Fraud & Identity Protection

Con artists and thieves have expanded their repertoire of ways to obtain your personal information (resulting in identity theft) or money (a.k.a.: fraud), particularly considering the advancements in technology that have occurred over the years. As a consumer you are inevitably put at risk for numerous types of fraud.

Types of Fraud

There are a variety of ways that others can obtain your personal information and compromise your finances. Check out this list of common fraud and scam types for more information.

ATM/ Skimmers

Criminals obtain your personal identification number (PIN) from ATMs through “skimming.” An example of this would be inserting a very small camera inside the ATM’s card reader to obtain your account information.


Sellers and buyers are both at risk of fraud when using online auction sites like eBay. Scams like over paying for an item or non-delivery of items are gaining popularity.


Currency or checks produced without the permission of the government or account holder.

Financial Phishing, SMiShing

A scammer impersonates a legitimate-looking business or financial institution and sends an email or text message asking for your personal financial information.  Remember that valid businesses and banks will never ask you for sensitive information over insecure channels.

Financial Aid

Students and/or parents falsifying financial aid application forms by underreporting incomes and assets in hopes to receive more aid than eligible. Penalties for false reporting are very serious and should be avoided at all costs.


Thieves use your social security number, debit/credit card number and/or other personal information without your consent to commit fraud or other crimes. Offenses can range from taking a loan out or renting an apartment in your name. This type of theft can be done in a variety of ways from a thief finding old bank statements in the trash (aka dumpster diving) to simply stealing your wallet.


Advertisements from job firms promising you guaranteed employment under the pretense that you give out your personal information or pay for services prior to receiving anything.


Fraud that occurs over the internet. This comes in many forms that include: using auction websites, buying items online and investing money online.  Protect yourself by doing research on the company before you give out sensitive information.


Scam operations that pretend to be legitimate scholarship foundations or organizations. Beware of scholarships that have an application fee or scholarship matching programs that guarantees success.

Software Piracy

Installing software more times than the license permits or distributing copies of it. Read the license carefully to make sure you understand what the terms of use are for that particular software.


Victims are notified that they have won a large monetary prize or lottery with the contingency that they must submit money or personal information in order to redeem the prize. Remember, legitimate lotteries will never use email to notify a winner.

Learn more at USA.Gov's List of Financial Crimes & Scams

Protect Your Identity

Identity – (1) The state or fact of remaining the same one or ones, as uner varying aspects or conditions; (2) the condition of being oneself or itself, and not another; (3) the state or fact of being the same one as described

 In the world of personal finance, your identity is made up of your personal information, including a social security number (SSN), banking information, creditworthiness and credit history, etc., and must be protected against fraud and theft.

Tips to Protect Yourself:

  1. Do not carry your SSN, individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) or PIN with you and don’t share with others.  Keep in a safe place like a lockbox.
  2. Do not loan out your ID or Driver’s License to others.  If the party you lend the ID to uses it inappropriately, it could cause a lot of problems for you (legal and otherwise).
  3. Keep credit and debit cards/ checks in a safe place at all times.
  4. Don’t share personal information on social media sites.  Information like your full birthday, dog’s name, or address can compromise your identity.
  5. Beware of Peer to Peer (P2P) file-sharing software as they can leave your computer vulnerable to attack.
  6. Keep anti-virus software up to date and use strong firewall protection on your computer. 
  7. Avoid clicking on suspicious ads.
  8. Passwords should be difficult for others to guess.  Strong passwords often consist of at least 6 characters and have a variation of numbers and letters with some capitalization.
  9. Do not play foreign lotteries and do your research on companies that are overseas.

You can now take this Identity Theft Quiz to see if you are prepared with the knowledge to protect yourself from identity theft!

SMMC also has an infographic describing how to protect yourself on the internet and in real life.

If you didn’t get enough links from our helpful table, there are a few more below that you can check out: