Unfortunately, it’s happening. The ink was hardly dry on the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act when the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Trade Commission began fielding reports of a new scam: Taxpayers were receiving calls from people claiming to be government representatives. The callers would say that they need to confirm some information because of the Affordable Care Act, and trick unwary callers into revealing personally identifiable confidential information.
Tactics included quoting the routing number of the individual’s local bank, and trying to leverage the information to get the full account number. At other times, they asked for the recipient’s credit card number, Medicare information, and Social Security numbers.
Once the caller provided the information, the crooks would strike – emptying their target’s bank account, or opening up fraudulent lines of credit in the victim’s name.
This particular scam is part of a phenomenon called “phishing.” Other phishing schemes include setting up realistic-looking fake websites to trick people into entering their account number and password information. Victims often get lured to the fake website through the use of email or text links, or via the use of fraudulent posts and messages on social media sites.
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself:
- Never give out your credit card number, Social Security Number, bank account number, or Medicare information to anyone calling you on the phone.
- Don’t click links to your bank or other financial institutions from within emails. Take the time to type in the company’s URL in your browser window yourself.
- Beware of any financial institution writing to you in suspiciously bad English.
- Look for a small icon of a padlock in the corner of your browser or in your browser’s URL window. This icon means that you are communicating via a secure, encrypted connection.
- Don’t type in passwords on unsecure sites while on a WiFi connection. Your information may be vulnerable to being picked up by “sniffers. “
No one from the government is going to call you unsolicited asking to verify this kind of personal information. If you receive such a call, or if you are targeted in any phishing attack, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov. Alternatively, you can call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-Help. If you believe someone has actually stolen your identity, call 1-877-ID-THEFT, or visit ftc.gov/idtheft.