03 Feb Fake Checks – Yet Another Identity Theft Scam
Your mail arrives and it contains a letter from TRS Recovery, a division of Telecheck check verification service. The letter asserts that you have bounced a $500 check to WalMart. You call the number for TRS Recovery on the letter, provide the case identification number and ask to speak to a representative as you have no record of any bounced check to WalMart.
The representative asks for some identifying information to help you fix the problem – your bank account number, your date of birth, social security number and mailing address. He politely thanks you for your cooperation and assures you that the collection agency will delete the bad check reference. No need to worry – right?
Wrong. In a new twist on an old scam, identity thieves are using the mail to steal the identies of unsuspecting consumers. In this case, there is a company called TRS Recovery that is a division of Telecheck, but the letter issued was a fake, with a fake telephone number. Your call to TRS was in fact a call to a scamster who used the opportunity to gather personal information from you.
This scam differs from other identity theft scenarios because you are the one calling in based on a legitimate looking letter.
What can you do to protect yourself? If you get a letter from a debt collector, and you decide to engage the collector in discussion, do a little research to find the collector’s contact information yourself. Don’t rely on numbers provided in telephone messages or letters. When you do talk to a representative, ask questions to verify the collector’s identity, such as a callback number and address. Ask the collector to verify your account number and recent transactions. Never give out personal identification like your social security number or your bank account number. If you choose to make a payment, use a credit card or offer to mail a check and then verify that the address you are mailing payment to is legitimate.
Bottom line: there are many reasons not to trust bill collectors, and now we have a new one – the bill collector himself may be a fraud.
Jonathan Ginsberg, Esq.
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