These cattle calls for vendors are a one-stop shopping experience for busy grooms- and brides-to-be. But they’re also a place where fraudsters prey on unsuspecting couples. Instead of finding a caterer or photographer, couples may find themselves victims of identity theft.
“When couples give out too much information at bridal shows, they’re saying `I do’ to identity fraud,” said Raul Vargas, an Identity Theft 911 fraud operations team leader. “They need to say, `I don’t.’”
Enticed by opportunities to win free giveaways such as a dream honeymoon, couples supply exhibitors with personal information on raffle tickets or entry cards. Also, vendors themselves often ask for personal information, but Vargas advises against giving out account numbers, Social Security numbers or driver’s license numbers.
When couples fill out paperwork with personal information, it’s impossible to know where it will wind up. A vendor may not thoroughly shred documents. Or paperwork can wind up sitting for months in boxes in a stranger’s car.
Couples also make the mistake of paying vendors with personal checks, which have all the information fraudsters need: a name, address, phone number, bank name and address, and bank account number.
Sharing too much information and using checks makes couples vulnerable to:
• Credit card
• Utilities fraud
• Check fraud
• Email phishing attacks
“The spam is effective because it’s specific,” Vargas said. “It purports to be from a legitimate florist or photographer and is designed to get people to give out their account information.”
Vargas suggests couples open a free Gmail account that’s separate from their regular email accounts. This will reduce the amount of spam to their regular email account. Couples also should consider using just one credit card account for all wedding-related expenses. That way it’s easy to check statements and limit exposure to fraud.
The more couples can do to protect themselves from identity theft before getting married, the better. Vargas recommends carefully reviewing credit reports and talking to your future spouse about any past incidents of identity theft.
“You can really get yourself in trouble if you start adding a name to your account without having all of the information,” Vargas said. “That’s not how you want to start a marriage.”