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Child Identity Theft

Child identity theft happens when someone uses a minor child's personal information to commit fraud.  A thief may steal and use a child's personal information to get a job, government benefits, medical care, utilities, car loans or even a mortgage.  A thief who steals a child's information may use it for many years before the crime is discovered.  The victim may only learn of the theft when applying for their own student loans or credit.  Avoiding, discovering and undoing the damage resulting from the theft of a child's identity can be a challenge.

  •  Protecting and safeguarding your child's information
  1.  Keep all information locked up
  2. Share your child's social security number with only trusted people
  3. Ensure you have a secure connection, if sharing personal information on the computer
  4. Use updated antivirus and firewall protection
  5. If using passwords to sign into a website, log out of the site when you are done
  •  Safely dispose of personal information
  1.  Shred letters, forms and other papers that include personal information
  2. Delete electronic computer files that you no longer need and empty out your online trash bin
  3. Delete any personal or financial information on a cell phone before disposing  it
  • Share Safety Tips with your child
  1.  Use strong passwords
  2. Keep passwords private
  3. Know the risk of sharing files through peer to peer software
  4. Be alert to phishing scams
  • Warning signs of Child identity theft
  1.  Calls from Collection agencies
  2. Denied government benefits
  3. IRS or Social Security Administration notifies you that your child social security number is being used by someone
  4. Your child receives notice from the IRS that their taxes have not been paid
  • Check your child's credit report
  1.  The law requires Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to give you a free copy of your credit report each year - Visit http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ or call 1-877-322-8228 for your free copy

 

WHY DO CRIMINALS TARGET SENIORS?

Criminals target anyone with money and trust.  Seniors generally have more in savings, assets, and cash.  Plus they have good credit and own their own home.  Recent estimates say that 67% of seniors are targeted for scams every year.   

 Individuals who grew up in the 1930's, 1940's, and 1950's were generally raised to be polite and trusting.  Criminals will exploit these traits knowing that it is difficult for some individuals to say "no" or just hang up the phone. 

 Common scams against seniors include:

 "Free Lunch" Seminar:

  • The lunch seminars usually involve sales pitches promising annual investment returns of 10% or more. 
  • Some claim that "you can retire early" with these investment payoffs. 
  • The Securities Division advises seniors to be wary of any "free lunch" seminars, especially those involving promises of high interest rates and annuity investments.  Many promoted annuities have high penalties for early withdrawal of funds and also pay large bonuses in the first year only.

 Medicare Fraud: 

  • Seniors are frequent targets of Medicare schemes, especially by medical equipment manufacturers who offer seniors free medical products in exchange for their Medicare number.

 Examiner Scam: 

  • In the bank examiner scam, con artists pose as FBI agents, bank examiners, police officers, detectives or bank officials. 
  • These con artists contact you, pretending to need your help to conduct an investigation. 
  • As a valued bank customer or upstanding citizen, you are asked to withdraw money and hand it over.  They promise to redeposit it or return the money to you after they have completed their investigation.  Of course, you never see your money again.

 Lottery and Sweepstakes: 

  • Criminals will send e-mails or letters, or even call you claiming you've won something big.  But there is a catch.  Before you can collect your winnings, you have to pay something upfront. 
  • This is called an Advance Fee Fraud.  Criminals will take your money, but you will never get anything in return.  No real lottery or sweepstakes will ask for money up front.

 Telemarketers: 

  • The National Crime Prevention Council says that fraudulent telemarketers direct up to 80% of their calls to seniors. 
  • Sometimes criminals will claim to be a telemarketer and want your account number. 
  • If a telemarketer contacts you and you do want to buy what they are selling, ask them to send you the offer in the mail.

 Foreign Business Offer: 

  • You receive an email or letter promising lots of money if you will help them.
  • An "official" wants you to take a check they send you, deposit it, and then send the money out of the country.  Usually the victim gets to keep part of the check.  The "official" will keep sending more checks, asking you to cash them and send them the money.  It's a scam. 
  • The checks are fake, and you will owe this money to the bank that cashes the checks.

 How do you protect yourself?

  • Trust your instincts! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Criminals use empty promises and scare tactics to get you to give them money.
  • Talk to someone! Talk with someone you trust, like your attorney, financial advisor, or someone here at Citizens Security Bank.  They want to help protect you.
  • Do not sign! Never sign blank checks and give them to someone.  Also, never sign documents you do not understand.  Consult your attorney if someone asks you to sign a document.
  • Do NOT give out account numbers! Criminals will claim to be someone they are not and try to make you give them your credit card or account number. Sometimes they pretend to be your financial institution, or a telemarketer.
  • Be aware! Sometimes the person trying to take advantage might be a family member or friend.  If someone you know is trying to take over your accounts, get you to sign blank checks, or sign documents you don't understand, call your attorney, your state's Adult Protective Services, or your financial institution right away.

 Who can help me?

  • Your attorney, financial advisor, or financial institution.
  • Your local police department or sheriff's office
  • The Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's Office: http://www.oag.ok.gov/oagweb.nsf/
  • AARP:  1-800-424-3410
  • The National Crime Prevention Council: www.ncpc.org

 

IRS LISTS "DIRTY DOZEN" TAX SCAMS

 The Internal Revenue Service issued its annual "Dirty Dozen" ranking of tax scams, reminding taxpayers to use caution during tax season to protect themselves against a wide range of schemes, ranging from identity theft to return preparer fraud.

 Identity Theft

  • An IRS notice informing a taxpayer that more than one return was filed in the taxpayer's name or that the taxpayer received wages from an unknown employer, may be the first tip off the individual receives that he or she has been victimized. 
  • Anyone who believes his or her personal information has been stolen and used for tax purposes should immediately contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit.  For more information, visit the special identity theft page at http://www.IRS.gov/identitytheft 

 Phishing

  • If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to phishing@irs.gov.
  • The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.  This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. 

 Return Preparer Fraud

Most return preparers provide honest service to their clients. But as in any other business, there are also some who prey on unsuspecting taxpayers.

 Signals to watch for when you are dealing with an unscrupulous return preparer would include that they:

  • Do not sign the return or place a Preparer Tax identification Number on it.
  • Do not give you a copy of your tax return.
  • Promise larger than normal tax refunds.
  • Charge a percentage of the refund amount as preparation fee.
  • Require you to split the refund to pay the preparation fee.
  • Add forms to the return you have never filed before.
  • Encourage you to place false information on your return, such as false income, expenses and/or credits.

Hiding Income Offshore

  • While there are legitimate reasons for maintaining financial accounts abroad, there are reporting requirements that need to be fulfilled.
  • U.S. taxpayers who maintain such accounts and who do not comply with reporting and disclosure requirements are breaking the law.

 "Free Money" From the IRS & Tax Scams Involving Social Security

  • Flyers and advertisements for free money from the IRS, suggesting that the taxpayer can file a tax return with little or no documentation, have been circulating.
  • Scammers prey on low income individuals and the elderly. They build false hopes and charge people good money for bad advice. In the end, the victims discover their claims are rejected.
  • There are a number of tax scams involving Social Security. Scammers promise non-existent Social Security refunds or rebates. Or, a taxpayer may really be due a credit or refund but uses inflated information to complete the return. 

 False/Inflated Income and Expenses

  • Including income that was never earned, either as wages or as self-employment income in order to maximize refundable credits, is another popular scam.
  • Additionally, some taxpayers are filing excessive claims for the fuel tax credit. Farmers and other taxpayers who use fuel for off-highway business purposes may be eligible for the fuel tax credit. But other individuals have claimed the tax credit when their occupations or income levels make the claims unreasonable.

 False Form 1099 Refund Claims

  • In this scam, the perpetrator files a fake information return, such as a Form 1099 Original Issue Discount (OID), to justify a false refund claim on a corresponding tax return. In some cases, individuals have made refund claims based on the bogus theory that the federal government maintains secret accounts for U.S. citizens and that taxpayers can gain access to the accounts by issuing 1099-OID forms to the IRS.
  • Don't fall prey to people who encourage you to claim deductions or credits to which you are not entitled or willingly allow others to use your information to file false returns.

 Frivolous Arguments

  • Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe.

 Falsely Claiming Zero Wages

  • Filing a phony information return is an illegal way to lower the amount of taxes an individual owes. Typically, a Form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a "corrected" Form 1099 is used as a way to improperly reduce taxable income to zero.
  • Taxpayers should resist any temptation to participate in any variations of this scheme.

 Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions

  • IRS examiners continue to uncover the intentional abuse of 501(c)(3) organizations, including arrangements that improperly shield income or assets from taxation and attempts by donors to maintain control over donated assets or the income from donated property.

 Disguised Corporate Ownership

  • Third parties are improperly used to request employer identification numbers and form corporations that obscure the true ownership of the business.
  • These entities can be used to underreport income, claim fictitious deductions, avoid filing tax returns, participate in listed transactions and facilitate money laundering, and financial crimes.

 Misuse of Trusts

  • Highly questionable transactions which promise reduction of income subject to tax, deductions for personal expenses and reduced estate or gift taxes, rarely deliver the tax benefits promised and often are used as a means of avoiding income tax liability and hiding assets from creditors, including the IRS.
  • IRS personnel have seen an increase in the improper use of private annuity trusts and foreign trusts to shift income and deduct personal expenses.

 

DO YOU KNOW YOUR REPAIRMAN?

If you incur storm damage to your property during one of Oklahoma's  violent weather outbreaks, be cautious of people offering to repair your damage.  Fraudsters use the plight of others to take advantage of honest and unsuspecting people.  A repairman appearing door to door is your first indicator that something may be amiss.  In many instances, fraudulent repairmen will ask for an up front fee before work is to begin, then schedule the work at a later time - but never reappear. 

Before hiring contractors to perform any service, including home improvements, we recommend the following:

  • In the event of storm damage, ALWAYS speak to your insurance agent first.  In addition, for roof repairs, never let anyone on your roof prior to speaking to your agent.  Oklahoma helps protect homeowners through a roofer registration law that requires legitimate roofing contractors to have certain safeguards in place and register with the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board.  Check the Board's website to find out if your roofer is registered. http://www.ok.gov/cib/.
  • Don't feel rushed to take advantage of the "good deal" being offered.  If the repairman seems too eager to offer their services, be cautious.
  • Contact your local Better Business Bureau (BBB).  The BBB keeps up to date on scams in your local area and will be able to vouch for a legitimate repairman or warn of an illegitimate one.  http://tulsa.bbb.org/
  • If you feel anything is suspicious, call your local law enforcement.  Local law enforcement keep apprised of bands of predatory contractors moving through your local area and are willing to assist their communities.
  • Never provide an up front fee.  Often fraudsters can convince an unsuspecting victim to pay a down payment on "services to be rendered."  Once this money goes out the door with a fraudulent repairman, you never see them or your pre-paid fee again. 
  • Get more than one estimate.  Unnecessary repairs are sometimes used to increase the cost of your repair. 
  • If the offer seems too good to be true - it probably is.  Underbidding the actual repair job can give an unsuspecting victim the false sense that they can trust the repairman because they are receiving a good deal in a sometimes unfortunate time.

In January 2012, Tulsa Police arrested two men for defrauding a 79 year old homeowner of $27,000 between January 2010 and December 2011.  The homeowner indicated that he was "confused as to what or even if repairs had to be done."

Unfortunately, these instances are not rare, and inherently, people generally try to see the best in others.  Protect yourself from being victimized; use the resources and tools available to make an informed decision.  Taking the time to educate yourself will leave you feeling confident in your selection of contractors.    

 

MORTGAGE MODIFACTION SCAMS

Homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments should be aware of con artists and scams that promise to save their homes and lower their mortgage debt or payments.  If you are struggling to pay your mortgage and are seeking a mortgage modification, keep the following tips in mind:

  • You can apply to the federal Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) on your own or with free help from a housing counselor approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  Applying to the program is always FREE.  For more information on how to apply, call the Homeowner's HOPE Hotline at 1-888-995-HOPE (1-888-995-4673) or visit http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/.
  • Only your mortgage service provider has discretion to grant a loan modification.  Therefore, no third party can guarantee or pre-approve your HAMP mortgage modification application.
  • Beware of anyone seeking to charge you in advance for mortgage modification services - in most cases, charging fees in advance for a mortgage modification is illegal.
  • Paying a third party to assist with your HAMP application does not improve your likelihood of receiving a mortgage modification.  Accordingly, beware of individuals or companies that ask you for payment and tout success rates or claim to be "experts" in HAMP.
  • If an individual or company claims to be affiliated with HAMP or displays a seal or logo representing the U.S. government in correspondence or on the web, you should check the connection by calling the Homeowner's HOPE Hotline.
  • Beware of individuals or companies that offer money-back guarantees.
  • Beware of individuals or companies that advise you as a homeowner to stop making your mortgage payments or to not contact your mortgage service provider.
Financially troubled homeowners can avoid scams by working with a HUD-approved housing counselor to understand their options and to apply for assistance.  These counselors are free and you can find them at the phone number or website above.
 
 

LOTTERY/SWEEPSTAKES SCAM

If you play a foreign lottery - on the phone or through the mail - you are violating federal law.  If you respond to one lottery or "investment opportunity", you can expect your name to be placed on a "sucker list".  There is no legitimate reason why anyone would give you a check or money order and ask you to send money anywhere in return.  If that is the deal, it is a scam.  

Remember to be suspicious if you receive your " big prize" notification through the mail and it was mailed bulk rate or if you received a prize for a contest you can't remember entering.

Things to remember about these scams:

  • Don't pay to collect your sweepstakes winnings.  
  • Look-alikes are not the real thing.
  • Phone numbers can deceive.
  • Do NOT deposit checks you did not expect to receive.
  • Requests for payment to claim prizes are illegal.  Real winners pay taxes directly to the government.
  • Government agencies and foundations do not hand out "free" money.  They usually provide grants for specific projects based on extensive applications.
  • Unexpected offers to make money in a foreign business deal are never legitimate.

Actions you can take:

  • Register your phone number on the "Do Not Call Registry" online at www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online at www.ftc.gov or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
  • File a complaint with the United States Post Office by contacting your local post office or you may call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 1-888-877-7644.

 

TRAVEL TIPS

The weather is warming up and summer vacation is on your mind. Make sure those plans include a visit with staff at Citizens Security Bank and Trust before setting out on a summer adventure.

Find out the safest way to travel to ensure you don't run out of cash or lose valuable credit information. Your vacation is your time to relax, let us help ensure you have that peace of mind.

 To help, ICBA offers these tips to consumers about what they need to take care of before they take off on vacation:

  • Let your community bank know when and where you will be traveling so that you will avoid any potential for fraud alerts when out-of-the-ordinary transactions are posted.
  • Call or stop by your community bank to find out what ATM or debit card fees you may be subject to in this country and abroad.
  • If you're traveling overseas, keep in mind that ATMs in many countries only accept four-digit personal identification numbers (PINs) and some countries have keyboards with numbers only, while others do not acknowledge zeros. Ask your community bank if you should create a new PIN for your account before you take your trip.
  • Carry a back-up card that you keep in a separate place. Families or couples may get even greater back-up coverage if each person takes a different card.
  • Make copies of all the cards you'll be carrying. Be sure to copy the front and back of the card. Take a copy with you and give a copy to someone you trust back home. Be sure to also include the security code for the card and the customer-service phone number.
  • Bring a list of emergency phone numbers, but remember, 800 numbers can only be used in the United States and Canada. Be sure to get a number for your bank that you can call if you're out of the country.
  • Many credit cards provide travel accident insurance and traveler's assistance. Ask your community bank what special services are available through your card.
  • Check your balance before you leave. Know the limits on how much you can withdraw. Save all your receipts.

"Whether your destination is overseas or closer to home, it really is better to be safe than sorry. And your community bank can help you make sure that you're safe," Marranca said.

For more information about what to do if you your card is lost or stolen or if you need additional help, visit http://usa.visa.com/personal/using_visa/travel_with_visa.html or http://www.mastercard.us/support/lost-card.html

 

FINANCIAL PREPAREDNESS IN A NATURAL DISASTER

Citizen Security Bank is dedicated to providing financial preparedness tips to our customers in the event of a disaster or emergency.  If a disaster happens, CSB wants you to be prepared.  Our primary objective during these times of duress is to ensure our customers can regain normalcy.  Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) offers the following tips to help consumers prepare before an emergency occurs.

  • Keep marriage and family records, including adoption papers, property deeds, birth certificates, account numbers, car titles or lease contracts, bank and investment account numbers and three years of tax returns in the bank safe-deposit box.  Put each of these documents in a sealed plastic bag to keep out moisture.
  • Make and safeguard additional official copies of critical documents such as birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage certificates and the deed to your home for safekeeping and notify a trustee, close relative or attorney where your important financial information is located.
  • Keep names and contact numbers for executors, trustees and guardians in a safe place, either in your safe deposit box or with a close relative.
  • Take an inventory and keep a list of household valuables.  Taking photographs of these items can help as well.
  • Start and regularly contribute to an emergency fund that can cover at least three or four months of expenses.  This fund should be separate from your savings or investment account.
  • Include extra cash in your home emergency kit, which should include a three-day supply of water, food, a first aid kit, can opener, flashlights, radio and extra batteries.
  • Identify the records that you keep only on computer.  They may not be available if electrical power fails, so make a printout and safeguard them or back them up on an external device or web storage facility.
  • The web can serve as a supplement or back up to paper copies.  Scanned or other electronic documents can be attached to emails and stored in your email account or with secure online back-up services.
  • If you feel flood insurance may be necessary to protect your home, start shopping around.  Contact your insurance agent or visit FEMA's website at www.fema.gov for more information.

For more information and resources, including a copy of the Emergency Financial Preparedness Guide, visit the consumer education and resources section of www.icba.org.

 

WHAT IF I HAVE BEEN A VICTIM OF FRAUD?