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ID theft

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

February 2012 - Posts

  • Can't I just protect my own identity?

    It seems that everyone has heard of identity theft, yet many people still have questions about it. Here are a couple of the most commonly asked questions.


    • How much of a problem is identity theft and how long does it take to recover?


    Each year for the past several years, the Federal Trade Commission has listed identity theft as its No. 1 complaint. Victim losses are somewhere in the neighborhood of about $1.1 billion a year. And the FTC estimates the average victim spends about 170 to 300 hours working toward recovering after an identity theft. 


    • Should I sign up for identity theft protection?


    Some would say you can do the things yourself that you would pay an identity theft protection service to do, but the fact of the matter is that most people don't take the time to do those things. True, you can get a free copy of your credit report each year, but most people don't. And most just glance at their credit card statements, and are less than careful with their personal information online. 


    The bottom line is simply this – protecting your information isn't rocket science. The trick is finding the time to do so, and then knowing what to do. If you aren't willing to spend the time yourself, then it's worth it to spend the money to pay someone else to do it for you. But be sure you research the identity theft protection services carefully, and make sure you know what you're getting for your money. There are things you can do on your own, but you can't watch your personal information online 24/7 – so it would be smart to find someone who can.

    Posted Feb 28 2012, 12:38 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Identity theft is No. 1 on the IRS list of threats

    During tax season, it's not uncommon for people to be on the receiving end of misleading promises about lost refunds and free money. But these are scams. Scammers will attempt anything and everything in order to steal a taxpayer's personal information, and then he'll use it to file fraudulent tax returns, gypping taxpayers out of millions each year.


    The IRS released its "Dirty Dozen" list of schemes used to commit tax fraud, and identity theft is the No. 1 threat. Identity theft occurs when a thief steals a person's identifying information and uses it to file a fake claim. Last year, the IRS was able to block more than $1.4 billion in fraudulent refunds. Who knows what this year will bring. 


    Phishing also made the list, and is a common tool year-round. This technique involves the victim receiving an unsolicited e-mail which contains a link to a form or a fake website that is designed to trick the victim into revealing personal or financial information. 


    The other dominating threat is fraud by return preparers. These phony tax experts show up each year, boasting of huge return guarantees and charging over-the-top fees for their services. 


    To protect yourself, guard where and to whom you reveal your personal or financial information. If you receive an unsolicited e-mail, do not click on any links contained within it or respond to the e-mail. And when choosing a tax preparer, be sure you pick someone you can trust. You will want your only regret this year to be that your refund isn't as large as you wanted it to be.

    Posted Feb 21 2012, 11:38 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Are credit monitoring services worth the money?

    It's getting to be a much more common thing – more and more people are signing up with credit monitoring services. And it's an action that Consumer Reports says is unnecessary. 


    In a recent Consumer Reports Money Adviser report, the Adviser looked at credit monitoring services offered by the three credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. The Adviser called the services, "overrated, oversold and overpriced."


    Although the credit bureaus say that monitoring credit reports is the best way to protect consumers against identity theft, the Adviser noted that monitoring of the three credit bureaus' reports is only one way to keep an eye on one's personal information, and not the most effective way, overall. 


    The fact is that no one person or service can prevent identity theft or identity fraud. The whole point of a credit monitoring service is to catch a thief in the act – once the information has been stolen, a credit monitoring service is supposed to pick up on illegal activity in the form of new, fraudulent accounts appearing on the victim's credit report. Once this is detected, the consumer can then take action to counter it. 


    But if credit monitoring doesn't prevent identity theft, what good is it? Credit monitoring can be a good thing as part of a total package of protection, but shouldn't be the only preventive measure taken. Credit monitoring, in addition to identity theft protection and your own personal actions like shredding documents bearing personal information and taking great care when online, can all work together to protect you from theft. One product, on its own, just isn't enough.

    Posted Feb 14 2012, 03:31 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Corporations must step up and be more communicative when it comes to data breaches

    Reuters broke the news earlier this month that Internet giant VeriSign was repeatedly hacked during 2010. VeriSign does not believe the attacks breached the servers that support the firm's Domain Name System network, but at this point, has ruled nothing out.


    Should that particular network be breached, it could be devastating for many of the world's websites, which would allow cybercriminals to redirect users attempting to visit those popular websites, as well as infect surfers with malware.


    According to VeriSign's U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, senior management at the company were not notified of the breach by their IT team until a year after the fact. The statement indicated that IT personnel had worked to implement "remedial measures designed to mitigate the attacks, and to detect and thwart similar additional attacks."


    The statement also said that given the nature of such breaches, VeriSign officials are not positive that the actions taken were enough to prevent future attacks or the future loss of information. 


    Although it is commendable that VeriSign is not owning up to the breach and has, by all appearances, been open about the incident, many companies are not, often not telling the public or even those possibly affected about the breaches. Companies must strive to do better, and the federal government must step up and hold corporations accountable. Our personal and financial information is far too important to risk to save bruised egos. 

    Posted Feb 07 2012, 11:30 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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