Susan Feinberg was stunned to learn criminals had raided her home-equity line of credit by pretending to be her.
"We discovered they had cashed checks for $17,000," Feinberg said.
She wasn't sure how crooks got their hands on crucial information like her Social Security number and mother's maiden name, but experts say criminals are finding new ways to solicit the information online. In fact, some of America's worst scams are exploiting victims through new and ever-changing technology.
"We've cautioned against phishing emails that trick you into revealing your personal information," says Consumer Reports' Kim Kleman. "But now, scammers have figured out how to lure you on your own cell phone."
It's called "smishing." It usually arrives in the form a text message that appears to come from a major retailer. The text message contains a link, or requests a reply, offering items like free gift vouchers or money. But experts say that's not what you get. Clicking on - or responding to - the message can result in your identity being stolen.
But even older email phishing scams are evolving. We found phony emails that look like legitimate business messages, including one requesting a flight confirmation, and another that appeared to be an invoice from UPS.
"Old-fashioned scams still work," Kleman says. "We found plenty that come in the mail, as a knock on the door, or over the phone."
For instance, we found examples of calls from people saying they're from a reputable company, offering to slash your credit-card interest rate or fix a virus they've detected on your home computer. All they need from you is an upfront fee, or sensitive financial information like a credit card number.
"The bottom line here is very simple," Kleman warns. "Never, ever give out your personal information or money to someone who seeks you out."
Fortunately, the bank agreed Susan Feinberg was not responsible for the $17,000 crooks were able to con from her. She has since set up a fraud alert with all three of the major credit reporting agencies. Consumer Reports also encourages a security freeze, which blocks access to your credit reports.
More information on these and other scams can be found here: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/scams1012.htm