The state of Vermont defines identity theft as the unauthorized use of another person’s personal identifying information to obtain credit, goods, services, money, or property. It is common that identity theft occurs from use of your credit card and bank account information.
There are some instances where your social security number and other personal information may be used to acquire identification, lines of credit, loans, or other consumer accounts fraudulently. For more information on Vermont laws regarding privacy and data security, click here.
Identity theft is more common than you would think and it is evolving rapidly with the growth of technology. All our information is a couple clicks away.
Here are 5 ways to protect yourself if you suspect you are a victim to identity theft:
Review Your Credit Reports. You can obtain your free credit report from each of the credit reporting bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com. If you find anything that should not be there, be sure to save a copy of the report. Then, contact the credit reporting agency to dispute all inaccurate items.
File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.Click here to be directed to the complaint page of the Federal Trade Commission.
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Identity theft is a complex issue facing consumers all over the country. Find out more about identity theft by visiting identity theft.gov, the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft help and information site.
Navigating the identity theft recovery process can be overwhelming. Vermonters with questions about the process can call the Consumer Assistance Program at 1-800-649-2424 or the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338.
On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, please read and share: “Finding Help,” a guide on help options for Vermonters experiencing elder abuse, exploitation and neglect.
When considering care for our loved ones, there is a lot to think about . Who should help manage their money? Should someone live with them, and who? Can we afford to hire http://weaad.elderabuseontario.com/resources/toolkits/an in-home caregiver? Should we seek out assisted living care, or think about an adult day option? Once everything is finally sorted out, we can exhale. But should we? As our parents checked in on our wellbeing as children, once our elders are set and settled, we must continue to check in on them, too, with great care and concern for their wellbeing.
On this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we must be vigilant and aware of the risk factors and signs of elder abuse. We must serve as supportive connections to older adults in our communities to prevent their social isolation—one of the main elder abuse risk factors (ncea.acl.gov/FAQ.aspx). As someone who has cared for a vulnerable elder, I know firsthand that it can be difficult to know where to turn for help, advice, and guidance.
Other community-based organizations and professionals
You can help prevent elder abuse and exploitation. I encourage you to share and save a copy of this guide and keep it among your most referenced resources. Also, consider printing out the following abbreviated resource guide and share it with the elders in your life. It includes some of the primary referral resource hotlines and can be kept handy close to the phone for easy reference.
My dad lost his hearing while working as a fighter jet mechanic on an aircraft carrier. As the jets took off and landed, he was uncomfortably close to their reverberating buzzsaw rumble. The resulting ringing in his ears (tinnitus) proved a constant source of agitation the rest of his life. When I talked to him about a potential solution, he would shrug and say, “Hearing aids are expensive, and they aren’t going to make the ringing go away.” He wanted an easy solution and a quick fix to bring back his hearing. If someone made the promise that he could have his hearing returned with the purchase of a low-cost over-the counter device, he probably would have bought it.
Such quick fix products are on the market today. The trouble is, unlike traditional FDA-approved hearing aids, which a consumer would purchase through the process of visiting their doctor and being fitted, the quick fix over-the-counter hearing aids come with no FDA backing—even if they say they do. Congress authorized the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss in 2017. At the time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was directed to establish regulations: standards for safety, consumer labeling, and manufacturing protections. FDA regulations of over-the-counter hearing aids have not yet been established.
When considering purchasing hearing aids or similar products, it is recommended to:
Be evaluated by a medical professional or licensed hearing specialist to determine if an over-the-counter hearing aid will help you.
Watch out for and avoidover-the-counter hearing aids that make false claims about the product, such as stating they are FDA-approved, endorsed by the FDA, or have an “FDA Registration Certificate”.
Do your homework! If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
Research the hearing aid seller on impartial review sites.
Consider all reviews, being skeptical of short reviews and extremely positive testimonials and reviews on a company’s website.
Be skeptical of promises of deals that are much cheaper than what consumers would pay for a traditional FDA-approved hearing aid.
Question free-trial offers, which claim the product is free to try for a set period but will bill you at the end of the free trial.
If you are having an issue with an over-the-counter hearing device, Vermont consumers can file a complaint with the Vermont Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program.
When I presented on the topic of identity theft a decade ago, the concept seemed somewhat distant, impacting few individuals with identity thieves using dated and laborious tactics to steal identities. A section of my presentation was devoted to informing about dumpster diving—the fact that people can get a lot of information about your identity from the trash you discard—and encouraging shredding as an identity theft prevention step. Another section focused on phishing and educating about what phishing is; not to be confused with fishing, except metaphorically of course.
In the age of the robocall and the internet, phishing and identity theft have become more sophisticated in that scammers can make the same automated call to many people at once and data security breaches expose consumers to widespread identity theft.
Even with advances in technology, identity thieves can still obtain your personal information by rummaging through your trash and phishing. To demonstrate, let’s take a quiz:
What do you do with your expired credit card when a replacement arrives in the mail?
A. Cut it down the middle and throw it out. The card cannot be used once the magnetic strip is severed.
B. Run it through a straight-line shredding machine. The card will be of no use when made into little strips.
C. Cut it into as many small pieces as possible, either with scissors or a cross-cutting shredder. Throw out the pieces in different trash bags. It will be virtually impossible to decipher the card with it in so many pieces and places.
D. Discard as it is. Without additional instruction from the bank, no additional steps are necessary. The card is of no use once it expires.
My answer is C: Cut the card into a million pieces and discard in multiple places. Why? Because even though the card is expired, with card updates the card number stays the same. Once a determined scammer has obtained the card, all they need to do is follow up with a strategic phishing phone call to you. When they call, they may claim to be your financial institution and ask a series of phishing questions, which exposes other important numbers about the valid card in your possession: the expiration date and the CCV.
What exactly is phishing?
A. A sport of catching fish, using a fishing pole.
B. A fun excursion with Vermont Phish Phans.
C. The fraudulent attempt to obtain your personal information or data.
D. Testing the water pH before ice fishing.
Hopefully this quiz question was easier. The answer is also C.
Identity thieves phish for information about you, your Social Security number, your bank account number, your credit card and debit card numbers, your birthday, and more in order to use the information for their own financial gain. When an email purports to be your bank, saying you have been locked out of your account and you must login using the enclosed link, a scammer hopes you provide them all of your personal information by completing their realistic-looking bogus form. Once you have, they can access and use your account. And, depending on the information you have provided, they may also open up new lines of credit in your name without your knowledge or consent. Identity thieves have opened home loans, car loans and credit cards. They usually don’t pay the bills they run up, creating a mountain of work for you to dispute debts you do not owe.
Phishing scammers may contact you by email, phone, text message, and any other communication mechanism you use currently, including social media. Phishing scams often present a problem that must be solved by you disclosing some personal information. They may even pretend to be your computer company, warning about viruses that need to be repaired on your computer. They offer to help you resolve your virus problem, if you grant them access to your computer and, unknowingly, your personal information stored on your computer. Phishing scammers may also say a package will soon be delivered to you and you must reply if you did not order a product, or else your credit card will be charged. Then when you call, they ask for your credit card number.
Phishing scams can be tricky, because there are scenarios in which a bank institution may contact you, such as if there has been fraudulent activity on your credit card. Scammers take advantage of this and try to replicate it. Rather than trying to determine the difference between a scam call and a call from your bank, take out the guesswork by disconnecting the contact and calling your bank directly on a number you know to be valid.
Resist the impulse to reply to urgent requests of phishing scammers. By slowing down and taking steps to verify, you can stop phishing scammers from reeling you into their trap.
Help CAP prevent scams by sharing this information with your community. Have a scam to report? Use CAP’s online scam reporting form.
For more information about identity theft, visit our website.
Help us stop these scams by sharing this information with those you care about. Get notified about the latest scams: Sign up for VT Scam Alert System alerts.
Unfortunately, many scam encounters result in monetary loss in Vermont. In 2020, 249 Vermonters lost approximately $1.5 million to scammers. The most common scams associated with monetary loss were imposter scams (scammers posing as friends, family members, or romantic interests) and online classified listing scams (scams perpetrated on sites such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace). Scammers ask their victims to send money using a variety of methods, including gift card transactions, peer-to-peer payments apps like Venmo or CashApp, wire transfers, and cash or checks in the mail.
Here are 5 things you can do to avoid experiencing a scam with monetary loss:
Don’t send money to someone you don’t know. This may sound simple, but it’s an important tip to remember. Take it slow. Scammers will pressure you to act quickly or face serious consequences. Do not provide unsolicited callers with your credit card or bank account numbers. If you are asked to send money via gift cards, wire transfer, cash in the mail, or peer-to-peer payment apps, it’s a scam.
Gift cards are for gifts and should be treated like cash. If you are asked to provide payment over the phone or via email using gift cards, it’s a scam. Typically, the scammer will ask you to purchase gift cards at a local grocery store or pharmacy, asking that you provide the numbers on the back of the card. In 2020, Vermonters lost approximately $128,000 to gift card scams (as reported to CAP). For more information about gift card scams, visit our Gift Card Scams blog post.
If it’s too good to be true, it’s not true.Scammers who perpetrate “free money” scams promise cash prizes, cars, and even grant funding in exchange for payment up front. Free money is always free. If you are asked to pay fees to receive a prize or grant, it’s a scam.
Scammers know exactly what to say. To get your money, scammers will often feed their victims lines to use with bank clerks or cashiers in order to push through unusually large withdrawals, transfers, and purchases. They may ask you to say that the money is for a family member or a significant purchase to avoid suspicion from bankers and retailers.
Do not share personal or financial information withunverified contacts. Legitimate organizations and businesses will not call, email, or text you for your sensitive personal information. Scammers may claim there has been fraud and you need to verify your information – don’t take the bait. End communication with them and contact the associated business or organization using verified contact information.
BONUS TIP: Look out for the scams below, which were associated with 95 of the 249 scam with loss reports we received in 2020:
Imposter Scams / Phony Relationship Scams
The scam: There is a wide variety of phony relationship scams. Sometimes, the scammer pretends to be someone you know, like a love interest, friend, relative, or even a religious leader. They typically reach out to you online or on the phone, claiming to need money.
How to spot the scam: They ask you to send money immediately, often in the form of wire transfers or gift cards. If you met the person online, but they refuse to video-chat or talk on the phone.
What to do: If they claim to be someone you know, call the person using a verified phone number. If you receive a suspicious email, be sure to double-check the email address. If you’re feeling suspicious, get the real story and talk to someone you trust. Cut off communication with the scammer. If you receive an email from a friend or coworker asking for money, do not send money. Be sure to call that person directly—it’s most likely a scam.
The scam: Sometimes the scammer responds to a seller post, overpays with a check, and asks for the remainder to be wired back. Sometimes the post is for a fictitious rental property and the scammer is looking for the deposit and first month’s rent to be sent immediately. Scams even happen when you are looking for that perfect puppy or pet to expand your family, but the transport of the animal is supposedly held up at the airport or elsewhere.
How to spot the scam: If you feel suspicious, stop the sale or purchase. The scammer may ask you to wire them money, send a bank transfer, or pay using gift cards. They may not want to talk on the phone or meet in person. Remember, you should not provide a rental deposit before signing the lease or contract in-person.
What to do: Complete your transactions in cash and preferably in-person. If they refuse to meet in-person or talk on the phone, ignore them and end communication.
For more information about avoiding monetary loss and fraud, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website: