ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sarah of Albuquerque got a strange letter recently purporting to be from Discover and asking her for proof of citizenship and proof of her occupation (she’s retired), as well as proof that “I’m not laundering money.”
The letter was from Salt Lake City, but it was not from the same address marked on the statements the credit card company sends out.
There was no name or signature on the letter, but Sarah was to provide the requested information at either the website or phone number listed.
She did not, sensing it was a scam.
Derek Cuculich, a Discover spokesman, said he had not heard of any such letters being received last year. However, he said, “Our fraud team is always looking at those” types of incidents.
He recommended a new service the credit card company launched recently that alerts customers if their Social Security numbers are found on “risky websites known to illegally sell or trade personal data,” according to a news release.
The service, which is free, also alerts customers if any new credit cards, car loans or other accounts are opened on their Experian credit report. Experian is one of the three major credit-reporting agencies.
The alerts can be made by text or email, Cuculich said.
“These new alerts are aimed at helping Discover cardmembers protect themselves from identity theft or fraud,” according to the news release.
Cuculich said that card members who suspect fraudulent activity can call either 1-800-Discover, or the company’s U.S.-based Fraud Specialists any time at 1-866-240-7938.
The feds have settled a case with online tax preparer TaxSlayer, LLC, and there are some lessons to be learned about turning to the computer to get your taxes done.
The Federal Trade Commission said hackers used names and passwords stolen from other sites to log into TaxSlayer Online, which is operated by a Georgia company.
They were able to do that because people often use the same passwords for a variety of functions. The thieves hit it lucky in the case of 8,800 accounts and were able to access private information about those taxpayers.
The FTC said TaxSlayer did not require users to have strong passwords nor did it have a written information security program or a way to assess possible identity theft. The settlement requires the company to have a security program and to take other safeguards.
Here are some lessons, when it comes to keeping tax information safe:
• Use a strong password or pass phrase when logging into any online tax filing program. Use at least 10 characters, the FTC advises, because “longer, unique, and memorable passwords or passphrases (which are a sequence of words) are better than short passwords.” And don’t reuse a password you’ve used for another account.
• Choose multi-factor authentication. In fact, if you use a tax prep software, make sure it requires this. This will involve the company calling or texting you with a PIN you’ll you use in addition to login and password. In the TaxSlayer case, hackers were no longer able to get into accounts once the company started required this extra level of security.
• Never use public Wi-Fi when working on your taxes. It’s easy for hackers to get access to your personal information if you do so.
Xcel Energy recently warned customers in New Mexico and Texas about “another round of scamming attempts.”
Fake utility employees are calling to say someone is on their way to disconnect service unless a supposedly delinquent bill is paid immediately through use of a debit card. In some instances, the callers try to “make their pitch even more convincing by providing the last four digits of the vehicle number of the serviceman they claim is on his way to disconnect service,” the utility says.
The company is reminding customers that they will receive a notice in the mail before a serviceman is sent to disconnect the meter.
Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at email@example.com or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210â€‹.