How To Avoid Identity Theft.

By Stewart Welch
on August 03, 2016 at 4:21 PM, updated August 03, 2016 at 4:33 PM
New Stewart Welch.jpgStewart Welch Founder of The Welch Group, which specializes in fee-only investment advice to families throughout the country. Contact welchgroup.com

AL.com recently reported on the arrest of a two-man Detroit theft ring who were in possession of 177 stolen identities.  Identity theft continues to be a growing multi-billion-dollar problem. I feel like the wildebeest crossing the crocodile infested Mara River.  I’m only protected by the law of large numbers.  What are your best moves to protect yourself from identity theft?  First, understand that attacks come from primarily two fronts:

Unauthorized charges against your existing bank or credit accounts.  I’ve personally had my credit card stolen on a Saturday night and by the time I discovered it on Sunday, there were over $1,000 of unauthorized charges.  I’ve also had my information used to make internet charges for several thousand dollars.  In both cases the credit card company did not hold me responsible.  Your best defense is to closely monitor all of your banking and credit card accounts.  For my credit cards I set up text alerts anytime a charge of over $25 is made.  For bank accounts I log in every couple of days and scan recent activity.  Easy, quick, effective.

Tip:  Fraudulent credit card charges are typically easy to handle with little or no losses to you.  Debit cards are an entirely different story.  If a thief uses your debit card information to purchase something or access your ATM, that money is gone from your checking account and won’t be restored until your bank goes through an investigative process.  This can take weeks and you’ll be out the money until it’s resolved.  If you have and use a debit card, guard it and your information very closely and I recommend monitoring your account activity on a daily basis.  If there is a problem, you’ll want to catch it early.

Use your information to open new credit in your name.  While this has never happened to me, it can be devastating to your personal finances.  If this happens the burden shifts to you to prove you didn’t open the account.  Your first line of defense should be to order your credit reports from each of Experian.com,Transunion.com and Equifax.com.   Look for any unfamiliar accounts.  These reports are free once every twelve months so a good idea is to order from one of the services every four months.  You may also want to consider hiring a monitoring service which will alert you immediately if new credit is requested in your name.  Each of these credit bureaus offer a monitoring service as do independent companies such as LifeLock.com.  Fees range from around $15 to $30 per month.  For quick access to your free annual credit reports, visitAnnualCreditReport.com.

Tip: If someone has stolen your credit information or you suspect you are vulnerable to theft, you can place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your account. Fraud alerts are good for ninety days and then are automatically removed unless you re-establish them.  This alerts any company seeking your credit file that you may be a victim of fraud and they should take extra precautions to verify that new or additional credit requests are valid.  A credit freeze is designed to prevent your credit file from being released without your expressed permission.  Credit freezes are ‘good until cancelled’ and you have the option to ‘temporarily’ remove the freeze if, for example, you are applying for a loan or additional credit.  If you have been a victim of credit fraud, there is generally no charge for these services; otherwise a small charge may apply.

For more tips on avoiding identity theft visit www.usa.gov/identity-theft.

Man charged with identity theft has history of breaking and entering

Published 9:55 am Tuesday, May 31, 2016

SALISBURY — A man who was charged in April with stealing items from a house under construction has now been charged with identity theft.

Kevin Shawn Hurley, 28, of the 200 block of Bee Lake Drive, was arrested May 25 during a traffic stop at Providence Church Road and Poole Road by the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office for a variety of charges.

Charged again

Kevin Shawn Hurley

Hurley was charged with possession and use of a North Carolina driver’s license in the name of Joshua Hurst for the purpose of getting pseudoephedrine from area pharmacies.

He was also charged with trafficking in stolen identities for transferring Kenneth Boone Jr. the driver’s license for Hurst, with the intent to assist them in getting pseudoephedrine from area pharmacies.

Pseudoephedrine is a primary component in making methamphetamine. People buying pseudoephedrine are required to show identification during such purchases. Due to state laws regulating the frequency of buying pseudoephedrine, people use stolen identities to disguise their purchases.

When the Sheriff’s Office issued arrest warrants on Hurley on May 17, Hurley avoided capture for multiple days. On May 24, with the Sheriff’s Office in pursuit, Hurley broke into a residence in the 300 block of Bee Lake Drive to avoid apprehension.

A homeowner discovered Hurley inside and Hurley then fled the residence. For this event, Hurley was charged with breaking and entering and possession of drug paraphernalia. Hurley left behind syringes, spoons and smoking pipes at the location.

At the time of Hurley’s arrest in the traffic stop he was found in possession of a small amount of cocaine and charged with felony possession of cocaine.

Bond was set at $52,500 on these initial charges.

On May 26, Hurley was charged with two counts of failure to appear/comply and given an additional $18,000 bond.

Hurley was convicted of felony breaking and entering in Stanly County in 2007 and in Rowan County in 2013, and was charged again in October 2015 with larceny. In March, he was charged with felony breaking and entering. In April, he and Shannon Lisbeth Herlocker were charged with breaking and entering a house under construction and taking appliances.

– See more at: http://www.salisburypost.com/2016/05/31/man-charged-with-identity-theft-has-history-of-breaking-and-entering/#sthash.CHS79OO3.dpuf

Maryland Man Sentenced to Prison for Role in Massive Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Scheme

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Stole Identities from D.C. Government Agency for Use in Filing False Tax Returns

A resident of Bowie, Maryland, was sentenced today to four years in prison after pleading guilty in January for his involvement in a far-reaching identity theft and tax fraud scheme in which he assisted in the filing of fraudulent federal income tax returns seeking more than $4.4 million in refunds, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia, Special Agent in Charge Thomas Jankowski of Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Washington Division and Assistant Inspector General for Investigations John L. Phillips of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Marc A. Bell, 49, a former employee of the District of Columbia’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), admitted taking part in a massive and sophisticated identity theft and false tax return scheme that involved an extensive network of more than 130 people, many of whom were receiving public assistance.  According to court documents, the scheme involved the filing of at least 12,000 fraudulent federal income tax returns that sought refunds of at least $42 million from the U.S. Treasury.  The false tax returns sought refunds for tax years 2005 through 2013 and were often filed in the names of people whose identities had been stolen, including the elderly, people in assisted living facilities, drug addicts and incarcerated individuals.  Refunds also were sent to people who were willing participants in the scheme.  The refunds listed more than 400 “taxpayer” addresses located in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

According to documents filed with the court, from 2005 to 2013, Bell was employed as a program manager, program officer or placement expeditor at the District of Columbia’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS).  The agency is responsible for the supervision, custody and care of young people charged with a delinquent act in the District of Columbia and either detained in a DYRS facility while awaiting adjudication or committed to DYRS by a District of Columbia Family Court judge following adjudication.  In his various capacities at DYRS, Bell had access to the agency’s database system, which contained the personal identifying information of DYRS youth, including their names and social security numbers.  Bell admitted that between approximately May 2010 and April 2013, he used his computer access to obtain the personal identifying information of at least 645 then-current and former DYRS youth.  Bell admitted that he provided this information to other scheme participants, who used the names and social security numbers to file at least 1,160 fraudulent federal income tax returns that claimed refunds of approximately $4,441,194.  The IRS issued approximately 700 U.S. Treasury checks, totaling approximately $2,422,211, in the names of the DYRS youth in whose names the tax returns were filed.  Bell received financial compensation from co-conspirators for providing the stolen identities.

Bell is one of approximately 20 participants in this scheme who have pleaded guilty to federal charges in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  Bell pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims, one count of aiding and abetting in the filing of fictitious or false claims and one count aiding and abetting fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents.  In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle ordered Bell to serve three years of supervised release and pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $1,972,710.

This morning, Lakisha Jackson, 40, of District Heights, Maryland, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit theft of public money for her role in the scheme.  As part of her plea, she admitted that between September 2010 and May 2012 she allowed her residential address to be used to file approximately 70 fraudulent federal income tax returns seeking refunds of approximately $229,199 and to receive 61 fraudulently-procured U.S. Treasury checks totaling approximately $193,977.  Jackson faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  She has agreed to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $175,953. Jackson is scheduled to be sentenced on July 13.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo, U.S. Attorney Phillips, Special Agent in Charge Jankowski, Inspector in Charge Kelokates and Assistant Inspector General Phillips commended those who investigated the case.  They also acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, including former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Schornstein, Paralegal Specialists Donna Galindo, Corinne Kleinman and Julie Dailey and Legal Assistant Angela Lawrence.  Finally, they thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen Chubin Epstein of the District of Columbia’s Fraud and Public Corruption Section and Trial Attorneys Jeffrey B. Bender and Thomas F. Koelbl and former Trial Attorney Jessica Moran of the Tax Division, who prosecuted the case.

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Topic:
Tax
Updated May 3, 2016

Battling ID Theft Takes Concerted Effort

In the state of New Mexico we have a law in place to help victims of identity theft. The problem we have is that so many people are still unaware of it even though it has been around since 2009. This includes many people within the criminal justice system and law enforcement agencies. The law that I am referring to is the, “Identity Theft Passport; Database”. Statute number 31-26-15. Within the statute it states that, the Attorney General, in cooperation with the department of public safety and the motor vehicles division of the taxation and revenue department, shall issue an identity theft passport to a person who claims to be a victim of identity theft pursuant to Section 30-16-24. 1 NMSA 1978”.
How the program works, (1) fill out a police report stating your identity was stolen, (2) resubmit the report back to the agency with whom you filled out the report, (3) wait for the agency to upload the information into the New Mexico State ID theft Victims database that is housed by the Attorney General’s office. This process usually takes a couple weeks. The Attorney General may provide access to the database only to criminal justice agencies. (4) Once the information is uploaded the victim can then go to a state run MVD and be issued a driver’s license with a “V” endorsement on the back. How does this help the victim? Well, if their driver’s license or State issued identification card is run and something they did not do comes up, it will alert the officer to look into it further. In most cases the officer will be able to pull up the mugshot of the person arrested for the crime in question.
Some very good news- help for victims of ID theft is just a phone call away. ID theft victims no longer have to suffer in isolation and feel that they have nowhere to turn to for support.
ID theft Resolutions, Ltd. Is a 501(3) nonprofit dedicated exclusively to (1) educating the public, public officials and legislators about the challenges presented by the Identity theft phenomenon and how to prevent and respond to ID theft and (2) helping ID theft victims recover their identity and protect their credit. We can be contacted by calling 505-417-1902 or 1-888-484-9118 or by email at markmedley@idtheftresolutions.org.

Authorities Need Help Finding Identity Thief!

wisconsin+crime+alert+2

LAKE DELTON, Wis.—The Lake Delton Police Department needs the community’s help to identify two men who are pictured in surveillance photos.

According to an alert from the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network, the two suspects are involved in an identity theft investigation from September 2015.

Police said the white suspect vehicle was operated by one of the suspects.

It’s believed that the two men have ties to the Waukesha County area.

Please contact the Lake Delton Police Department at (608) 254-7571 if you have any information about these men or the vehicle.

Can I change my Social Security number?

Can I change my Social Security number?

We can assign a different number only if:

  • Sequential numbers assigned to members of the same family are causing problems;
  • More than one person is assigned or using the same number;
  • A victim of identity theft continues to be disadvantaged by using the original number;
  • There is a situation of harassment, abuse or life endangerment; or
  • An individual has religious or cultural objections to certain numbers or digits in the original number. (We require written documentation in support of the objection from a religious group with which the number holder has an established relationship.)

When we assign a different Social Security number, we do not destroy the original number. We cross-refer the new number with the original number to make sure the person receives credit for all earnings under both numbers.

People who want to ask for a new Social Security number must:

  • Apply in person at a Social Security office;
  • Complete an application;
  • Provide a statement explaining the reasons for needing a new number;
  • Provide current, credible, third-party evidence documenting the reasons for needing a new number; and
  • Provide original documents establishing:
    • U.S. citizenship or work-authorized immigration status;
    • Age;
    • Identity; and
    • Evidence of a legal name change, if appropriate.

For more information about changing your Social Security number in domestic violence cases, see New Numbers For Domestic Violence Victims.

To request a different Social Security number, contact your local Social Security office for an in-person appointment.

Battling ID Theft Takes Concerted Effort

In the state of New Mexico, we have a law in place to help victims of  identity theft. The problem we have is that so many people are still unaware of it even though it has been around since 2009. This includes many people within the criminal justice system and law enforcement agencies. The law that I am referring to is the “Identity Theft Passport;
Database,” Section 31-26-15 NMSA 1978. Within the statute it states that the Attorney General, in cooperation with the Department of Public Safety and the Motor Vehicle Division of the Taxation and Revenue Department, shall issue an identity theft passport to a person who claims to be a victim of identity theft pursuant to Section 30-16-24. 1 NMSA 1978.

How the program works is: 1) fill out a police report stating your identity was stolen; 2) resubmit the report back to the agency with whom you filled out the report; 3) wait for the agency to upload the information into the New Mexico State ID Theft Victims Database that is housed by the Attorney General’s office. This process usually takes a couple weeks.
The Attorney General may provide access to the database only to criminal justice agencies; and 4) once the information is uploaded the victim can then go to a state run MVD and be issued a driver’s license with a “V” endorsement on the back.

How does this help the victim? If their driver’s license or state-issued identification card is run and something they did not do comes up, it will alert the officer to look into it further. In most cases the officer will be able to pull up the mugshot of the person arrested for the crime in question.

Some very good news – help for victims of ID theft is just a phone call away. ID theft victims no longer have to suffer in isolation and feel that they have nowhere to turn to for support.

ID theft Resolutions, Ltd. Is a 501 c(3) nonprofit dedicated exclusively to educating the public, public officials and legislators about the challenges presented by the identity theft phenomenon and how to prevent and respond to ID theft and helping ID theft victims recover their identity and protect their credit.

We can be contacted by calling (505) 417-1902 or 1-888-484-9118 or by email at markmedley@idtheftresolutions.org.

SCAM OF THE WEEK: Brace yourself for IRS frauds!

By Ellen Marks / Assistant Business Editor/Albuquerque Journal
PUBLISHED: Sunday, February 1, 2015 at 12:02 am

It seems as though the annual ritual of figuring out your taxes, filing a flutter of paperwork and trying not to get crosswise with the IRS would be difficult enough, but no. We also must deal with a sharp rise in scams this time of year that prey upon already-taxed taxpayers.

The state Attorney General’s Office has seen “a tremendous increase in the number of IRS scams being reported,” says Rebecca Branch, deputy director of the Consumer Protection Division.

“I anticipate that these will continue in full force until April,” she says.

Among the most common is the one in which a caller tells you he is from the IRS and that you owe money. If you don’t send payment immediately, you are threatened with dire consequences – anything from police arrest to license revocation to deportation.

Or callers might tell you that you are due a refund and try to trick you into sharing private information. “These con artists can sound convincing when they call,” an IRS news release says. “They may know a lot about you.”

They often alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS is calling, and they might use fake names and bogus IRS badge numbers. They often leave “urgent” callback requests.

In fact, these types of calls are such a “persistent and pervasive problem” that they top the IRS’ 2015 “Dirty Dozen” list, which details the most-common scams hitting taxpayers.

“If someone calls unexpectedly claiming to be from the IRS with aggressive threats if you don’t pay immediately, it’s a scam artist calling,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “The first IRS contact with taxpayers is usually through the mail.”

New Mexicans have been bilked out of a total of $26,000 since October 2013, due to this type of scam. Nationwide, about 290,000 such calls have been made during that period, tricking 3,000 victims out of more than $14 million, federal officials say.

The scammers’ prime goal – besides getting your money, of course – is to frighten you so that you will become their next target.

For example, one Albuquerque woman said the man who contacted her used a “threatening tone,” while another local resident said he was told the supposed IRS call represented his “final notice.”

The IRS says there are five classic scam elements that will tip you off because the IRS never:
•Uses email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issues involving bills or refund.
•Demands immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
•Demands that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount it says you owe.
•Requires that you use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
•Asks for credit- or debit-card numbers over the phone.
•Threatens to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

There are other tax-related cons for you to be aware of this time of year.

It’s especially important to guard your private information, so you don’t become a victim of identity theft. Once someone has stolen your name, your Social Security number or other personal details, they can fraudulently file a tax return in your name and claim the refund. If you believe your identity has been stolen, call the IRS at 800-908-4490 so the agency can secure your account.

Be aware that scam artists pose as tax preparers. They promise large federal tax refunds, promoting their claims with fliers, advertisements, storefronts or even word of mouth involving community groups or churches, according to the IRS. This type of fraud tends to prey on people who don’t earn enough income to file a return or who are non-English speakers.

They might dupe you into making claims for fictitious rebates, benefits or tax credits or divert your refund.

Use care when choosing a tax preparer because you will be the one who ends up penalized for filing false claims or receiving fraudulent refunds.

Honest people and companies generally: Ask for proof of income and eligibility for credits and deductions; sign returns as the preparer; enter their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and provide the taxpayer a copy of the return.

Albuquerque police are warning of a different kind of scam, one in which the caller will tell you a family member has been kidnapped and that you must pay $3,000 for the person’s release.

He or she will start out asking “oblique, personal information questions …, under the auspices of a family member being involved in an automobile accident,” an APD news release says. “The caller then uses this information to make the threat more personal.”

Calls like these have been received in Albuquerque and in northern New Mexico and have come from the same number: 505-428-8866, which is a disposable cellphone purchased in Santa Fe, police say.

Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at emarks@abqjournal.com or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-800-678-1508.

As Tax Season Approaches, IRS ramps up fight against ID theft

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes nationwide, and tax refund fraud caused by identity theft is one of the biggest challenges facing the IRS. This year, the Internal Revenue Service continues to take new steps and strong actions to protect taxpayers and help victims of identity theft and refund fraud.

Stopping refund fraud related to identity theft is a top priority for the tax agency. The IRS is focused on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible.

Taxpayers can encounter identity theft involving their tax returns in several ways. One instance is where identity thieves file fraudulent refund claims using another person’s identifying information, which has been stolen. Innocent taxpayers are victimized because their refunds are delayed.

Here are some tips to protect you from becoming a victim, and steps to take if you think someone may have filed a tax return using your name:

Related

? Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents that include your Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

? Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Give it only when required.

? Protect your financial information.

? Check your credit report every 12 months.

? Secure personal information in your home.

? Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts.internet accounts

? Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.

If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost or stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490 (7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mondays through Fridays).

Be alert to possible identity theft if you receive a notice from the IRS or learn from your tax professional that:

? More than one tax return for you was filed.

? You have a balance due, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.

? IRS records indicate you received more wages than you actually earned.

? Your state or federal benefits were reduced or canceled because the agency received information reporting an income change.

If you receive a notice from the IRS and you suspect your identity has been used fraudulently, respond immediately by calling the number on the notice.

If you did not receive an IRS notice but believe you’ve been the victim of identity theft, contact the firewalls and anti-spam/virus software at 800-908-4490 right away so we can take steps to secure your tax account and match your SSN or ITIN.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/community-voices/article7889679.html#storylink=cpy

BY CARMEN-GONZALEZ CALDWELL-SPECIAL TO THE MIAMI HEROLD

Protect your ID to avoid anguish of having it stolen

By Ellen Marks / Assistant Business Editor/Albuquerque Journal
PUBLISHED: Sunday, December 28, 2014 at 12:02 am

You don’t know the meaning of the word “chilling” until you visit a county jail and find out your name is on the list of inmates.

Or when you’re applying for a job, and a background check by a prospective employer shows you’ve been arrested for possessing a stolen vehicle, tampering with evidence and other felonies.

Meet Mark Medley, who’s experienced all of the above and more. He’s never been a Bernalillo County inmate nor has he ever committed any felonies.

He is, however, a victim of identity theft. He became one in 2001 when his wallet went missing after a city Summerfest event. The person who stole Medley’s identity was picked up on other, felony charges the next day and identified himself to law-enforcement authorities as Medley.

The resulting horrors unfolded over a period of months, followed by much anguish and work that marked the “long journey to clear my name,” Medley says. That included the visit to the jail, at the suggestion of an attorney, to make quick confirmation of what was going on. It also included dealing with the financial aftermath, including checks that bounced because the thief had drained Medley’s account.

Along the way, Medley successfully worked on getting legislative approval for an identity passport theft program, a statewide database for police agencies and the motor vehicles division. It documents identities that have been stolen so authorities can verify that a background check on you may turn up false information. You can also get a special driver’s license marked with a small “V” – victim of identity theft.

Medley also started a nonprofit, ID Theft Resolutions, which helps victims and gives presentations on prevention.

Of course, the problem of stolen identity has grown tremendously since Medley was struck in 2001, primarily because of an explosion of new technology. In 2013, nearly 1,500 New Mexicans reported their identity was stolen, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Nationwide, identity theft was the No. 1 type of consumer complaint filed nationwide last year.

It’s a big problem, but there are ways to minimize your risk and there is help if you become a target.

It’s also a big subject, so this week I’ll list some ways to help prevent this from happening to you. Next week, I’ll give you a step-by-step on what to do in the aftermath.

Prevention pretty much comes down to becoming more aware and more conscientious about keeping track of things. First off, know what the thieves are targeting: primarily Social Security cards; ID cards or driver’s licenses; bank cards, checkbooks, credit cards and bank statements and account numbers; wallets or purses and mail, including junk mail and email access.

Take these protective steps, according to the FTC, the state Attorney General’s Office and Medley:
•Place outgoing “snail mail” in a secure mailbox. If you don’t have a locked mailbox, pick up incoming mail as soon as possible.
•Pay close attention to billing cycles. If a bill doesn’t arrive on time, it’s possible an identity thief has stolen it. Check with creditors so you can act quickly if you suspect theft.
•Protect your Social Security number by leaving your card at home in a secure location. Do not carry it with you on a daily basis. Be very careful about giving the number out. Ask why it is needed, how it will be used and what will happen if you refuse to provide it.
•Pay close attention to your credit by ordering a free copy of your credit report yearly. It is “one of the best ways to catch identity theft,” the FTC says, because it will alert you to any fraud or errors. It will show what credit accounts have been opened in your name, how you pay your bills and so on. You are entitled, under federal law, to one free copy a year through AnnualCreditReport.com, 1-877-322-8228. Be aware of imposter sites that will try to charge a fee or get personal details. The email listed above will take you to the only authorized source.
•Place passwords on bank, credit-card and phone accounts. Choose a password that mixes random numbers with letters – in other words, not your birthday, your dog’s name or anything else a thief could guess.
•Keep your information safe online: If you shop online frequently, consider having a separate account for your online purchases. Send out your credit-card number or other personal information over a secure connection only. You can tell that it’s secure because its address will begin with “https” (the “s” lets you know it’s a secure site) and it will have a small padlock at the bottom of the page. Also, a window should pop up telling you the website is secure. Make sure you have virus protection, and update it regularly. Use a firewall program so your computer can’t be accessed by others, especially if you have high-speed Internet, which keeps your computer connected 24 hours a day. Never download files or click on links sent to you by people you don’t know or that seem odd in any way.
•Don’t give out any personal information – over the Internet, on the phone or through the mail – unless you were the one to initiate contact or you are sure about the identity of the person or the company.
•Store private documents only in secured lockboxes.
•Shred documents that you no longer need, including credit-card applications, insurance forms, health forms and billing statements. Don’t trust your garbage can. The Better Business Bureau occasionally offers free shredding. The next “Secure Your ID Day,” will be held from 10 a.m. to noon April 18 in the BBB parking lot, 7007 Jefferson NE.

Don’t fall for a bogus email offer, supposedly from “JetBlue Airlines Advertisement,” that promises to pay you $400 if you place a decal on your car advertising the airlines. If you bite, according to the FTC, the scammers will send you a check for more than that amount and tell you to deposit it, take your $400 and wire the rest to the company that will wrap your car. “Weeks after you wire the money, which could be thousands of dollars, you find out the deposited check was a fake,” the FTC says. Because you are responsible for any check you deposit, even if it’s a fake, you must pay the bank back, the agency says.