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Money September 2014

Dollar Sense

Potpourri: Miscellaneous Information You Need to Protect Your Money and Your Identity

By Teresa Ambord

When the victim called the man back to give him the card numbers, he accidentally read one number incorrectly.  When the thief discovered the error, he called to complain and demanded a valid number. When the victim told the guy he now knew he’d been scammed, the thief grew angry and continued to demand a valid number. Yes… thieves are among the most nervy people on the planet.

Questions about Your Social Security Number

Is it possible to block your Social Security number from prying eyes?

Most people know they have to guard their Social Security numbers (SSN) – which thieves see as the golden key to stealing your identity and your assets. Once they get it, they may use your SSN to open credit accounts in your name, buy luxury cars and homes, file bogus tax returns in your name and collect refunds, or commit crimes which you could be charged with. Or they might sell your SSN to multiple thieves.

What can you do?  You can pay for services which block your SSN. But you can also contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) and have them block it. This means nobody, including you, can get to or change your personal information on the Internet or an automated phone service.   However you can change your mind and unblock your record by contacting the SSA and requesting to unblock. Here is where you go: www.socialsecurity.gov/blockaccess

Remember, this is blocking Internet and automated phone access. If someone steals a paper with your SSN on it, he or she may be able to fill out paper forms in person and obtain credit.  So as always, you need to be diligent with your paperwork and your actual SS card. 

Can you change your Social Security Number? The SSA does not routinely assign new SS numbers. But with the rise of violence, harassment, and other abusive situations, a new number can be obtained, as a way to reduce risk and help you establish a new identity. 

This is not a decision to make lightly, says the SSA, as it will affect your communication with federal agencies, employers, lenders, as well as financial, medical records.  If you also change your name, the confusion can escalate. 

If you decide to change your SSN, you must apply in person at any Social Security office. They will help you complete a statement explaining the need for a new number, and an application for change.

You will need:

  • Evidence documenting the harassment, abuse or life endangerment;
  • Your current Social Security number;
  • Evidence documents establishing your: U.S. citizenship or immigration status; age; and identity;
  • Evidence of your legal name change if you have changed your name.

Documents you supply must be original or certified through the issuing agency.  Photocopies and notarized copies are not acceptable. According to the SSA, certain documents can serve two purposes, such as a passport may prove both identity and citizenship. 

If you do not have the necessary documents or if you are foreign-born, contact the SSA to ask how to proceed.

 

Recent Scams which May Show Up in Your Inbox, or on Your Phone

Here’s the first of two impostor messages I’ve recently received:

Notice, these thieves put effort into mimicking common sites to convince people to click on the links and provide personal information which opens bank accounts, credit cards, and gives the keys to identity.

My home is nowhere near any toll road using E-Z Pass. But thieves figure it’s worth it to shotgun out these threats, knowing some people, whether or not they are near a toll road, will click the links. If you get one of these, just delete it.

“Account Cancellation” scam: I also get regular notices that my Netflix account has been cancelled, like the one below.  I’ve never had a Netflix account… delete.

 

And a phone scam:  You Missed Your Jury Duty!

Here’s what happened to one man. An official-sounding individual called his home, introducing himself as an authority with the Court Services department in his county. The caller told the man he had been scheduled for jury duty and failed to show up, and could be arrested.

But… said the caller, he could avoid the legal charges by paying two fines, for $450 and $350, payable on temporary credit cards (such as you purchase at the grocery store).

This sounded credible, so the victim, an intelligent individual, did not hesitate to obtain the cards, and call the man back with the card numbers. Soon after this (but not soon enough), the victim began to question the legitimacy of what happened. He checked out the phone number the man had given him, and found it was nowhere near his area. That’s when he did what he should have done in the first place. He found the phone number for the local court system and explained what happened. The court clerk told him this was a growing scam.

That was $800 down the drain. Well, in this case, there was a stroke of luck. When the victim called the man back to give him the card numbers, he accidentally read one number incorrectly.  When the thief discovered the error, he called to complain and demanded a valid number. When the victim told the guy he now knew he’d been scammed, the thief grew angry and continued to demand a valid number. Yes… thieves are among the most nervy people on the planet. 

In the end, there was nothing the victim could do about the card that was cashed, but at least he was out only $350 instead of $800.

How can you avoid this fate? Think a little quicker than this victim.  If you get a call like this and the thief gives you a phone number to call back, check out the number. Chances are it is not in your court services area.  If you are still unsure, call your local court services area and ask if you missed a jury duty summons. 

The same wisdom applies to any demand for payment. Ask for a call back number, but don’t send money until you’ve looked up the vendor’s phone number yourself and called to verify the debt.

 

Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

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