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Top 6 Ways to Protect Yourself from Fraud, Scams

Life savings lost and businesses shut down, those were just some of the many devastating symptoms of the financial crisis in 2008. Federal regulators aim to make sure that doesn't happen again. For the 15th Year, the country celebrates National Consumer Protection Week, March 3rd through the 9th.

Chase Moffitt compiled the Top 6 Ways to Protect You and Your Family:

1. Child Identity Security
2. Smart Phone/Tablets
3. Financial Readiness in Times of Emergency
4. Tax Payer ID Theft
5. Charity Fraud
6. Consumer Protection with Nebraska

The Problem: Child ID Theft
According to the IRS, children’s Social Security Numbers have been stolen and used to file for government benefits, bank accounts and even credit cards.

The Warning Signs
Receiving notices from the IRS that the child hasn’t paid taxes, there are unpaid collection bills and calls for products never received, in the child’s name.

The Solution
Check with each of the 3 nation wide credit agencies, if your child has an active credit report -- outstanding balances, loans – those are red flags and you should immediately file a fraud report.

The Problem: Compromised Smart Phone and Tablet Security
It’s a growing trend known as s-m-s phishing or "smishing” and what it is according to the FCC, valuable information is getting stolen from devices.

Why secure them?
Phones are lost easily, the FCC says it happens once in every 3.5 seconds in America and a single data breach costs on average, about $195.

The Solution
Change the cell or smart phone’s default email address. Typically that’s the ten digit number and the wireless provider, (402-XXX-XXXX@cellphoneprovider.com). To beef up security, use the FCC’s online "smartphone security checker" to create a 10-step action plan.

The Problem: ID Theft During Emergencies
Financial readiness in an emergency, like in times of natural disaster, consumers can be especially vulnerable.

Why Prepare?
It’s a good idea to have important financial documents protected and safe, just like an emergency kit that includes water, food and flashlights. Leaving home with up-to-date, financial information prevents fraud and maintains security.

How to prepare?
Conduct a household inventory that includes copies of credit card information, utilities info, and store small amount of cash or traveler checks because if there is a power outage, credit card machines may not work. Experts say it’s wise to buy and use a lockable, fire proof file box to store and transport that information.

The problem: Taxpayer ID Theft
According to the IRS, taxpayer ID theft occurs when the thief will use a stolen SSN to file a forged tax return and attempt to get a fraudulent refund early in the filing season.

The Warning Signs
More than one return for you was filed, you have a balance due, collection actions taken on a return you did not file or the IRS says you earned a paycheck from a company you never worked for.

The Solution
Notify the IRS immediately, as soon as you find something wrong. You will need to file the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit.

The Problem: Charity Fraud
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning says more and more charities have legitimate sounding names but often times; they are just a scam or a front for a scam artist with calls of promises to help those in need but pocket the money instead.

Warning Signs
The caller or person makes you decide to give "immediately" or the charity name sounds legitimate but you still don't recognize it, the organization does not have a web site. Bruning says a major red flag is when you are asked to give confidential bank info over the phone.

The Solution
If you want to give, do your homework to find out exact name and address, percentage of money that goes to charity vs. administrative cost and specifically asking if the representative is a volunteer or paid employee. Do not give bank or credit card info over the phone unless you make the call.

The Problem: Fraud in Nebraska
Last year alone according to AG Bruning, his office fielded over 450 consumer complaints related to scams and frauds.

Warning Signs
The top three complaints in Nebraska included credit and financial services (banking-related complaints, mortgages), scams (“Phising”, fake letters and checks} and professional services complaints (debit collections).

The Solution
State help is available through the Nebraska AG Office; follow the AG’s Office consumer based twitter account @NEAGConsumer.
You can also file complaint online or call the AG office.


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