Rep. VanDenburgh warns of ID theft scams

For immediate release:
May 19, 2014


      INDIANAPOLIS - State Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh (D-Crown Point) says her husband recently was a victim of identity theft. She said there are ways to identify potential scams and recommends that they be reported to authorities.

      “Identity theft turns your world inside out,” said VanDenburgh. “My husband had his ID information stolen. When that happens, everything is at risk. Your finances, your social security retirement, your credit rating, and even your reputation are all put into jeopardy. Unraveling the damage is time-consuming and extremely frustrating.

      “I received a call recently from a scammer who portrayed himself as a Microsoft technician,” recounted VanDenburgh. “He said my computer had become infected with a virus and needed me to turn it on. The man was very persistent. When pressed, he even provided me with a toll-free number to call to confirm he was from Microsoft. He also gave me a Bloomington address from which he said he was calling. The truth is Microsoft officials would never call and insist they needed you to turn your computer on. Unfortunately, scammers use throw-away cell phones, so they are extremely difficult to trace.

      “I’ve heard of other schemes where the scammers attempt to get an individual to go to a particular site that will give the scammers remote access to the computer so they can make changes to the settings, which causes your computer to become vulnerable,” added VanDenburgh.

      “Sometimes scammers try to get you to install malware so they can steal sensitive information, like passwords and user names,” continued VanDenburgh. “The scams are becoming more and more sophisticated, so computer users must be cautious at all times. I would advise that anyone who receives a call from a person claiming to be with your credit card company not to verify information on an incoming call, even if you think it is legitimate. Simply say that you will call the credit card company at the number on the back of the card.”

      VanDenburgh outlined what a person should do if she or he receives a suspicious call from someone claiming to be a tech support specialist.

      “First of all, don’t ever give control of your computer to a third party whom you don’t know,” said VanDenburgh. “Don’t rely on caller-ID to authenticate a caller. Sometimes criminals use phony caller-ID numbers that look legitimate. Don’t expect online searches to determine the authenticity of a technical support specialist or company. It is not unusual for scammers to place online ads to coax victims to call them or go to their Web sites. Never provide financial information or your credit card number to a person who calls and claims to be from tech support.

      “If an unsolicited caller tries to pressure you into buying a computer security product or says there is a subscription fee associated with the call – hang up immediate,” warned VanDenburgh. “Call your security software company directly. Never offer your password over the telephone. I also would suggest placing your phone number on the National Do-Not-Call Registry.”

      VanDenburgh recommended that victims or people who believe they were targets of a scam should report the fraudulent activity to police and visit the online ID Victim Kit and complete an online complaint form. The office’s toll-free number is 1-800-382-5516. The victim should also report the attempted crime to the Federal Trade Commission or call toll-free 1-877-ID-THEFT.

      VanDenburgh shared other tips as well:

  • Beware of phishing emails that appear to be from banks and sometimes other businesses. These scammers will try to get your account information, social security number, passwords, and other critical information. Do not respond to these emails. Call your bank directly and report this phishing scheme.
  • Keep your laptop secure. Don’t let it out of your sight in public places.
  • Update your anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
  • Make sure your passwords contain numbers and symbols as well as upper and lower case letters. Avoid proper names and common words. Don’t use the same passwords for different accounts.
  • Don’t let your web browser remember your passwords. Anyone who gains access to your computer will have access to your accounts.
  • Don’t install apps on your cell phone from sources you don’t know. Also, be careful about the permission you allow your apps to have on your phone.

      VanDenburgh said one should also be cautious about lottery scams, disaster relief scams, “free trial” offers, credit repair scams, work-from-home scams, home repair scams, and phony debt collectors scams.