In previous posts, we’ve discussed the growing issue of identity theft across the country. If your Social Security Number and other personal information gets into the wrong hands, it could have a devastating effect on virtually every aspect of your life. The criminal could clear out your bank accounts, file a fraudulent tax return in your name, steal your tax refund as well as other violations. Such a breach can leave you feeling angry and vulnerable.
While many identity theft attempts tend to follow certain patterns–threatening phone calls from individuals pretending to represent the IRS or sending phishing emails to company payroll departments–these aren’t the only tactics you should be wary of.
Hurricane season is upon is, and unfortunately, many scammers try to use the tragedy of natural disaster for personal gain. Such scammers may reach out to you by phone, email, social media or even in person. Below are two common approaches:
A scammer, claiming to work for the IRS, may contact a hurricane victim and advise them about their opportunity to receive tax refunds following the tragedy. The scammer may offer to assist the individual in filing a casualty loss claim to receive compensation. When the victim discloses their personal information, the scammer exploits this for financial gain–exacerbating the victim’s existing distress.
A scammer may also contact an individual unaffected by a hurricane. In this case, the scammer may claim to work for a philanthropic organization and solicits funds for hurricane relief. Sometimes the charity is fake–and may have a bogus website. Sometimes the charity bears a deceptively similar name to a legitimate organization. In other cases, the scammer may claim to work for a legitimate charity. The scammer (or their fake website) will request money or private information from the well-meaning individual.
It’s a sad truth that in this age of identity theft, we must even be suspicious of the validity of charitable organizations. Nonetheless, it’s important to beware of any unsolicited contact from any organization requesting your personal information.
If you want to contribute to hurricane relief, contact a trusted charity directly. If you’re a disaster victim, you may be entitled to tax breaks. Consult with an experienced tax attorney to make sure you get reliable information.