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ID theft

All about how it happens and how you can keep it from happening to you.

March 2011 - Posts

  • ID theft protection: Are you really getting what you pay for?

    Identity theft has become a national problem, with more than 10 million victims in the United States in the past year. The proposed solution is identity theft protection or credit monitoring, but how do you now if you should purchase identity theft protection?

    Identity theft protection plans claim to protect you from the costs associated with identity theft and the process of cleaning up afterward. Credit monitoring reviews your credit report at each of the three credit bureaus and notifies you of any changes that might indicate a problem.

    But should you purchase this type of protection?

    Consumer experts say most people don’t need identity theft protection. Why? Because it doesn’t reimburse you for the money that is stolen from you, although some will pay expenses like lost wages and legal fees. But even if they promise to cover some of the costs, the burden of dealing with creditors still falls on you, because creditors don’t want to deal with anyone else.

    As an alternative to spending your money on ID theft protection, take steps to prevent becoming a victim. Protect your Social Security number, and pay your bills online instead of having them mailed to you. But be sure to use a secure site to do so.

    Shred documents that contain your personal information, and opt out of credit card offers. You should also be sure to order copies of your credit report from all three bureaus and review them carefully. You can place a free 90-day alert with any of the bureaus if you suspect there’s a problem. This will require lenders to contact you before granting credit in your name.

    Your homeowners insurance policy may already cover you for identity theft protection. Review your policy to find out.

    If you do decide to purchase identity theft protection or sign up with a credit monitoring service, be sure you know exactly what you’re getting for your money. Ask yourself: Is it worth it or is it just providing a false sense of security?

    Author's Choice: We highly recommend the identity theft protection service, LifeLock.

    Posted Mar 29 2011, 10:57 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Watch out for smishing scams

    There's a new scam on the rise, and those behind it are targeting cell phone users. 


    Like traditional "phishing," "smishing" scammers often pose as a bank or lottery sweepstakes, asking customers to contact them immediately about a pressing issue that needs to be discussed.


    The scam asks the cell phone owner to call a toll-free number and provide information, such as debit card, account number or password, to a fake automated system. Victims have said they received text messages claiming their bank accounts are frozen, and the message provided a toll-free number to call to clear things up.


    The hackers are betting that you'll respond with the vital information they need to commit identity theft. In the lottery smishing scam, hackers want you to wire money before you can receive your cash prize. Victims receive text messages that read, "Win cash now!" and "Short on cash? Reply here!" These are red flags that a lottery smishing scam is in the works. Many of these scams come with embedded links that can spread viruses to the phone if clicked.


    If you suspect you are the target of a smishing scam, you should not reply to the text message. Texting back is exactly what the hackers what you to do, since it tells them you have an active cell phone. If the message contains a link, do not click on it.


    You should report the text immediately to your cell phone service provider and the police. You should also call your bank, if the text is claiming it's from your bank, to verify.


    Consider blocking the number from which the text was sent. If your phone does not have this feature, contact your cell phone service provider. 


    Remember: when it comes to identity theft scams in general, the best advice is when in doubt, don't.

    Posted Mar 22 2011, 12:58 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Scammers already taking advantage of Japan disaster

    Identity thieves, scammers and fraudsters think nothing of exploiting and profiting from human misery. The disaster in Japan, which has stunned the world in the past few days, is no different.


    An e-mail is currently making the rounds which appears to be from the British Red Cross. The subject line reads: "Japan Tsunami Appeal/British Red Cross." The correspondence appears to be from a legitimate Red Cross e-mail address.


    The e-mail is a letter which contains information about the disaster and relief efforts already in progress, and it states that the Japanese Red Cross has agreed to accept donations from the United Kingdom. The e-mail goes on to ask for money, to be donated via MoneyBookers. A Yahoo e-mail address is given, and the recipient is encouraged to donate using that address, or to click on a link to a MoneyBookers Web site to sign up for an account with the organization and make a donation.


    Since the Red Cross, in any country, never sends out solicitations to individuals, this e-mail can officially be stamped a fraud. If you'd like to donate, search for the Red Cross site yourself and donate there, or use the official sites of other legitimate organizations.


    It's also important that you take care when searching for news regarding the disaster. Hackers often poison search engine results to exploit breaking news in order to spread malware. Visit legitimate news sites only to keep up to date on developing news stories.


    Be cautious of links which offer "dramatic" footage of a news story. Malicious hackers and scammers know people find it hard to resist clicking on such links and they plant malware and scams at the end of them.


    Posted Mar 15 2011, 11:20 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Watch out for the guy with the iPad case – he might be a thief

    The iPad has taken the world by storm. It's everywhere, and it seems like everyone has one. No one would think twice about seeing someone walking in a crowd, carrying an iPad case.

    And that's just what identity thieves are counting on. Review this video about iPads and RFID, and you'll see why, and what you can do to protect yourself.

    http://tempuri.org/tempuri.html
    Posted Mar 08 2011, 10:24 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Want to protect yourself from identity theft? Don't move to Brownsville

    During the last decade, cases of stolen tax returns have surged, while overall identity theft complaints to federal authorities have declined.


    Analyzing more than 1.4 million identity theft records from the Federal Trade Commission from 2005 through early 2010, a recent study found that consumer complaints have declined sharply in recent years – 20.2 percent from 2008 to 2010. Identity theft experts and victims attribute the decline to increased vigilance by credit card companies and other financial institutions. 


    Logging the most complaints were residents in California (230,269), Texas (144,272) and Florida (105,241). Over the five-year period, the most common type of identity theft was new credit cards obtained through the theft of victims' personal information. This type of theft accounted for 13.2 percent of all ID theft complaints.


    Another growing trend is the use of a victim's identity by a criminal to obtain electric or gas service at an address. In 2005, the FTC reported 8,427 complaints of utility identity theft. According to FTC records, complaints of a thief using a victim's credit card dropped nearly 32 percent from 2005 to 2009, the last year there was full data available. The drop has been attributed to the financial industry's success at finding and squashing identity theft cases, while providing full reimbursements to consumers.


    But some areas of identity theft are continuing to grow. At the top of that lis is stolen tax returns, which jumped from 11,010 complaints in 2005, to 33,774 in 2009. 


    FTC records also show that there are some hotspots for identity theft. Brownsville, Texas, which is along the U.S./Mexico border, has the highest volume of identity theft complaints, attributed to illegal immigrant and drug smuggling activity in that region.


    Another flashpoint is Brooklyn, N.Y., which experts say is due to its proximity to New York City, headquarters for mafia groups and international crime rings that operate massive identity theft and fraud scams throughout the U.S.

    Posted Mar 01 2011, 11:10 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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