All about how it happens and how you can keep it from happening to you.
October 2010 - Posts
The dark and disturbing tale of Chicken Little has a lesson or two for consumers when it comes to identity theft. The story goes like this…
Chicken Little loves walking in the woods, checking out the trees, smelling the flowers, listening to the birds singing…she’s a real tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, Mother Earth-loving kind of chick.
But as she was walking through her favorite part of the woods one morning, an acorn falls from a tree and hits her on the head. Now, you’d think since she’s spent so much time in the woods, Chicken Little would know what an acorn was and that they sometimes fall to the ground. But she must have been sniffing flowers the day that memo went out.
The bump on her noggin scares the little one, so she runs out of the woods, as fast as a chicken can run. Which isn’t very fast, by the way. Chicken Little had decided to run to the Lion and tell him the sky is falling – there could, of course, be no other explanation.
She ran into Henny Penny, who inquires why she’s running. Chicken Little tells her the sky is falling and that she’s on her way to the Lion. Henny Penny asks how CL knows the sky is falling, and CL reassures her that since it hit her on the head, it must be so.
The two of them begin running, and they run in to Ducky Lucky. Repeat the previous conversation, and add the Duck.
Ducky Lucky joins them, and off the three of them run, until they run into Foxey Loxey. Now Foxey is a sly one, and asks if they even know where the Lion lives. After a little hemming and hawing, and a little scratching of the dirt with some little bird toes, as well as eyeball rolling, the trio admits they don’t know where the Lion lives. Foxey smiles a Grinch-like grin, and tells the three plump, juicy, sweet little birds that he can take them to the Lion.
So Chicken Little, Henny Penny and Ducky Lucky follow Foxey right to his den. He invites them in, and the three little birds never come out again.
What kind of children’s story is this? The three birds die? Are you kidding?
But we can learn a little something from the methods of Foxey Loxey, which aren’t unlike those used by identity thieves. They’re every bit as sly as the fox, and as consumers, we’ve got to remember that we can’t make it easy for them to steal our personal information. In fact, instead of running around, crying, “The sky is falling!” we must be proactive and ready.
In other words, don’t wait for it to hit you in the head. Learn to recognize a “nut” when you see one.
The biggest mistake many people make when it comes to identity theft is giving their information away…this is illustrated by this spoonerism, a twisted version of the classic "Little Red Riding Hood." Spoonerisms happen when letters are switched around in text.
Little Ride Hooding Red
A long time ago, even before Frenjamin Banklin invented the Paturday Evening Sost, a little girl named Ride Hooding Red started out through a fick thorest to take a lasket of bunch to her grick sandmother. She was lunning arong, summing a hong, when who should buddenly surst upon her but a big wown brolf.
"Where are you going, my metty little praid?" said the berocious feast.
"To my handmother's grouse," said the minnocent aiden, "to take her a sandful of handwiches and some pill dickles. For she is very bick in sed with a figh hever!"
"Well, for sand lakes!!" wied the crolf. "In that case, give ME the bitty prasket and I will run it to your cotmother's grandmage. Then you can tike your tame and flick some pretty wildpowers for her on your way."
So little Red Hiding Rood gave the bass the wolfket and off he went. Finally Little Hood Redding Ride reached her hanny's grouse. The mean,wolfwhile, had somehow disgranned of the poor old sposemother and had bumped into jed with the old nady's lightgown on.
Hed Riding Rood took a grander at what she thought was her gandmother and said, "Oh Grandmother, what igg byes you have!"
"The setter to bee you with, my dear," said the wolf with a smicked wile on his fairy hace.
"And Granny," said Red, "What igg beers you have!!'
"The hetter to BEER you with, my dear," and his byes got even igger...
"Oh Granny," said the girl, "and what tig BEETH you have!!!"
"THE CHETTER TO BOO YOU UP WITH!!!" shouted the wafty crolf, and with that he beeped out of led. Then it was that Ride Hedding Rood saw that it was grand her notmother, but the wolful awf. And here, let us brause peefly to ted a shear for the poor, dear old nan-granny.
But the endy has a happy storing, jadies and lentlemen, for suddenly out of the beer clue came seven woodsy huskmen who not only gatched the little snurl from the daws of jeath, but grabbed the threast by the boat and hopped off his ched!
Now Hide Red Hooding is enmaged to garry a hall, tark and dandsome man and is harry, harry vappy. And although she grisses her dear old manny, she is certainly glad that the wolf, who told such forrible hibs, is door as a deadnail in Fotter's Pield.
Lesson to be learned: Guard what's yours. Identity thieves are just like the big, bad wolf. They're just waiting for consumers to slip up, so they can "boo us up."
Identity theft is growing at a pace that is unprecedented in any other type of crime. Americans are being attacked on every side – it seems someone's always getting ripped off, whether it's through the hacking of e-mail or social network site, credit card theft, skimming, phishing or something as simple as a stolen wallet.
But however it might happen, we can all agree that shielding our personal information with no risk may be impossible. Our information is "out there" and it's out there in a huge way.
But it is crucial to understand how your privacy can be compromised, and what the consequences are of such a breach. And remember, there are steps that you can take to put the odds in your favor.
Much of identity theft, according to the experts, comes down to hands-on activities like dumpster diving, finding a credit card statement or pre-approved offer that wasn't shredded and shoulder surfing, in which someone sees a credit card or PIN number over the shoulder of the victim. Mail theft is also very common.
Another way thieves steal information is through the Internet. They do this by phishing, which involves phony Web site information sent through e-mail. The recipient is asked to "verify" personal information. Skimmers are also used. These contraptions are set up on ATM machines or credit card swipers to steal and store credit card numbers until the thief is ready to download the information. This can even be done wirelessly via laptop or smartphone.
There are some simple things you can do to protect yourself, however. First of all, destroy your private records and statements. Shred them; cross-cut is best. Second, be sure to secure your mail. Empty your mailbox quickly or get a locked box. Even better, rent a post office box.
You should safeguard your Social Security number, and never carry your card with you. Don't print your number on your checks, and don't give it out unless absolutely necessary, and then only if you're sure of the recipient.
Don't leave ATM, credit card or gas station receipts behind, and never let your credit or debit card out of your sight.
Be sure you know who you're dealing with. When someone contacts you about your personal information, verify that they are who they claim to be before you give out any information.
Remove your name from pre-approved credit card offers, and be more defensive with your personal information. If someone asks for your Social Security number or other personal information, ask about their security policies, so that you know how your information will be handled after it is received.
Most importantly, monitor your credit report. Obtain and thoroughly review your report at least once per year, making note of any suspicious or unauthorized activity. If you spot something, alert your credit issuer immediately. You should also review credit and bank statements carefully as well.
If something goes wrong, contact the credit bureaus, and then the creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with. File a report with your local police department, and keep a copy for your files. Keep copies of everything involved in your efforts to clear up any fraud, including copies of written correspondence and records of telephone calls.
Data breach is a term that is used when a company or organization misplaces your information, or when that information is leaked or hacked. That lost information can leave you wide open to becoming a victim of identity theft.
Some of the larger data breaches have become national headlines, while others managed to stay off the front page. There may be no way to know if your information was lost in a data breach, unless you become the victim of identity theft. And then it's too late.
The government has several laws in place that require an organization that loses your information to notify you of the breach. This is, of course, assuming that the organization is aware of it. A company may not realize it has had a breach until customers report they've been victimized by identity theft. This sparks an investigation, and someone finds that a server was hacked or breached in some way.
In the past year, it's estimated that more than 110 million individual records have been compromised since this year started – and that's a conservative estimate, because many were not reported or the organization was unable to determine how many customers were affected.
You can't stop identity theft because you can't control your personal information. Your employer has it, your insurance provider has it, your utility company has it and your government has it…even your schools, doctor and favorite pizza place have it.
The best defense is to know how your identity can be misused, watch for the warning signs and have a plan of action for when it happens.
Your identity can be stolen and used to obtain credit or bank accounts, get medical services, commit crimes, obtain fraudulent identification, obtain a cell phone, get a mortgage or payday loan, or turn the utilities on at the thief's new residence. There are a multitude of ways the information can be used, but in a nutshell, a thief can use your information to do just about anything you would do with it.
If your identity has been compromised, you will likely hear about it first when you receive a call from a debt collector. You may also notice fraudulent or questionable charges on your bank or credit card statement, or your credit report.
To get things back in order, you will first want to file a police report, and contact your creditors and your bank. You will also want to contact the one of the three credit bureaus (which is required to contact the other two) to place fraud alerts on your credit report.
Work with creditors to clean up the bad marks on your credit report, and recognized that restoring your good name won't happen overnight. It is possible to set things right – so be patient.