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ID theft

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

August 2011 - Posts

  • Off to college – and possible identity theft

    It's that time of year again – students are headed off to college, many of them for the first time. They will experience a college class for the first time. They will live in a dorm for the first time. They'll meet new people, and go new places. But what you don't want them to experience is identity theft.


    College students are often targeted by identity thieves, so it's important to make sure that before you pack your son or daughter up to go off to campus, you discuss what to do to prevent identity theft.


    Your child will be hit with lots of pre-approved credit card offers. In addition to explaining to your child why he shouldn't open multiple credit card accounts, explain that he should shred these offers before throwing them away. 


    Explain to your child that he should never leave his laptop unattended, and that he should always sign off of any site he's using before shutting down. Make sure he knows the importance of using good passwords, and changing them often. 


    You child should check his bank account on a regular basis, but he should also check his bank and credit card statements, to be sure there's no monkey business going on. If you can catch fraudulent activity in the early stages, much less damage will be done – if any.


    Encourage your child to get his credit report annually. All consumers are entitled to one free copy of their credit report each year, and your child should take advantage of this. Review the report together, being careful to look for any errors or fraudulent entries.


    If your child has become an identity theft victim, contact his bank and credit card companies immediately, as well as campus security. You should also help him contact the three credit bureaus, and place a fraud alert on his credit report, so no more accounts can be opened. The alert lasts for 90 days.


    You should also report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT. 


    By taking these steps, your child will likely only have two things to worry about this semester – finals and which fraternity or sorority to pledge.

    Posted Aug 30 2011, 11:09 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Credit card issuer to fight identity theft with texting

    Credit card issuer USAA is using technology to help fight identity theft.


    The company is now sending text messages whenever any unusual or suspicious activity is detected in a customer's account. USAA says it's the first to offer this kind of "tenting" to protect customers. 


    Customers may also get messages asking about attempted purchases, and they are expected to respond whether they are using the card or not.


    "This service will actually send a message to the member to ask them if this is a valid transaction or potentially fraudulent, and they can actually reply," said Tom Shaw, USAA vice president.


    The service will also text you if there is a problem with your card. So if you're out to dinner with friends and your card is rejected or there's some other issue, you'll be notified in a more discreet manner.


    USAA customers are asked to sign up for the service now.


    USAA is a bank that serves members of the military and their families. The company launched an app for iPhone in August 2009 that allows customers to deposit checks by phone. The app was installed 150,000 times and processed $150 million in deposits its first three days.

    Posted Aug 16 2011, 10:46 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Is hacking someone's Facebook profile identity theft? Maybe so...

    It's no secret that identity theft is an ever-changing beast. The ID thief knows that he must constantly change how he goes about stealing personal and financial information in order to commit his crimes. He must change because consumers are becoming more and more savvy, not only about what identity theft is, but also about how to protect themselves.


    Another thing that's changing is how identity theft is viewed – are there new types of identity theft? What can be considered identity theft today that wasn't yesterday?


    An interesting case has emerged in California involving teenagers and Facebook. It seems that a male juvenile, Rolando S., received an unsolicited text message containing the password of a female juvenile's email account. The message was received by several teens, but Rolando was the only one who used the password to gain access to the victim's Facebook profile. 


    Once he had access, Rolando began to post sexually-oriented comments about the victim. She then contacted the authorities, and a suit was soon filed.


    The male juvenile is being tried under a California identity theft statute, which states that a person has willfully gained personal identifying information and used it for an unlawful purpose.


    The juvenile's lawyer has argued that Rolando didn't willfully obtain the password information, nor did he use it for an unlawful purpose.


    The court found that while Rolando didn't seek out the password information, he did willfully use the information to gain access to the victim's Facebook account and post the  messages. The court also found that unlawful purpose is not limited to behavior that is codified under criminal law – it can also include other activities covered under common law, like the defamation of character that occurred in this case.


    The most interesting part of this case is that it sets a precedent that formal recognition of a person's identity is more than just a Social Security number, driver's license number, financial information or date of birth. Our identities are also about how we represent ourselves to our friends, family and the public. With today's social media, email accounts, blogging and digital devices, this is even more true. 


    The definition of identity is growing – as will the definition of identity theft. Here's hoping the justice system can keep up.

    Posted Aug 09 2011, 12:22 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Damage from identity theft can be long-term

    Experts say more than 10 million people are victimized by identity theft each and every year – and that number is growing. The effects of this crime are far-reaching and vary in severity from case to case.


    When a person is victimized, there is more to it than just dollars and time lost. There is also an emotional impact. Short-term emotional responses, as part of a survey about the emotional impact of identity theft, showed that 37 percent of those surveyed said they felt violated. Sixty percent said they felt betrayed, while 63 percent said they felt a sense of powerlessness. 


    Businesses are also impacted. Businesses lose a whopping $221billion per year due to identity theft, because they are prime targets for identity theft. Databases in most any business will contain customer names and addresses, Social Security numbers, and financial information – all information thieves would give their right arms for.


    When it comes to recovery, the process of restoring your identity and settling the damage that comes as a result of identity theft varies from case to case. A survey estimated that victims who had an account taken over by a thief spend somewhere around 58 hours repairing the damage. When there was a new account set up, the repair time went up to 165 hours.


    In some cases, victims suffer indefinitely, and often find themselves with irreparable damage, with a compromised credit score and no relief in sight.  


    If you've been victimized by identity theft, contact your local police, and the three credit bureaus to be sure to lock down your credit file. Take action quickly. You know the thieves will.

    Posted Aug 02 2011, 01:16 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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