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   Telephone Credit Scams Play on Consumers' Fears
Identity theft is on the rise. In one particular brand of credit fraud, telephone scam artists employ various unscrupulous means to extract your personal information so they can use it to drain current accounts, open new accounts and obtain credit-all in your name. The variety and inventiveness of the ploys these criminals use to rob you of your well-earned credit rating, money and peace of mind are continuously growing. So how do you protect yourself from these credit frauds and hold onto what is rightfully yours? Be aware of the latest scams that are out there and ensure that, if you are approached, you'll recognize the signs and thus avoid getting burned.

Currently, for instance, identity crooks are employing all manner of telephone scams to trick and defraud unsuspecting victims into giving up crucial details about their personal identities. One manifestation of this fraud involves telephone identity thieves, in the guise of credit grantors on official business, calling people and asking them to verify address, credit account number or other personal information. Needless to say, you should never give out this information to someone you do not know.

These criminals are extremely inventive and opportunistic. They are adept at creating elaborate ruses aimed at convincing consumers to part with their private credit data. For example, when Y2K fears were at a fever pitch, many identity thieves took advantage of the public apprehension about potential Y2K-related side effects. Capitalizing on the Y2K scare, fraud perpetrators would call people, identify themselves as bank or financial institution employees, and request personal information-for the supposed purpose of updating records in order to make the organization's systems Y2K-compliant. Instead, these identity thieves used the information to perpetrate identity fraud against the consumer.

As this shows, identity thieves can be very convincing. Utilizing common knowledge about current events and trends, these criminals devise all types of schemes and scams that can and do, in many cases, easily fool consumers into divulging their personal information. Be on the lookout for these scams and take steps to protect yourself. Never, for instance, divulge personal information-such as bank or credit card account numbers, your Social Security number, addresses or family names-over the phone or the Internet, unless you have contacted the business yourself and are sure of its legitimacy. No matter how plausible or official a caller might seem or what reason they might offer for their request, if he or she initiated the call and is asking for personal information over the phone, protect yourself by keeping your private credit information private.

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