Your AAA Network

Identity Theft Scams to Keep an Eye On

Protect yourself from identity theft scams by safeguarding your personal information and staying abreast of the latest scams.

identity theft scams

To protect your identity, sometimes you have to think like a thief.

Identity theft is one of the most common types of criminal fraud affecting consumers today. It refers to crimes in which someone unlawfully obtains another’s personal information or data, and then uses it for fraudulent purposes. Identity theft scams often result in financial losses, not to mention emotional stress.

The best way to protect yourself from identity theft scams is to safeguard your personal information and know what to look out for.

Take control of your identity with ProtectMyID® from AAA, fueled by Experian®. ProtectMyID Essential is free for AAA members.

Identity Theft Scams to Watch

While identity theft scams are always changing and evolving, there are a few common threads among them. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself.

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The Phishing Scam

This popular identity theft racket occurs when scammers send you an email disguised as a legitimate business or organization in hopes that you will provide them with personal data such as account numbers, passwords or your Social Security numbers. These emails are often very cleverly crafted, using exact logos and return email addresses that seem legit.

How to avoid this scam: Never click through links on emails unless you know the sender. Never send secure personal data in an email. If a business is claiming they need to confirm your personal information, close the email and log into your account through the official website to update your info.

IRS Refunds and Winning Lottery Scams

You’ve heard the saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” Keep this in mind when you get emails or phone calls suggesting that you’re about to be rich. Scammers will send out official-looking letters or emails with news of huge IRS refunds or winning lotteries – all you have to do is send them your bank account number so they can deposit the funds. Once criminals have your bank account number, they can do all kinds of financial damage.

How to avoid this scam: The IRS will only contact you with a letter sent to your direct address. Never give your bank account number to anyone you don’t know.

Medical Identity Theft Scams

A thief can steal your personal information and use your identity to see doctors, obtain prescriptions or file claims with your health insurance provider. Not only does this scam cost insurance companies millions of dollars each year, it could also affect your own medical records, treatment plans and possibly your credit score.

How to avoid this scam: Check to see that your doctor’s office keeps medical records in a secure area. Ask for an insurance card without your Social Security number on it. Read insurance and medical statements regularly for any signs of abnormal activity.

Be very protective of your personal account information online.

Confirming Your Information Scams

Scammers pose as officials from your bank or credit card company and ask for your account numbers, passwords, or pin numbers in order to update their records. Sometimes they will ask for the three or four-digit security number from the back of your credit card. Calls or emails requesting this information should never be trusted.

How to avoid this scam: If you suspect a call is fraudulent, immediately ask the person’s name and phone number. This may be enough to scare them off. Regardless, hang up the phone without giving them your personal data, and call your bank or credit card company right away.

How to Protect Yourself From an Identity Theft Scam

You can take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from identity theft. Here are a few more tips to evade scammers.

    • Never give out personal information over the phone or through email. If someone calls you claiming to be your doctor, bank, credit card company, etc., ask for their phone number and tell them that you will call them back later. If they suggest calling you back at a more convenient time, hang up, and immediately call the company and ask if they were trying to reach you.
    • Keep tabs on your credit report. If your personal information has been stolen, you will almost definitely see signs of it in your credit report. Many credit cards offer credit report monitoring free of charge. You are also entitled to one free credit report annually from AnnualCreditReport.com.
    • Report potential scams to the FTC. The Federal Trade Commission may not investigate every individual claim it receives, but it will document them to look for trends and signs of large-scale fraud. Use this link to file a fraud complaint with the FTC.
    • Discuss identity theft with your family members. Children, teens and the elderly are the most vulnerable to identity theft scams. Discuss the latest scams with your family, and remind them not to share their personal information with callers or over email.

Identity theft can happen to anyone, but scammers will often focus on easy targets. By keeping your personal information safe and secure, you will make it much harder for scammers to single you out.

Learn more about ProtectMyID® from AAA and Experian®.

Have you ever been the victim of an identity theft scam? What tips do you have for our readers?

This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated. 

Comments
  • BARRY L.

    “You are also entitled to one free credit report annually from AnnualCreditReport.com.”

    Actually, you are entitled to THREE free credit reports – one each from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. A smart strategy is to request them four months apart; while some items may only appear on one of the reports, staggering them this way will increase your chances of catching fraud as early as possible.

    I have set annual reminders on my computer, so I don’t even have to remember the dates!

    Reply
    • Cathy G.

      Thank you so much for this information! Much appreciated!

      Reply
    • Judith H.

      Hi Barry: I received a long winded threat. If I don’t contact them, they will start their “Law Of Suit”. Some times these calls are SO RIDICULOUS!
      Thanks for your article. Judy

      Reply
  • Charles S.

    I was getting repeated calls from different numbers claiming that I owed hundreds of dollars for a a computer monitoring and repair service. I made the mistake of trying to talk to one of the callers, and he would call again 3-4 times a day, offering me discounts if I would address the “bill.” I finally had to LITERALLY shout at him that I knew this was a fraud and was reporting his numbers to the State Attorney General’s Fraud hotline, and it stopped.

    Reply
  • Beth J.

    You cannot win a contest or lottery, etc. you never entered.
    If they keep saying your credit card without mentioning the particular card VISA MC, etc., it’s a fake.

    If an extended warranty company cannot tell you what make and model car you own, it is also a scam. Or you can just play dumb and say you don’t have a credit card or own a car.

    Reply
    • Sharon

      I had someone supposedly calling from Amazon to tell me about a possible fraudulent charge posted on my credit card, but I ‘smelled a rat’ when the scammer didn’t even ask my name to verify who he was talking to!

      Reply
  • Phil B.

    I take advantage of the scammer and keep them on the phone as long as I can. This way they cannot make another call while I flip the script. I keep pulling in the the line until they realize that I know I am playing with them. It can be a great way to foul them up!

    Reply
    • Pam P.

      This sounds like fun! And you might be preventing someone from being scammed.

      Reply
  • Katherine A.

    Another twist is a call notifying you that a certain $ amount is being charged to your account (they reference Amazon specifically; I’m sure because it’s so widely used) and they leave a voice mail telling you that a charge of $ 599.23 (amount changes each time they call) has been processed against your account, and if you want to contest it, call……….. Ignore it.

    Reply
  • William L.

    Here’s a scam you did not mention. Someone will call and ask “Is this____?” If you answer “yes” they can take that answer, record it and use it with your voice to make a purchase, enroll in something or otherwise try to scam you. The answer to that question should be “Who are you?” “Why are you asking?” or simply hang up.
    Here’s another one: You get an email thanking you for allowing someone to use your credit card to renew a subscription or for signing up for something. You know you didn’t sign up for anything, so you call the number provided which turns out to be in India somewhere. Hang up immediately!

    Reply
    • Anne G.

      You can also say, “Speaking – how can I help you?” I agree, under NO circumstances should you say “yes.”

      Reply
  • Patty

    Years ago I googled Microsoft help and got a phony who wanted to access my screen to help me. HANG UP

    Reply
  • Erin G.

    I have heard of scams where the caller will say they are calling you on a recorded line and ask if you can hear them. The intent is to have you say “yes” and that can be used as your acceptance of the offer. I personally reply “the volume is good” and the caller disconnects.

    Reply
  • Scott F.

    I mark all of my credit cards on the signature line with “ASK FOR ID” instead of my name. Then I hold up my ID for them to see. No one ever looks at the ID so I have to ask them to do so. This raises their awareness to credit card fraud. My newest CC does not require a signature. I still show them my ID to raise their awareness.

    Reply
  • Barbara B.

    I’m pretty good about this issue, but not perfect. Unfortunately, it only takes one mistake. I found this article to be an excellent reminder.

    Reply
  • Susan C.

    If you get a Facebook request that looks like it’s from a known friend, asking you to accept their new Instagram account so you can send messages to each other, ignore it or call your friend. If you accept, then they pose as your friend and try to get personal financial info by telling you to contact so-and-so for a “caregiver grant” or something they tell you they had received. Do not contact them and do not open the Instagram account.

    Reply
  • Barbara R.

    I constantly receive phone calls telling me know how I can reduce the interest on my credit card. I press the number they give me and get connected to a live person. I say you can help me lower the interest on my credit card, how great because I do not have a credit card….click they hang up.

    Reply
  • Anne G.

    I get calls purportedly from Apple, and I always hang up because I don’t have a Mac. I’m the only one who uses the computer, so if someone calls saying “your computer needs repair,” my husband can truthfully say, “I don’t have a computer.”

    We also get lots of calls from someone named “Amy” who says she’s from “medical services.” Funny, she never says which one…

    And let’s not forget the “Grandma” scam, where they want you to send a money order to bail them out of jail! In that case I can politely (and truthfully) tell them that I’m no one’s grandma, and they must have the wrong number!

    Reply
  • Frank S.

    I’ve tried many times to get my free credit report. They all want my credit card number.
    I don’t give that out in an email, so I have never seen my report and don’t know what it says about me

    Reply
    • Susan

      All of the credit reporting agencies have toll-free numbers so you can just call them and ask for your FREE credit report.

      Reply
  • Eric B.

    If you don’t need a loan or new credit cards, freeze your credit through the 3 credit reporting agencies. No one can open a new account in your name if there is a freeze

    Reply
  • Genevieve M.

    Today, within 3 hours, I got several calls from friends who reported that their email addressed from me, began by using my name to ask if I had an Amazon Prime account saying “hello ,( G my first name)-, there’s a question about your AmazonAaccount ” The scamers are busier than ever! Beware!

    Reply
  • Carolyn D.

    Tell them they are calling on a recorded line so can report them to the FCC

    Reply

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