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ID theft

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

May 2011 - Posts

  • What can I do to protect myself against ID theft?

    Millions of consumers, as well as corporations large and small, lose millions of dollars to identity theft each year. Getting educated on how to prevent it can and should be a top priority for everyone. But even knowing what identity theft is and how it happens isn't an iron-clad prevention guarantee.


    But there are ways to increase your protection level. Here's what you can do:


    • Limit what you carry in your wallet. Bring only the cards and ID you need. Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet.


    • Shred any and all documents bearing your personal information before you discard it.


    • Use a locking mailbox at home. Never leave outgoing mail in your mailbox with the red flag raised – that lets thieves know mail is just  sitting there, unprotected.


    • Cover the key pad when you are using an ATM and typing in your PIN.  


    • Lock up your passport, Social Security card, and financial and personal documents in a fireproof box or safe, or store then in a safe deposit box at the bank.


    • If you receive an unsolicited e-mail, don't click on any links within it. The link could contain mailware.


    • Make sure your computer is equipped with the latest malware and anti-virus software. Keep your computer up to date and run regular scans to check for viruses.


    • Consider signing up with an identity theft protection service, since you can't monitor the Internet yourself 24/7.


    • Use your smartphone wisely. Don't post your location on social networking sites, and opt out of location-based advertising and turn off location sharing capabilities on social networking sites. 


    Remember: if it looks like a scam or makes you feel suspicious, or if you think the person behind you at the ATM is standing a little too close, err on the side of caution. Being vigilant is your best line of defense against identity theft.

    Posted May 31 2011, 10:53 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • When it comes to phishing scams, when in doubt, don't

    P.T. Barnum famously said, "There's a sucker born every minute." That's exactly what identity thieves are hoping for.


    One of the most common ways thieves are stealing personal information is through phishing. The practice works like this: you receive an unsolicited e-mail that appears to be from a legitimate source, like your bank or credit union. The e-mail asks you to click on a link that becomes a pop-up window in which you are asked to verify your personal, banking or credit card information. The message is marked urgent, and sometimes might even say your account will be closed if you don't provide the necessary information. 


    Very often, these e-mails also contain malware which, once it has infiltrated your computer, will provide a criminal with your most personal details. Once he has your information, he can commit crimes, obtain loans, employment and health care, and empty your bank accounts. 


    A legitimate business will never send you a message asking for your private details. Don't follow instructions or click on links given in an e-mail message, even though it might appear to be real. Verify that a message has been sent by contacting the bank or company directly.


    You can't possibly know about every scam out there. But it does pay to understand how they work, and how to recognize them. The best possible advice in this situation is this: when you're unsure about something, don't click or respond. Period.

    Posted May 24 2011, 10:49 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Obama administration unveils proposed cybersecurity plan

    President Barack Obama's administration recently unveiled its proposed cybersecurity plan which will, so administration officials say, protect personal privacy and the nation's computer infrastructure.


    Here's the plan, according to the White House:


    • There are lots of laws already in place state-to-state to help consumers and business owners protect themselves against identity theft. These laws require businesses to notify consumers if there is a data breach. The new proposal will help businesses by standardizing 47 state laws that include this requirement.


    • Laws for computer criminals aren't strict enough, according to administration officials. The proposal clarifies penalties for cyber crimes, and sets mandatory minimum punishments.


    • The plan will offer federal assistance to private sector companies, state or local governments that suffer a data breach, as well as clarifying what type of assistance the Department of Homeland Security can offer.


    • The proposed plan makes it clear that entities that learn of new computer viruses or other threats can report this information to the federal government, while making sure that the shared information does not impinge on individual privacy and civil liberties.


    • The plan emphasizes transparency to help keep the nation's critical infrastructure, as well as those who operate it, accountable for the cybersecurity of that infrastructure.


    • The plan makes provision for the federal government to recruit and retain employees who are qualified to keep the infrastructure safe, and to permit the government and private industry to tap into each others' expertise.


    • The proposed plan would make permanent the Department of Homeland Security's authority to oversee intrusion prevention systems in order to protect government computers. 


    The proposal states that it will ensure the protection of individuals' privacy and civil liberties through a "framework designed to expressly address the challenges of cybersecurity."


    Administration officials say the plan is a work in progress, and that it would clarify the government's role in protecting the nation's infrastructure, and that it favors public/private cooperation over regulation.


    The biggest negative of the plan is that it doesn't address the president's authority to intervene during a cyber emergency. But White House officials say the president already has sufficient emergency authority to act under existing rules.


    The biggest positive is the federal data breach notification requirement when personal information held by companies is exposed. It would replace the patchwork of 47 state notification laws, and builds on the best elements of those laws.  

    Posted May 17 2011, 10:52 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Is it safe to use my debit card online?

    It's important to remember that while credit and debit cards may look identical, not all plastic is the same. It is important for consumers to know and understand the difference between a debit card and a credit card. There is a difference in how the transactions are processed and the protections offered to consumers when they use them.


    While debit and credit cards each have advantages, each is better suited for certain situations. It's also important to note that since your debit card is a direct link to your bank account, there are times it's best to avoid handing over that information.


    There are some situations when it would be best to just leave your debit card in your wallet. First of all, you don't want to use your debit card online. If you have problems with a purchase or the card number is stolen, it's a particular vulnerability because the card is tied to a bank account. The Federal Reserve's Regulation E covers debit card transfers, and sets consumer liability for fraudulent purchases at $50, provided they notify the bank within two days of discovering that their card or card number has been stolen. Some banks have set the liability at zero. 


    Don't use your debit card in a restaurant. It's one of the few places you have to let your card leave your sight when you use it. 


    It's also tricky to use your debit card at gas stations and hotels, because sometimes these merchants will place holds to cover customers who leave without paying the entire bill. This means that even though you only bought $10 in gas, you could have temporary bank hold for $50 to $100 on your account. The same goes for hotels. Ask about deposits and holds up fringe. 


    Be smart when you use your debit card, and never be afraid to ask questions. And to be even smarter, pay in cash if you're in an uncertain situation. 

    Posted May 10 2011, 11:10 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Be careful when using that ATM

    Watch how easy it is to be fooled and just give away your ATM information. 

    http://tempuri.org/tempuri.html
    Posted May 03 2011, 11:00 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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