RISK FREE TRIAL SCAM – Try Before You Buy?

Have you seen advertisements online or received emails that offer you a Risk Free Trial?  All they ask is that you only pay a modest shipping fee. You say to yourself “What have I got to lose”?  My answer to that question is – PLENTY!

BEWARE: Most of these “Risk Free Trial” offers have a downside.

Risk Free Trial Online
ALWAYS Read the Fine Print!

Risk Free Trial offers offers are advertised by scammers or unscrupulous companies. They often tout names of celebrities, who supposedly use and endorse their products. Many celebrities have had to sue these fraudsters, to get their name removed from these bogus endorsements.

What starts out as a risk-free trial, might end up costing you loads of money!

The goal of the risk free trial offer is to make you a long-term customer. The fine-print (which most people don’t read) hides buying terms, designed to entrap you. Once they have your credit card information, for the shipping cost of your free-trial, it will be nearly impossible to stop them from continuing deliveries and billing you.

Had you actually read the fine-print, you might have discovered that there was a time-limit to cancel your order. If you didn’t cancel by the deadline date, you would be billed for an additional shipment.  Even if you cancel within the time limit, they won’t make it easy to let you off the hook. They’ll charge you for early cancellation or other additional bogus fees.

The end game is to continuously keep billing you every month.

You may not have noticed that there was a box automatically checked, by default, when you placed your order. That checked box puts conditions on returns and cancellations that are strict enough to make it nearly impossible to cancel. There may be a default box you forgot to un-check that illegally signed you up for additional products, services or clubs fees.

TIPS – What You Should Do:

  • If you see credit card charges you didn’t agree to, contact the company directly.
  • If that doesn’t work, call your credit card company to dispute the charge.
  • As a last resort, cancel your credit card- so they can’t keep charging it.
  • NEVER make online purchases using your DEBIT card. It is directly tied to your checking account, which could get cleaned-out in no time if it gets stolen or compromised.
  • Use a pre-paid credit card or gift card that has a ‘finite’ amount of funds available. Once the funds are used up, they can’t keep billing you for additional or recurring charges.

If you’ve been wrongly charged for a free-trial offer, report it to the FTC and file a complaint by going here: www.ftc.gov/complaint

DETER TAX ID THEFT- FILE TAXES EARLY

Tax ID Theft is the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the past five years. The FTC and its partners announced they are hosting a Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week from January 29th to February 2, 2018. They will be hosting a series of free events, including webinars and Twitter chats.

Tax ID theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a fraudulent tax return in order to claim a fraudulent refund.

There has been 1293 data breaches as of 12/20/17. These data breaches provide hackers with a slew of sensitive information. The Equifax breach alone exposed the names, addresses, social security numbers and birthdates of 145.5 million records. Criminals will attempt to file fraudulent tax returns using this stolen information. The big refunds that are claimed on these fraudulent returns are either sent to phony addresses or deposited into bogus bank accounts controlled by these criminals.

Tax ID Theft
IRS Tax ID Theft is Billions of Dollars a year!

The best thing you can do to protect yourself from Tax ID Theft is to file your return as early as possible to make sure your return is filed prior to that of an identity thief.  That way, you beat a would-be criminal from filing a return before you do.

 

PREVENTION TIPS TO AVOID TAX ID THEFT

  • Know your Tax Preparer – check their credentials on the IRS website
  • Beware of Preparers promising big refunds or base their fee on your refund
  • If you cannot file early, then file an extension using IRS Form 4868
  • Never carry your social security card or any document with your SSN on it
  • If mailing your return, be sure to mail it directly from the Post Office
  • If E-Filing your return, use a reputable program and a secure non-public computer
  • If you move, file a Change of Address as soon as possible – Use IRS Form-8822
  • Store copies of your returns in a secure place or save it on an external hard drive
  • Shred drafts, tax forms and all documents that contain any sensitive information
  • NEVER respond to calls, texts or emails appearing to be from the IRS. Don’t respond to threats or arrest. The IRS always initiates contact with you via a letter, sent by snail mail.

 

If you do become a victim of tax ID theft, file a police report immediately. Then, file a “paper” return with the IRS with an attached Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit together with a copy of the police report. This will hasten the process. You should also call the IRS specialized assistant toll-free number 800-908-4490. You can visit the IRS website for more info here: www.irs.gov/Individuals/Identity-Protection

To find out how to lessen your risk of becoming a Tax ID Theft victim during the FTC’s Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week – go here:   https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0029-tax-identity-theft-awareness-week

IDENTITY THEFT COMES IN MANY FORMS

Every two seconds someone becomes a victim of identity theft! That equates to over a million people a month and over $16 billion annually. No one, dead or alive, is immune to identity theft. It’s no longer a matter of IF, but WHEN.  Identity Theft is so commonplace, that it is now referred to as “The Crime of the Century”!

Identity Theft

So what is identity theft?  It is a crime, in which the criminal obtains key pieces of ‘personally identifying information’ (PII), such as your social security number, birthdate or driver’s license, and impersonates you. The US Department of Justice defines it this way: “Identity Theft and Identity Fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crimes in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain”.

When your identity is stolen, you not only lose your money, but also your good name. It is a very stressful process to repair the damage done and it can take many months or even years to remedy the lingering effects of identity theft.

There has been a flood of data breaches, resulting in millions upon millions of personally identifiable information (PII) stolen and then sold to the highest bidder on underground websites.  Malware and Ransomware extorts $1billion a year from people and businesses worldwide. The internet has become a perilous place.

YOU SHOULD KNOW THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF IDENTITY THEFT

Medical Identity Theft is when your medical insurance ID is used to get medical services in your name. Your medical records get contaminated with incorrect health information and you get hit with the bill. Guard your insurance number.

Tax Identity Theft is when someone uses your SS# and files a fraudulent return to get a big refund. File your taxes as early as possible to avoid this problem.

Criminal Identity Theft is when your identifying information is given to the police during an arrest. It attaches a criminal’s crime to a police record in your name.

Child Identity Theft is when the Social Security numbers of children are used to create a false identity to establish a new credit history. Kids under 18 are 51 times more likely to become victims of ID theft. Parents should place a credit freeze on their kid’s credit file.

Deceased Identity Theft, referred to as “Ghosting”, is when the stolen identity of the recently deceased is used to open lines of credit, get a loan, or get a job or file a fraudulent tax return.

If you wish to decrease your chances of becoming a victim, then prevention, intuition and education are your tools. You need to think of your identity as an asset to be protected, as you would protect your cash, jewelry and other valuables.

My mission is to help bring awareness to this very serious problem. ID theft affects businesses worldwide and affects people young and old. It is my intention to help you lessen the chances of becoming the next victim. My blog sets out to do just that.

Remember, knowledge is power & awareness is your weapon!

Identity Theft Prediction: It Worsens in 2018

My Identity Theft Prediction – It worsens in 2018 as fraudsters are getting even more adept and brazen than ever before!  Will consumers be smarter and more pro-active about protecting their identity in 2018?  I predict – NOT!

I sincerely hope your New Year’s Resolution list includes taking steps to protect  yourself from identity theft. If we learned anything at all in 2017, it’s the fact that it is imperative to do everything possible to safeguard our PII (Personally Identifiable Information).

Always treat your personal information as a valuable asset that needs to be protected from hackers, scammers and identity thieves.

Identity Theft Prediction
Guard your identity with everything you’ve got

ID theft comes in many forms, but data breaches topped the list last year. There were a total of 1293 data breaches as of 12/20/2017. The Equifax breach alone exposed the PII of 145.5 million U.S. Citizens! All the information in that one single data breach, gave Identity Thieves everything they needed to make you a victim of Identity Theft.

 

Thieves steal your personal information in a variety of ways:

 

  • FIRST – They steal your PII – Personally Identifiable Information
    • Mail, Trash, Un-shredded Documents
    • Redirect your mail – by submitting a Change of Address
    • Phishing – emails, phone, texts, websites, popups, fake Ads, surveys
    • Employee Records – Stolen or Compromised at work
    • Data Breaches – PII stolen or purchased from Underground Websites
    • Relatives, friends, caregivers who have/gain access to your info
  • THEN – They use your PII to…
    • Use your PII to apply for Credit Cards, Loans, Utilities, Phone Services
    • Counterfeit – Checks, Driver’s License, Passports, fake Credit Cards
    • Use your SS # to File Tax Returns or Get a Job
    • Use your ID during an Arrest
    • Impersonate you for purposes of account takeover

 

HERE’S A LIST OF THINGS TO DO TO HELP PREVENT ID THEFT:

  • Always wait 24 hours before making important decisions
  • Shred it! Never discard items with personal info on it
  • Never click on links or open attachments in emails/texts
  • Use EMV chipped cards for better security
  • Use unique passwords on online accounts
  • Use a Uni-Ball pen #207 when writing checks
  • Only place bills in secure mailboxes
  • Examine bills for any discrepancies
  • Reconcile checking accounts promptly
  • Never provide your SS# or Medical ID # unless required to do so
  • Make copies of everything you carry in your wallet
  • Use strong passwords on your wireless connection
  • Use a low balance prepaid card for recurring charges
  • Do an internet search by adding “Scam”, “Fraud”, or “Complaint” after a company name or product
  • Don’t send $ via untraceable methods like bank wires, or prepaid cards

 

Remember: When it sounds “too good to be true” – it probably is…

To learn even more – go to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/identity-theft

Also read a previous article about the Equifax Breach

I hope my Identity Theft Prediction is wrong…

Stay safe out there and I wish you a wonderful New Year!