What is Pretexting?

Pretexting can be defined as the practice of obtaining someone else's personal information under false pretense, an illegal act that leads to identity theft.  After sweet talking you out of the information, a pretexter will then sell those details on the black market, allowing others to open credit accounts and commit all types of fraud in your name.  

Pretexters are quite savvy and will employ various strategies to acquire your personal information.  For instance, an imposter may call on the phone asking you to participate in a survey.  After getting enough information, they use the details and sell them or call your financial institution.  A pretexter will assume your identity and attempt to access your accounts.  They may claim to have forgotten a checkbook or debit card in order to get more information about the account.  If successful, a thief may be able to obtain you full bank account number, Social Security number and the balance of your investment and savings portfolio. 

Laws Against Pretexting

As amended by federal law, the act of pretexting is illegal.  Here a few instances that can get these criminals in a world of trouble if they are caught using this strategy: 

•                     -Using false or fictitious statements or documentation to acquire personal information from a consumer.  This may be from their financial institution or directly from the consumer

•                     -Using lost, stolen or fraudulent documents to acquire personal information from a financial institution or directly from the consumer

•                    -Asking someone else to obtain a consumer's information using false statements or fraudulent or stolen documents

Pretexting Protection

While laws are in favor of probable victims, it is still wise to protect yourself from pretexting and reduce the risk of identity theft.  Here a few tips to keep your information safe:

Keep your personal information sacred - Sensitive details should be never provided via telephone, email or online website unless you are the party who initiated the contact or know exactly who you are communicating with.  Remember that legitimate companies in which you associate with should have all the information they need about you beforehand. 

Keep an eye on your statement cycles - If bank account and credit card statements are not following a routine schedule, immediately contact the issuing company and inquire about the problem.

Carefully review all statements - Any financial statements you receive should be promptly reviewed for accuracy.  If you happen to observe any discrepancies, contact the issuing company immediately. 

Educate yourself about pretexting - Pretexting has been around for sometime and many financial institutions are aware of this crime.  Do not be afraid to ask of their policy about sharing your information with others.  Specifically inquire about which policies will protect you from pretexting.

Educate your family about pretexting -   Your family should also be aware of identity theft.  Thoroughly explain the dangers of pretexting and designate yourself or another family member as the only individuals with authorization to provide personal information regarding the household. 

If you feel that you have been victimized by pretexting, it is very crucial that you act quickly.  You should immediately contact your financial institution and report any suspicions.  It would also be wise to close any accounts that have been compromised, and you should assign new PIN numbers or passwords. 

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