Protect Yourself From Fraud

Do you loose sleep at night wondering if you’ve been a victim of fraud?  Not me.  I have too many other things that keep me up at night, but I’ve taken some steps to minimize my risk of being a victim of fraud.  Here is a list of some things you should do.

First:  Contact all four credit reporting agencies and freeze your reports.  (Equifax; Experian; Transunion; Innovis).  This way, if somebody has stolen your identity and is attempting to purchase something on credit, the seller will not be able to access your credit reports, thus thwarting the criminal.  When you are ready to actually purchase something on credit, you can call and put a temporary hold on the hold.

Second:  Create an IRS PIN.  You can go to IRS.GOV and search for how to do this.  Then from now on, when filing your tax return, you have to add your “secret PIN” otherwise the IRS will not accept the return.  This will stop a criminal from filing a fraudulent tax return and getting your refund.

Third:  Create an online Social Security Account.  This will prevent somebody else from trying to grab your benefits.  Even if you never want to use the online account, having already created one, prevents somebody else from doing that.  Go to SSA.GOV and follow the instructions.  Do it for everybody in your household, including your kids.

Fourth:  Shred anything with identifying information.  Junk Mail, etc.  If you haven’t purchased a basic shredder (cost less than $50), do it!  NEVER throw any anything away that has private information (bank account, credit cards, other account numbers for anybody you do business with, old tax documents, etc.)  Once your trash can is on the street, it is no longer protected.  Thieves love to grab your trash and find valuable information.

Fifth:  Do NOT put outgoing mail in your street mailbox.  Thieves love it when you put that little flag up before leaving the house.  They grab that mail.  Usually, it has very private information, like paying a bill, etc. that they can use.

Sixth:  Don’t let emotions get in the way of clear thinking.  Scam artists love to catch folks off guard with scary things like, “This is the IRS and you are in trouble.”  Or “This is your grandson, I’m in jail in Mexico and need money wired immediately or they will put me in prison.”  Or “This is a courtesy call from your bank, we need you to transfer some funds before your account overdrafts.”  Etc. etc. etc.  Before just letting yourself be scammed by these evil people, stop and ask yourself, “How can I verify this?”  Get a call back number and then hang-up.  Research.  Call your grandson’s cell phone, even if they tell you not to.  Call your bank using the phone number on your statement.  Know that the IRS NEVER calls, they only write letters.  Etc.

Seventh:  Use a good Credit Monitoring service (Like LifeLock or Kroll).

Did you hear?  Prov 1:33 says, “But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.”

Kelly Bullis is a Certified Public Accountant in Carson City.  Contact him at 882-4459.  On the web at BullisAndCo.com  Also on Facebook.