Multi-million-Dollar Fraud Scheme a Reminder to Check Financial Statements
There are fraudsters and schemers constantly coming up with new ways to steal your personal information, steal your money and even steal your identity. In fact, just this month the FTC shut down an alleged fraud operation that took $25 million from bank and credit card accounts.
Hundreds of thousands of consumers’ bank accounts were accessed and credit cards billed without consent using an intricate web of concealment. The FTC complaint alleges debits and charges appeared on consumers’ bank and credit card statements with a telephone number and the name of one of more than 50 billing campaigns the defendants ran.
At this time it is unknown how the defendants got the consumers’ financial information but some of the consumers involved had recently applied for payday loans online. Entities that receive payday loan applications often sell the information to other parties.
According to the complaint, the Ideal Financial Solutions defendants targeted financially vulnerable consumers who had never come in contact with them, and without authorization debited their bank accounts and charged their credit cards, usually for about $30. Those who took notice of the debits and charges and contacted the company to make an inquiry or dispute were often told they had made a purchase of something related to financial counseling, loan matching services, or payday loan application assistance.
Some of the targeted consumers didn’t notice the debits and charges, which in some cases led them to incur bank penalty fees or overdraft charges due to insufficient funds. Others who complained to their banks often had the charges reversed.
This crime demonstrates the importance of regularly checking any statements you receive and you should also regularly check your credit report. Thieves have many ways to obtain your personal information. Reviewing your statements for mistakes or unknown charges can alert you to any suspicious activity.
The following tips can help you minimize your risk of fraud and identity theft:
- Verify your sources before giving out information. There are many types of email fraud. A recent and increasingly common type of email fraud involves the use of phony emails that ask you to provide sensitive personal, financial or account information. You may be asked to supply the information in a return email, in a separate form attached to the email or by visiting a phony website using a link contained in the email message. The people attempting to get this information may use it to access your accounts directly in order to withdraw money or to open new accounts in your name using your information.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don’t carry it with you and give it out only when necessary.
- Be careful with your trash and mail. Shred any items with your personal information on them. If you’re planning to be away from home, contact the U.S. Postal Service to hold your mail until you can pick it up.
- Be cautious with passwords. Passwords using easily available information, such as your mother’s maiden name or your birth date, can make you more susceptible to thieves. Use combinations of letters, numbers and special characters to create strong passwords.
- Store information in secure locations. Identify a secure place in your home for personal information, especially if you have roommates or outside help. Keep your purse, wallet and any administrative forms in a safe place while at work.
Raise your awareness of common ways personal information is stolen to remain vigilant in protecting your sensitive data and avoid falling victim to acts of fraud and identity theft.