Identity thieves are always searching for new ways to dupe consumers. Looks like they've found a couple more.
The newest scam being reported is used to exploit people who need money fast, and that includes cash-strapped college students. The scam works like this: the thief pays the target to open wireless contracts that include new smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. These targets are referred to as "credit mules," which is a term used when a scammer uses another person's identity and credit to get something of value such as, in this scam, a wireless device.
After the target purchases a number of phones under separate contracts using stolen or fabricated names and information, the thief then pays them and tells them to cancel the contracts within the time frame stated on the contract, which is usually 15 to 30 days.
The thief will then take the phones and unlock them, selling them for a profit. Cell phones are "locked" when purchased – which means a software code has been placed by the manufacturer on the phone, as required by the service provider, such as Verizon or AT&T. This prohibits use of the phone with any other carrier but the one designated. An unlocked phone can be sold for hundreds of dollars on the street in the U.S., and for thousands overseas.
Unfortunately for the "mules," when they attempt to cancel the contracts, they find they can't do so without returning the phones, and they are stuck with not only the contract's monthly service fees for each phone, but they also have to pay for the phones. If they don't pay, it ruins their credit.
Another scam involves ATM cards and PINs. It works like this: a person approaches you and says that if you give him your ATM card and PIN, he will withdraw a predetermined amount of money. You're then told to report the loss to your bank and the police, and that the bank will refund your money. The thief offers to give you a cut of the money that's withdrawn.
The problem is that once you've given him your card and PIN, he's gone. And so is your money.
If he actually goes through with the scam, and you split the withdrawal and report the theft as instructed, you become guilty of fraud, theft by receiving and conspiracy, which is a felony.
If you are approached by someone singing either of these tunes, don't fall for it. Get a good description of the person who approached you, and report the incident to local law enforcement.
To contact editor Angye Morrison, call 382-4321.