By Sarah Mansheim
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was making the rounds this week warning West Virginians about potential scams in the area, visiting Lewisburg on Tuesday. Hitting the road was necessary, he said, thanks to the recent report from the Federal Trade Commission which lists Beckley as ninth in the country per capita for identity theft complaints.
There is a new scam, he said, involving a phone call from a person claiming to be from DirecTV. The caller asks for confirmation of the last four digits of the consumer’s social security number.
“We urge people to be cautious any time someone calls out of the blue and asks for personal, private information,” said Morrisey.
Morrisey said scammers can use the last four digits of a Social Security number to guess a consumer’s entire number, especially if they have access to when and where the person was born.
“Having a consumer’s Social Security number is like winning the golden ticket for scammers,” Morrisey said. “It opens up all sorts of options for them to steal someone’s identity, and it happens more than people may think.” The scammer can then use the consumer’s identity to set up new banking and credit card accounts or sell the consumer’s information on the black market.
Morrisey said consumers should do their best to keep their Social Security number private including:
• Never provide the number to a person who is calling, emailing, texting, or using social media, even to correct erroneous numbers the caller provides.
• If a person purports to represent a government agency, reputable business, or other entity, call the business or agency yourself and find out why they need the number. Most reputable businesses will never ask for your Social Security number.
• Use an alternative identification number, such as a driver’s license number.
• Shred all sensitive documents, including tax documents, health care statements, and banking information.
• Question why the person is asking for your Social Security number, whether an alternate identification number can be used, whether the number will be kept in your records, and what steps the person will take to protect your privacy.
“Consumers always should be diligent in protecting their Social Security number,” Morrisey said. “Once your number is in the hands of scammers or identity thieves, it is very difficult and time consuming to restore your good name and credit.”
If you have been a victim of identity theft, call the Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division by calling 800-368-8808 or the Eastern Panhandle field office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239. To file a report online, go to www.wvago.gov.