FTC Consumer Alert: Fake Debt Collector Scam

From the FTC:

Who’s Calling? That Debt Collector Could Be a Fake

Consumers across the country report that they’re getting telephone calls from people trying to collect on loans the consumers never received or on loans they did receive but for amounts they do not owe. Others are receiving calls from people seeking to recover on loans consumers received but where the creditors never authorized the callers to collect for them. So what’s the story?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, is warning consumers to be on the alert for scam artists posing as debt collectors. It may be hard to tell the difference between a legitimate debt collector and a fake one. Sometimes a fake collector may even have some of your personal information, like a bank account number. A caller may be a fake debt collector if he:

  • is seeking payment on a debt for a loan you do not recognize;
  • refuses to give you a mailing address or phone number;
  • asks you for personal financial or sensitive information; or
  • exerts high pressure to try to scare you into paying, such as threatening to have you arrested or to report you to a law enforcement agency.

If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector:

  • Ask the caller for his name, company, street address, and telephone number. Tell the caller that you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written “validation notice.” The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor you owe, and your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

If a caller refuses to give you all of this information, do not pay! Paying a fake debt collector will not always make them go away. They may make up another debt to try to get more money from you.

  • Stop speaking with the caller. If you have the caller’s address, send a letter demanding that the caller stop contacting you, and keep a copy for your files. By law, real debt collectors must stop calling you if you ask them to in writing.
  • Do not give the caller personal financial or other sensitive information. Never give out or confirm personal financial or other sensitive information like your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number unless you know whom you’re dealing with. Scam artists, like fake debt collectors, can use your information to commit identity theft – charging your existing credit cards, opening new credit card, checking, or savings accounts, writing fraudulent checks, or taking out loans in your name.
  • Contact your creditor. If the debt is legitimate – but you think the collector may not be – contact your creditor about the calls. Share the information you have about the suspicious calls and find out who, if anyone, the creditor has authorized to collect the debt.
  • Report the call. Contact the FTC and your state Attorney General’s office with information about suspicious callers. Many states have their own debt collection laws in addition to the federal FDCPA. Your Attorney General’s office can help you determine your rights under your state’s law.

For More Information

The FTC has several publications and videos about dealing with debt at www.ftc.gov/credit, including:

Visit ftc.gov/moneymatters for short and practical tips, videos, and links to reliable sources of information on debt collection, credit repair, job-hunting and job scams, vehicle repossession, managing mortgage payments, and foreclosure rescue scams.

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Do You Put Your Birth Date on Facebook?

There are three pieces of Private Identifying Information thieves want:

Your Name

Do you have a nick name? Use it on social media rather than your legal name.

Your Birthday

If you don’t need to give your actual birth date, but they site needs one. Then give a fake date.

Your Social Security Number

Ask why do you need my Social Security Number? Most companies who ask for it don’t need it. Your doctor doesn’t need it.

Don’t give it, if you don’t need to.

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Why does Medicare put Seniors at Risk?

Medicare still puts your Social Security number on your Medicare card

44 million Americans are carrying in their wallet or purse their Medicare card. Medicare cards contain the person’s Social Security number. Placing SSNs on Medicare cards unnecessarily places millions of individuals at-risk for identity theft. In 2008, the House of Representatives passed without objection a bill, the Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act, which requires Medicare to take steps that private companies and other government agencies have already taken to protect the identities of seniors by removing the display of Social Security numbers on Medicare cards. Unfortunately, this important step to protect America’s seniors has not been taken.

Until the Social Security Administration removes your Social Security number from your Medicare card, you need to take steps to protect yourself.

Get and review your free annual credit reports: http://www.annualcreditreport.com

Only carry your Medicare when absolutely necessary.

Consider getting Identity Theft Protection like Identity Theft Shield.

Protect yourself from the risk the government places on your security.

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What would you say to an employer who asked for your Facebook login?

The main themes you want to touch

  1. Security: Need to protect everyone’s Private Identifying Information.
  2. Violation of Facebook policy: It is against Facebook’s user policy to share login information.
  3. OFCCP regulations against asking for marital status, children and age.
  4. Be polite but firmly say “no”.

You could say something like this:

“I take the security of Private Identifying Information (PII) very seriously. I protect everyone’s PII just as if it was my information. Therefore, I cannot compromise my PII just as I would not compromise anyone else’s PII. Plus, I do not want to violate Facebook’s user policy and have my professional account shutdown. I am sure you do not want to put your company in violation of OFCCP regulations against asking about marital status, children and age which would be compromised by my Facebook profile. I must respectfully decline.”

If you do not get the job, you may have a legal standing for discrimination.

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Is someone using your Social Security number to get a Job?

Check your Free Annual Credit Report to verify your work history

  • Request Free Annual Credit Report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion:
  • Official Website to Request FACTA Free Annual Credit Reports: http://www.annualcreditreport.com
  • Request Your Free Annual Credit Reports by Calling Toll Free: 877-322-8228

File Form 14039 with the IRS

  • Submit this form if you are an actual or potential victim of identity theft. The IRS will mark your account to identify any questionable activity.
  • Tax fraud from Identity Theft has tripled in the last 5 years.
  • Be alert to possible identity theft if the IRS issued notice or letter:
    • states more than one tax return was filed for you, or
    • indicates you received wages from an employer unknown to you.

To Report Social Security Fraud

If you suspect Social Security fraud, contact the Office of Inspector General (OIG) using one of the following methods:

    • Use the SSA online Fraud Reporting form;
    • Call the Fraud Hotline number at 1-800-269-0271 (TTY 1-866-501-2101) between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday;
    • Fax SSA at: 410-597-0118 (standard long distance rates may apply); or
    • Write to:

      Social Security OIG Hotline
      P.O. Box 17785
      Baltimore, Maryland 21235-7785

Social Security’s Office of Inspector General takes reports of fraud very seriously. Without sufficient identifying information, OIG will be unable to act on your allegation. Therefore, be sure to include as much of the following information as you can when you call:

  • Name, address, telephone number, and Social Security number of the person suspected of fraud. Also include the individual’s date and place of birth, father’s name, and mother’s birth name, if known;
  • A complete description of the potential fraud incident; and
  • Your name, address, and telephone number.
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Are Employers who ask for Facebook Login Information playing with Fire?

Data Information Security Rule # 1: Never Collect and Store Private Information you do not need.

A Business/Organization/Institution is responsible for the Private Information they collect. Only collect sensitive personal identifying information that has a legitimate business need. Then only keep it for as long as you need it.

Social Security Numbers should only be used for required and lawful purposes – like taxes. Never use all or part of a SSN as an employee or customer ID number. Losing your employees’ SSN to identity thieves will destroy morale and productivity.

Data Information Security Rule # 2: If You Collect and Store Private Information you need to Protect it.

A written policy needs to be created identifying what information is kept, how it is secured, how long it is kept and the method of disposal.

Data Information Security Rule # 3: If You lose Private Information you are liable for its loss.

A rule of thumb: Each item of Private Information lost will cost a company $200. Lose 1,000 credit card numbers and will cost you $200,000. Not all Private Identifying Information is created equal. Lose a Social Security number and the liability grows with how the thief uses it. Each lost SSN could cost thousands. How much could it cost if a stored Facebook password is used to trash someone’s reputation? The law suit could be in the tens of thousands.

Are you willing to risk the liability resulting from asking for an employee’s Facebook password?

Other Links:

Employers Should NEVER Be Allowed to Ask for Facebook Passwords

Go ahead and ask for the Facebook password, IF…

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Medicare: Will it stop using my SSN? – Answer Man – bnd.com

Re-Post of Medicare: Will it stop using my SSN? – Answer Man – bnd.com.


Q. Credit card companies and financial institutions have gone to great lengths to protect us from identity theft. However, the U.S. government still issues Medicare cards with your Social Security number on them. Are there plans to use some other form of identification on the card?

— O.V., of Fairview Heights

A. Here are a couple more numbers to consider: Two U.S. representatives from Texas are hoping the third time is the charm in their bipartisan effort to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards.

Yes, for the third time, Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat, and Sam Johnson, a Republican, have introduced legislation that would require federal officials to stop using Social Security numbers as your Medicare ID. But this is a numbers game that the government has been playing for years, so don’t hold your breath.About 50 million seniors carry a piece of identification that makes them highly vulnerable to identity theft: their Medicare card. You’re always told never to carry your Social Security number with you, yet Medicare tells seniors to always have their cards even though it prominently displays their SSN.As a result, if their purse or billfold is lost or stolen, that critical piece of personal identification can help criminals open new credit cards or draw on existing bank accounts in a flash.

In 2010, for example, 8.1 million U.S. adults reported their identities stolen. That was a 27 percent drop from the 11.1 million in 2009. But, on the other hand, it cost victims an average of $631 to clear up the mess in 2010 compared to the $387 the year before, according to the Javelin Strategy & Research Identity Fraud Survey.

For years, Congress, consumers groups and other federal agencies have been begging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to join the rest of the financial world in disassociating the two forms of identification.

In 2004, the Consumers Union brought up the issue. In 2006, Congress requested the change through an appropriations bill. In 2007, President George Bush’s Identity Theft Task Force hopped on the bandwagon. And, in 2008, a U.S. inspector general weighed in. They say there’s no reason why Medicare cannot devise another number that would identify recipients to Medicare while safeguarding their identities from everyone else.

But so far the number of Medicare cards issued without an SSN is still zero — and that’s not likely to change soon. If you want to see a typical bureaucratic Kabucki dance, go to

and watch Doggett battle Medicare’s Kimberly Brandt during a 2008 congressional hearing on the subject.

Brandt says that CMS is making great strides. Medicare has removed SSNs from reimbursement checks, explanations of benefits and plan identifiers. But when asked when Medicare will remove the number from the cards themselves, she lapsed into governmentese.

“The real challenge for us is that there are operational and system issues that arise in terms of the crosswalks with the Social Security numbers and how that ties to Social Security,” she says before she is finally forced to add that she has no idea when a change could come.

That was four years ago and things don’t seem to be moving any faster today. When I called CMS for a progress report, I was told to submit my questions in writing. I did — three times over three weeks and I’m still waiting for a reply.

The official explanation is that such a change would take years and cost upwards of $500 million to develop a new numbering system and issue 50 million new cards.

Until then, I may have a couple of tips. First, here’s what the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse suggests: Don’t carry your Medicare card. Instead, make a copy of it and either cross out or cut out the last four digits of your SSN. Just remember to take the original card when you visit a new doctor for the first time.

Second, keep the heat on your representatives and senators.

About Roger

After stumbling around the wilderness of sports and city halls for seven years, Belleville’s born-and-bred Roger Schlueter finally found his niche in Lifestyle in 1981. Helping start both the paper’s medical and entertainment sections, he has dabbled in everything from food to religion for the past quarter-century. As the Answer Man since 1987, he has become the paper’s go-to guy for arcane and unanswerable questions. He has even taken his show on the road, becoming a legend in his own mind as a popular emcee at area trivia nights.

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FTC Issues Report on the Experiences of Victims Recovering from Identity Theft

The Federal Trade Commission issued a staff report summarizing the results of a survey of identity theft victims who were asked to describe their experiences dealing with consumer reporting agencies and, more generally, exercising their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as amended by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), to recover from identity theft. The survey showed that most of the respondents were generally satisfied with their experiences, but the report also noted areas for improvement.

Congress has established several rights under the FACTA to help actual or potential identity theft victims protect themselves from, and recover from, identity theft. These rights enable victims to place fraud alerts on their credit report with the consumer reporting agencies, request a free credit report from the three national consumer reporting agencies when placing a fraud alert, block fraudulent information from appearing in their credit report, and receive a notice of these and other rights from the consumer reporting agencies.

According to the report, Using FACTA Remedies: An FTC Staff Report on a Survey of Experience of Identity Theft Victims, the survey showed:

  • Sixty-eight percent of the survey respondents were somewhat or very satisfied with their overall experiences with the consumer reporting agencies, but many consumers said it was difficult to reach a live person.
  • Less than half of the respondents were aware of most of their rights under FACTA before they contacted the consumer reporting agencies.
  • Some respondents complained about feeling pressured to buy additional identity theft monitoring products when they called the consumer reporting agencies.

The report concluded that:

  • The consumer reporting agencies may need to make it easier for consumers to reach a live person;
  • The FTC and other enforcement agencies should do more to educate the public about their rights under FACTA; and
  • The FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should use their respective authorities to address the consumer reporting agencies’ practices related to selling identity theft monitoring products or services when they are contacted by identity theft victims.

Consumer education continues to be an important priority for the FTC, which has an extensive program to provide consumers with the knowledge and tools needed to protect themselves from identity theft and to deal with its consequences. For example, the FTC receives thousands of contacts each week through its toll-free hotline and dedicated website. Callers to the hotline receive counseling from trained personnel on steps they can take to prevent or recover from the crime. The FTC also provides a variety of educational materials to help consumers deter, detect, and defend against identity theft. For example, the FTC’s identity theft victim recovery guide, Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft, explains the immediate steps victims should take to address the crime, how to obtain a credit report and correct fraudulent information in credit reports, how to file a police report, and how to protect personal information.

From FTC Post 3/12/12

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Someone Used My Credit Card Number Am I An Identity Theft Victim?

Credit Card Fraud

When an existing credit card, debit card, checking account or other financial account is used without your permission it is “Credit Card Fraud” or “Bank Account Fraud”, not Financial Identity Theft.

When someone opens a new account as you, then it is Identity Theft.

Most people mistake Credit Card Fraud for Identity Theft. While financial fraud costs the banks and credit card companies billions of dollars, it isn’t a problem you need to lose sleep over. The banks and credit card companies replace your money, cancel the old account and give you a new account. It may be a short term pain, but it gets fixed fairly fast. The faster report it, the easier and cheaper the fix.

The real problem that can cook your goose is when a thief opens new accounts as you. They max out the credit lines and you find out about it when the collection companies start calling. “What Discover Card?” Now you have to prove it was not you who open the accounts. You have to prove you did not make all those purchases. Proving it was not you can take hundreds of hours and maybe thousands of dollars in attorney fees.

Credit/Security Freeze

Freezing your credit is one of the best ways to protect yourself. It will prevent potential creditors, insurers, and others who do not have an existing account or business relationship with you from obtaining or accessing your credit file until you instruct the credit bureaus to unfreeze your credit report. It does not prevent companies with an existing account with you, or a collection agency acting on behalf of the existing account, from accessing your credit report. They are designed to prevent a credit bureau from releasing your credit report without your consent.

The cost and availability of placing a Credit Freeze varies by state. You can get more information from Financial Privacy Now: http://www.consumersunion.org/campaigns/learn_more/003484indiv.html

You need to place the freeze at each of the Credit Reporting Bureaus.

Fraud is when an existing account is used. Financial Identity Theft is when new accounts are opened fraudulently.

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National Consumer Protection Week 2012 Kicks Off Sunday, March 4

National Consumer Protection Week
The Federal Trade Commission and more than 30 other federal agencies, consumer groups and national advocacy organizations, in conjunction with state, county, and local government agencies, are participating in National Consumer Protection Week, March 4-10, 2012. National Consumer Protection Week is a coordinated campaign to focus attention on the importance of consumer information and provide people with free resources explaining their rights in the marketplace.

David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, noted the campaign’s website, NCPW.gov, available in English and Spanish, hosts a variety of resources on topics that matter to the nation’s consumers.

“The information on NCPW.gov can help consumers understand their rights, protect their privacy online and off, manage credit and debt, avoid identity theft, recognize foreclosure rescue scams, and report fraud,” Vladeck said. “Visitors can download and print materials to share with friends and neighbors, or use the toolkit to plan a larger community event.”

To get materials and view a list of agencies participating in the 14th annual celebration of consumer protection and consumer education, visit the NCPW About Us page.

From FTC post 3/2/12

NCPW Toolkit

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