Do you get a kick out of April Fools’ Day? Whether you pull a prank or are the target of a few, hopefully it’s all good natured, because there’s one dirty April Fools’ trick you definitely want to avoid – identity theft. It’s the fastest growing type of crime in the U.S. and it’s no laughing matter. Identity theft can clean out your bank account, ruin your credit report and compromise your credit score.
To avoid falling victim, credit monitoring can help keep you in touch with your financial data. And, be aware of the latest scams; thieves come up with new ones virtually every day. Here are a few that the federal government’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has recently issued alerts on:
- Rejected tax payment – With tax time approaching, identity thieves are targeting taxpayers. They send potential victims an e-mail, claiming to be from an official source, which says the person’s federal tax payment has been rejected. The e-mail contains a link to a website where you’ll be asked to either enter personal, identifying information such as a Social Security number or bank account number, or to make a payment through the online system. Concern over how unpaid taxes may impact their credit report could inspire some people to fall for this scam.
- Phony computer virus cure – In this scam, a caller claims to be from a major online company and tells victims their computer is infected with a virus. The caller directs victims to go to a website where they can either download a program to “cure” the virus or click on a live support or live connection link to have the virus taken off their PC. What’s actually happening is that the website allows identity thieves to gain remote access to the victim’s PC – and any personal files or information on it.
- Charitable contribution scams – This one is among the lowest of the low. Identity thieves capitalize on people’s desire to help the victims of recent well-publicized disasters. Criminals perpetrate these scams by phone or e-mail, trying to trick you into believing you’re donating to a good cause. IC3 recommends you don’t respond to unsolicited e-mails and don’t click on links within unsolicited e-mails. Make contributions directly to known organizations through their secure websites. Internet resources can also help you verify the nonprofit status of an organization.
It’s important to protect your credit report and score from the dirty tricks of identity theft, so that this year, the April Fools’ joke will be on them.