Monday, June 18, 2007

Think before filling out that Free Prize or Sweepstakes Card

When you are walking through the mall, or at a fair, or even online, chances are you’ll get asked to fill out a form for a chance to win some wonderful prize or receive something for free.

And why not, it costs you nothing and someone’s got to win that new laptop, or the car, or the trip to the moon. A pen in hand and 60 seconds later you feel like you may be getting a call or letter for some fantastic prize. And you were sure to put down your phone number, so when you win, they’ll call right away.

We all like to be optimistic. We all want to think we have got a shot at the big one! I don’t know what the big one is, but it’s big!

Now let’s take a walk to the other side of the isle called reality. In reality there is no real prize, or the person who won it lives in the Arctic circle and the company cannot deliver it. If there is a prize, the barriers to get it may be out of reach. You get the picture, they are trying to get your personal information for a much bigger catch.

But what you may ultimately end up with, is your identity stolen, and you’ll become the victim of identity theft.

When you filled out that form for a prize, you labeled yourself as an optimist. The company who requested the information, may be legitimate, and there may be the prize,, and but may sell that list of names collected to a marketing company. You may end up on a “sucker list”.

Identity thief rings buy “sucker lists” from direct marketing companies. You’ll then be a target for a phone scam or “vishing”. You’ve already given them a good reason to call because you are optimistic or in their terms a “sucker”. Now your wide open, and they will throw every trick in the book at you. This is what they do, this is what they are good at.

The odds of getting your identity stolen are much greater than winning anything, so don’t bother trying to win by giving up information. You will have taken a significant step in defending your identity.