the get for scammers.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: Todor Tsvetkov

Source: credit.com

4 Costly Investing Mistakes You Must Avoid

February 28, 2019 Posted By: growth-rapidly Tag: Financial Advice

You may start thinking about investing, because you’ve just received a lump sum of money, a tax refund, a bonus, or a raise. Or you may be thinking of buying a house in the future and need to invest some money for a down payment on the house down the road.

Either way, one thing to be mindful of is that investing is not risk-free. Imagine what it would be like to lose all of your money. So before starting this intimidating process, make sure you work with a financial advisor, and read these tips below to avoid some of the common, yet deadly investing mistakes people make.

Here are the 4 common investing mistakes you must avoid at all cost.

1. Invest with no plan.

If you’re not sure why you’re investing, but just want to make a lot of money in a short period of time, then you’re in a world of trouble. Whether they are short term investments or long term investments, you must have a plan.

Intelligent investors don’t rely luck and invest blindly. Instead, they have a plan. They do their research on the kind of investments they want to pursue; the amount of risks involved; how much profits they can get from the investments, etc. It’s important you have a goal. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you ever get there.

If you’re a beginner investor and needs some help to navigate the process, your best bet is to consult with a financial advisor to develop an investment plan for you.

Indeed, financial advisors are experts in their field. Good advice from a top financial advisor can help you save money and invest money in better investment options.

Click here to work with a financial advisor using this free matching tool. This tool will match you up with up to three top financial advisors in your neighborhood. For additional information, read: 5 Mistakes People Make When Hiring Financial Advisors.

2. You’re not aware of your risk tolerance.

Investing in stocks can be very risky; very risky, in fact, you can lose all of your money within a manner of seconds. Suppose you buy 500 shares of company X with $10 a share. The next month, because of some bad news, the stock went down to $5 a share. At that point you lose $2500, half of your initial investment. If the company went bankrupt, you would lose everything.

So before you start investing, know your risk tolerance and weigh it against possible returns. So find out how much risk you can take. Some people are more cautious and more conservative than others. While others can stomach very big risks. So which one are you?

An experienced and well informed financial advisor can explain to you the risks associated with different kind of investments so you can sleep better at night.

3. Your investment portfolio lacks diversification.

One of the deadly and costly investing mistakes to avoid is to tie all of their money into one type of investment. Again, with the example above, if your investment portfolio only contains shares of company X and company X goes bankrupt, you will lose all of your money.

So you need to diversify. Diversification simply means having different assets in your portfolio so that any losses made on some assets will be balanced by what you gain on others.

So, a smart investor would have a mix of investments in his or her investment portfolio, so that the risk is balanced.

Related: How to Find A Financial Advisor In Your Neighborhood

4. Not monitoring your investments.

Another common investing mistakes people make is adopting a ‘set it and forget it’ approach. This is mistake that can cost you a lot. How would you know if one of your stocks is down 50%? Although, it’s a good idea to hold a stock for the long term. However, sometimes it’s best to cut our losses and move on. So, you need to keep an eye on your investments.

Work With The Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

For more information on investing, read:

Is Investing in Stocks Worth the Risks?

When Should You Start Investing?

Source: growthrapidly.com

Don’t Get Tricked: Identity Protection Tips You Need

October 22, 2020 &• 7 min read by Eva Velasquez Comments 0 Comments

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The weather is turning, fall is in the air, and Halloween is around the corner—which means it’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. How can you ensure October is full of treats while not falling for any scammers’ tricks? By arming yourself with these identity protection tips.

Every American should understand the basics of identity theft protection. According to the most recent report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 10% of people 16 and older have been the victim of identity theft. That’s why we’re encouraging people to educate themselves on identity protection tips this autumn. After all, there’s nothing quite as scary as identity fraud!

Here are some identity theft tricks to watch out for and identity security treats to take advantage of.

Trick: Using Your Data to Open New Accounts

According to the FTC, credit card fraud—including opening new credit card accounts—was the most commonly reported form of identity theft in 2019. Thieves can rack up hundreds of dollars’ worth of bills before you know it happened.

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Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to your cybersecurity to avoid your data being used to open new accounts in your name:

  • Never use the same password across multiple accounts. Switch your passwords up.
  • Never use a password that’s easy to guess. This includes passwords that include your birthday, first or last name, or address.
  • Use passwords that are random combinations of numbers, letters, and symbols.
  • Enable two-factor authentication whenever it’s offered.
  • Don’t share or write down your passwords.
  • Never click on unknown email links or pop-ups on websites.
  • Make sure websites are secure before entering your payment information.
  • Never connect to public Wi-Fi that isn’t secure.
  • Never walk away from your laptop in public places.
  • Enable firewall protection.
  • Monitor your accounts and credit reports for unusual activity.

Treat: Check Your Credit Reports

Identity theft protection starts by being proactive and regularly monitoring your information for suspicious activity. That includes monitoring your credit report.

Did you know that you’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report each year from all three credit reporting agencies? In honor of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, make October the month that you request your reports and go over them with a fine-toothed comb. Make sure you recognize all the open accounts under your name.

[Note: Through April 2021, you can review your credit reports weekly.]

An added bonus of checking your reports early in the month is that you can give your credit a good once-over before the upcoming holiday shopping season. Unexplained dips in your credit score could be a sign that something is wrong.

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When you request your free credit report from the credit bureaus, your report does not come with your credit score—you have to request that separately. Sign up for ExtraCredit to get 28 of your FICO® scores and your credit reports from all three credit bureaus. You’ll also get account monitoring and $1 million identity theft insurance.

Trick: Charity Fraud

October also happens to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and everywhere you look, pink is on display. With so much national attention on breast cancer, it’s easy to fall for scams that claim to be legitimate charities.

Consumers should also be on the lookout for phony COVID-19 related scams this fall and winter. For example, watch out for fake charities that pretend to provide COVID relief to groups or families but are simply stealing money.

Even worse than handing over money to these heartless fraudsters is that you may have handed over your credit card numbers or other personally identifiable information in the process.

Treat: Know Your Worthy Causes

Before donating to a charitable cause, do your homework. You can use websites such as Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance to check a charity’s reputation. Additionally, consider contacting your state’s charity regulator to confirm the organization is registered to raise money in your state.

After you’ve verified the status of the charity, consider making donations directly through the national organization. Avoid giving money or financial information directly to someone that reaches out to you through email, phone calls, or door-to-door interactions.

It might be a bit of extra work, but at the end of the day, you can feel good knowing your money is going to support a real cause. If you want to support October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, consider donating directly on the national website. An added bonus is that you’ll receive a receipt you can use for tax deduction purposes.

Trick: Tax Refund Fraud

Every year, the Internal Revenue Service announces its “dirty dozen” scams. These are the tax fraud scams the IRS determines to be the most common for the year. The 2020 list includes refund theft. A tax thief gains access to your information, files a fraudulent return in your name before you do, and has the funds paid out them. The only way you find out about it is that your legitimate tax return—the one you submit—is rejected for having already been filed.

Another way individuals fall victim to tax refund fraud is by using an unscrupulous return vendor. Dishonest vendors and ghost preparers steal personal information to file a tax refund and pocket the money or use that information for other types of identity fraud.

It’s unclear what exactly the next round of stimulus legislation will include, but if another stimulus check is included, watch out for attempts to steal your COVID stimulus checks. Remember that the IRS never contacts you via email, social media, or text.

Treat: File Early

It may feel like you just finished filing your 2019 taxes, but it’s never too early to start preparing for next year. While filing your taxes might be the last thing you want to think about this month, it’s crucial to stay on top of your tax return documents so you’re ready to file as early as possible. This is especially true for individuals who have reason to believe that their personal data has already been breached.

Always ensure you work with a reputable tax return vendor. You can look at the vendor’s online reviews before considering them as an option for tax return help.

Additionally, individuals that are paid to assist with or prepare federal tax returns must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid preparers must sign and include their PTIN on returns. Always ask for this number before you hire an individual and hand over your personal information.

If you file early, you can beat out someone filing before you and receiving your return first. The earliest you can file is January.

Trick: Social Media Scams

Our social media accounts allow us to stay connected with friends and family. Unfortunately, scammers understand this and have started using social media to commit identity fraud.

There are many variations of social media phishing scams, but the basics are generally that a scammer creates an account to gain your trust and gather personal information from you. For example, many people have their name, birthday, and workplace information on their Facebook or other social media account. Those three things alone could be enough for someone to gain everything else they need to create a credit card application under your name or access your existing accounts.

Treat: Be More Exclusive and Private

Consider taking a quiet October morning to comb through your social media accounts. Start with your followers. Consider deleting everyone you don’t know personally.

If a follower base is important to you, consider another approach. Go through each social profile and scrub any personal details. Change the spelling of your last name slightly, delete your birthday, and remove other personal information, such as place of work. Ultimately, this can reduce the risk of being an easy target for identity fraud.

These core identity protection tips should help you stay safer online. With COVID-19 causing people to feel scared, individuals are more vulnerable to being tricked. Remember that identity fraud happens to millions of people every year, and it’s important to remain vigilant.

Stay Vigilant This Fall

Identity theft can have long-lasting consequences. If you’re recovering from identity fraud or simply unhappy with your credit score, consider signing up for ExtraCredit. ExtraCredit is a five-in-one credit product that provides tools to helps you build, guard, track, reward, and restore your credit.


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Source: credit.com