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ID theft

All about how it happens and how you can keep it from happening to you.
  • Google: Stop with the begging already...

    Google is begging Youtube users to use real names when posting commentary. And it's getting downright pathetic.


    The begging first began in June when Google gave Google+ users the ability to use their Google+ profiles on their user channels. It's supposed to go like this: When you attempt to post a comment on a video, a box pops up that requests you enter your full name. Once you do this, your information from your Google+ account will appear.


    You can opt out of this, choosing instead to use a made-up name. But you have to justify your decision by choosing one of the following options: "My channel is for show or character," "My channel is for a music artist or group," "My channel is for a product, business or organization," "My channel is well known for other reasons," "My channel is for personal use, but I cannot use my real name" or, my favorite, "I'm not sure, I'll decide later." Yeah, Google. I'll get back to you on that one.


    The requests are apparently falling on deaf ears, because the commentary is still as much a mess as ever. 


    Personally, I think this stinks. Let me have my anonymity when I post commentary. Isn't that what the whole commentary thing is for? You can post what you really think without worry of retribution. 


    And who does Google think they are, trying to make us do this? I'll tell you who they are – a business that seeks to find even more ways to sell our identities to their advertisers. Not to mention that identity thieves can troll the site, seeking the information they need to commit any number of crimes.


    It appears that Google has backed off a bit, and this whole thing may just die a slow and painful death. I just hope it doesn't become a mandatory thing. Because then I'd be forced to post some really severe commentary. And yes, I'd sign that bee-otch.

    Posted Jul 26 2012, 01:56 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Newest Facebook scam: Tag, you're it

    If you receive an e-mail claiming to be from Facebook and claiming you've been tagged in a photo posting, beware.


    The latest malware attack comes disguised as a photo post tag. The e-mail says it's from "notification@faceboook.com" – note the three O's. If you click on the link embedded in the e-mail, you'll be taken to a screen that begins to infect your computer with malware. But before you get a chance to truly panic, within seconds your browser is taken via a META redirect to the Facebook page of another person.


    When you receive e-mails such as this, and are unsure of the origin, be sure to hover your mouse over the link. It will show you the true destination.


    To be extra safe, just don't click on links embedded in unsolicited e-mails. Make this a rule of thumb, and you'll likely be safe. You should also set up a firewall, and make sure your computer is outfitted with the latest in anti-spyware and anti-malware software. Be sure to update your software and protections as often as you are prompted to.

    Posted Jul 18 2012, 04:25 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Obama utility bailout is a scam

    People fall for identity theft scams every day, and it seems a new scam pops up just about every day as well.


    A new scam that has been making its way across the United States has fooled thousands of victims so far into thinking that President Barack Obama's administration will help them with their utility bills. This comes just in time for the soaring temperatures, which mean higher cooling costs. Aid, true aid, would be most welcome – this has made lots of people vulnerable to this particular scam.


    The scam, disguised as a bailout, involves giving the victims bank account and routing numbers to use when paying their bills online – but this requires that they register with their Social Security numbers, as well as other personal information. 


    News flash: The Obama administration has never rolled out any such program.


    The scam fooled hundreds of people in Tampa, Fla. last week, and you can bet it's coming to your town as well. If someone comes knocking on your door and handing out pamphlets about this program, don't be fooled, even if they are wearing uniforms bearing the logo of your local utility company.


    You may even see a Facebook post from a friend who says the program worked for him or her, because on the surface, the program seems to work. And spreading "success" stories on social media has played an active role in making the program seem legit. Once the bogus information is used to pay the bill, the victim gets a confirmation notice that the bill has been paid. The payment is later voided when the scam is discovered. 


    Some people admit to being fooled because they figure that it's legit because it's an election year – that Obama has rolled the program out to secure votes. 


    Don't fall for this scam. There is no such program, and attempting to use the information provided by scammers can result in not only your bill being unpaid, but also late fees and service interruption. 


    Posted Jul 09 2012, 12:04 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Botched care because of medical ID theft can cost you – dearly

    A new survey shows that there are very few people out there who actually know what medical identity theft is – or how drastically it can affect you and your health.


    Nationwide Insurance sponsored the survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive. The findings showed that only one in six insured adults know what medical identity theft is, and could accurately define it. 


    A stolen medical identity fetches about $50 on the black market – while by comparison, a stolen Social Security number sells for about $1. Most people are aware they need to protect their Social Security number; but few are aware of or as careful about their medical information. 


    Medical identity theft is when a thief steals someone's medical information in order to obtain medical services himself. While on the surface this doesn't seem so bad, it can be catastrophic when it comes back to haunt the victim. The victim can be denied health care, insurance and even be in mortal danger if the thief's medical information becomes confused with the victim's – the victim could be given medication he is deathly allergic to or some other action with deadly consequences.


    Protect your medical information by monitoring closely the explanation of benefits section on your insurance summary, request a list of benefits from your health insurer, and request a copy of your current medical files from each of your health care providers. You should also keep a close eye on your credit reports.

    Posted Jun 13 2012, 03:49 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • LinkedIn leak makes headlines

    If you have a LinkedIn account, you may want to think about changing the password.


    Although LinkedIn gurus haven't yet confirmed it, it's being reported everywhere that more than six million passwords belonging to LinkedIn users have been compromised. All LinkedIn spokespersons have said thus far is that there is a team looking into the incident.


    A file containing 6,458,020 password hashes has been posted on the Internet, and hackers are working to crack them. The data that has been released thus far does not include associated e-mail addresses, but officials speculate this information is in the hands of the criminals. 


    If you have a LinkedIn account, change your password immediately. Here's how:

     

    • Log into your account.


    • Click on the drop down menu where you see your name i the top right hand corner of the home page. Select "settings."


    • Choose the option to change your password. You will need to enter your old password, then the new one twice. 


    Remember: It is crucial that you make your password difficult to decipher. Use a mixture of upper and lower case letters, symbols and numbers. The more difficult you make it, the less likely you'll fall victim to identity theft. 

    Posted Jun 06 2012, 03:55 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • What do you do if your deceased loved one falls victim to identity theft?

    Identity thieves take advantage of their victims in many ways and, in most cases, those victims can and do fight back. But what if the victim is deceased?


    As awful as this sounds, it is much more common than you think. It's apparently quite easy to track down the Social Security number of a deceased person and use it to commit fraud. So if you've lost a loved one and you're concerned about this happening, here are some things you can do.


    First, request a copy of your family member's credit report. This should be one by a spouse or executor of the estate. You will have to provide copies of the death certificate and any documentation that shows you are the executor, if that is the case. Once you have the reports, review them carefully, checking for any fraudulent accounts. 


    When you receive the reports, you should also receive from the credit bureaus instructions for placing a notice that the credit file belongs to a deceased party, as well as how to add a security alert or "don't issue credit" statement. If your loved one is a victim of identity theft, notify the corresponding credit bureau, and make these requests.


    Posted Jun 01 2012, 02:23 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Comcast phishing scam seeking victims

    According to reports, a new phishing scam is targeting Comcast XFINITY cable Internet subscribers. 


    The email reads: "Dear Comcast Customer, The Constant Guard service has updated the Online Security of Comcast Users. To link your account to our new update you just need to re-login your account using the secure link bellow. The link will redirect you to our update login page. Simply login your account and the account will automaticly be updated."


    The link points to a TinyURL which redirected victims to a compromised higher education institution website in India. It appears to have been compromised through vulnerable FrontPage server extensions.


    The fake page is an identical copy of the real Comcast XFINITY login page, and even includes a fully functional TRUSTe logo, to fool victims into thinking the site is secure. 


    Your response to this should be to call Comcast first and ask questions. Find out if it's legit. A huge clue in this scam that it's a fake is the misspelled words, which are common in phishing attempts.

    Posted May 24 2012, 01:58 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Take the 'target' off your smartphone

    A report issued recently by the Internet Crime Complaint Center showed that complaints about cybercrime topped 314,000 last year, up 3.4 percent from the previous year. One of the biggest targets is smartphones.


    But many experts feel that cybercrime is a much bigger problem than the numbers would suggest. The newest "frontier" for scammers is cell phones. About 83 percent  of adults have cell phones, and about 42 percent of those are smartphones. By 2012, more than 53 million consumers are expected to use mobile banking. 


    Why do thieves like smartphones? Because this is one area where much information can be found amidst little security. Most people don't protect their phones like they do their home or work computers. And people use their phones in public places, using public Wi-Fi.


    How can you protect yourself – and your phone? First of all, use a password, and make it a difficult one. Combine letters, numbers and symbols. 


    Next, find a good backup/wiping service. A backup program sends the data on your phone to your home computer, while a wiping program can erase information from your phone if it is lost or stolen. 


    Make sure you install security software, including anti-virus software. Download updates whenever needed as well. 


    If your phone does go missing, call your carrier as quickly as possible to report that it is lost or stolen, and have your data wiped. Place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit reports, file a police report, and an affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission. 

    Posted May 15 2012, 01:30 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Blog offers advice to protect you from identity theft

    Check out this site for information on how to protect yourself from identity theft...
    Posted May 01 2012, 01:08 PM by IdentityTheft with 1 comment(s)
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  • Identity theft FAQs

    Lots of people have lots of questions about identity theft. It's very likely you're one of them. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and our best answers.


    • I think I might be a victim of identity theft. What do I do? 


    It's a good idea to go ahead and place a fraud alert on your credit report. It will last 90 days. You only need to call one bureau; that one will alert the other two. Monitor your credit reports afterward for any unusual or unauthorized activity. Keep an eye on your bank account and credit card statements as well.


    • How do I find out if someone has opened new accounts in my name?


    Order a copy of your credit report, and review it carefully to see if there are any accounts you don't recognize. If you find any, contact the creditor, report the theft and close the accounts to minimize damage. 


    • Debt collectors are calling me about accounts I know nothing about. What do I do?


    Check your credit reports to verify the accounts exist, and call those creditors, as well as write them, and have the accounts closed. Be sure to request copies of the application and transaction records that were used on the account. To do so, you'll need a copy of a filed police report, so make sure you contact the police and keep copies of the report handy.


    • My Social Security number was stolen. Should I change my number?


    This is not a good idea, as your number is no doubt tied to many documents and reports and doing so would mean a great deal of wrestling with the Social Security Administration. 


    • I reviewed my credit report and found incorrect information. How can I change it?


    Contact the credit bureau in writing, detailing the error. That bureau then has 30 days to investigate the error and get back to you. If an error is found, it must be corrected. If the investigation does not resolve the issue, you have the right to write a 100-word statement regarding the error, which must be added to your file. 


    Posted Apr 24 2012, 12:04 PM by IdentityTheft with 1 comment(s)
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  • Google fined by FCC for Street View cars info collection

    Friday the 13th turned out to be unlucky for Google, as the Federal Communications Commission issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture against the company.


    The issue? Google's Street View cars, which wander collecting video for its site, also sucked up and saved payload data from unencrypted Wi-Fi communications. Payload data is data that goes beyond the headers of a network packet. Identified items include the network, the destination, some or all of the information like visited URLs, downloaded e-mails, text from uploaded documents and more. 


    Several countries have investigated Google for this invasion of privacy. France fined Google not for the data collection itself, but for the company's failure to deal with the French privacy office's request for action in a timely fashion.


    Australia called it the "single greatest breach in the history of privacy." The country's leaders agreed that Google had breached Aussie privacy law, but their laws do not provide for any action to be taken against the company.


    And until Friday the 13th, Google had gotten away with it in the U.S. The FCC's issue seems to be the company not responding to the Commission's investigation of the issue in a timely manner. In its fifth notice, the FCC fined Google for "apparent liability for forfeiture" in the amount of $25,000. 

    Posted Apr 17 2012, 11:46 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Many parents unaware of the threat of child identity theft

    Last year, more than 19,000 reports of child identity theft were registered with the Federal Trade Commission. Child identity theft occurs when a thief obtains the Social Security number, or some other personal information, of a child and uses it to obtain a loan, get a job, or obtain government benefits, among other things. 


    The really terrible thing about this crime is that it can go undetected for years – until the child grows up and applies for credit for the first time. But even though this crime is an ever-increasing problem, many parents are still unaware. Parents who are between the ages of 25 and 34, according to a recent survey, are generally familiar with the concept. Of those surveyed, 13 percent know someone who is the parent of a child identity theft victim, while 11 percent know a victim. 


    So what can you do if you suspect your child is a victim? Your first instinct might be to obtain your child's credit report, but you may run into some difficulty if you try to get it from annualcreditreport.com. The federally-mandated site is restricted by the Children's Online Protection Act, which protects children under the age of 13. If your child is at least 14, you can obtain a credit report from annualcreditreport.com.


    In order to obtain your child's credit report for your younger child, you will have to contact the three credit bureaus directly, because you need to provide proof of legal guardianship. If you do so and are told your child has no credit report, then it's a good thing; it means your child is safe. 


    But if your child has a credit report, his or her information has been compromised, and you must take action. You can place a credit freeze on the child's records, and you will need to work with law enforcement and listed creditors to correct the fraudulent activity.


    But your child may be a victim even without a credit report. Sometimes, a child's Social Security number is stolen and used, without it being reported to credit bureaus. This is most often done by undocumented workers, who are illegally in the United States, and who use the information to get work. 

     

    But it is important to note that the Federal Trade Commission recommends not getting your child's credit report unless you are sure there is foul play. The FTC recommends waiting until your child is 16, which will give you a couple of years until your child is of age to fix any problems you might find. 


    Posted Apr 10 2012, 12:23 PM by IdentityTheft with 1 comment(s)
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  • My kid's identity was stolen...now what?

    Picture this: Your son is ready to head off to college, and as part of the process, he is applying for student loans. Sounds pretty normal, huh?


    But what if your son is turned down because he has bad credit – and he's never applied for credit before?


    This may sound a little far-fetched, but it happens way more than you think. The Federal Trade Commission has pointed out that child identity theft is a huge problem that is growing every day, and parents are urged to do everything they can to protect their children. 


    But how does child identity theft happen? Most often, thieves get their hands on the child's Social Security number, and then use the number to obtain a credit card, get a mortgage, rent an apartment, get a cell phone or apply for a job. 


    The thing that makes child identity theft so frustrating for its victims is that the theft goes undetected for so long. It's often not discovered until the child has grown up and is applying for credit for the first time. By then, the criminal is long gone.


    How can you put a stopper in child identity theft and protect your child? First make sure you store your child's SSN in a safe, secure place. Only provide the number to others when it is absolutely necessary, and always ask if an alternate form of verification is acceptable.


    Keep an eye out for pre-approved credit card offers in the mail, in your child's name. If you receive them, your child's identity may have been compromised. You'll want to contact the credit bureaus and find out if your child has a credit report, and if so, get copies. 


    If a theft has occurred, report it to the police, and place a credit freeze on your child's credit file, so that you'll be notified immediately if there is any further attempted activity. You may even wish to consider signing up with a credit monitoring or identity theft protection service, just to be sure. 

    Posted Apr 05 2012, 12:21 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Survey says people greatly frustrated with credit bureaus during ID theft recovery

    If you have even been the victim of identity theft, you know how frustrating it can be to try to recover from it. You spend hours and hours on the phone, writing letters and in general, just pleading your case. You may even have to hire an attorney to get the job done. It can be incredibly nerve wracking. 


    The Federal Trade Commission has issued a report which details the results of a recent survey of identity theft victims, who were asked to talk about their dealings with the three major credit reporting agencies, as well as how they were able to exercise their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. 


    According to the survey, most said they were satisfied with their experience. But others noted there is room for improvement.  Here are the problem areas:


    • Many of those surveyed said they had a hard time getting a real person on the phone when they called the credit reporting bureaus – Experian, EquiFax and TransUnion. The bureaus must address this – when you are distraught over something as big as identity theft, talking to a machine just won't cut it. 


    • Less than half of those surveyed even knew they had rights under the FCRA before they contacted the bureaus. This is a general communication issue that should be addressed. Consumers should be made aware of their rights. More must be done to educate the public about the FCRA, and their rights under it. 


    • Some of those surveyed said they were pressured by the bureaus to purchase identity theft monitoring services. 


    Consumer education is an important component for the FTC, which works to provide an extensive educational program to help consumers understand identity theft and to provide them with the tools needed to help them not only to deal with identity theft when it occurs, but also to detect and defend against it beforehand.

    Posted Mar 27 2012, 12:33 PM by IdentityTheft with 1 comment(s)
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  • Protect yourself from tax fraud -- and identity theft

    What if you do your taxes and file them on time, anticipating a healthy refund, only to receive a notice saying you've already filed -- and you didn't?

    Or picture this: You get a notice from the IRS saying you owe them money or that you received wages from some employer you've never heard of.

    If anything like this happens to you, you are most likely a victim of identity theft. How? Well, chances are the thief got his hands on your Social Security number, and used it to file a fake tax return. Or perhaps an illegal immigrant used your Social Security number to gain employment.

    In recent months, the IRS has announced more vigorous attempts to stop tax identity theft before it starts. While they take action, however, there are things you can do to protect yourself.

    First of all, never carry you Social Security card in your wallet. On the occasion that you need it as an ID, of course carry it and use it. But when you are done, store it under lock and key. You don't want the wrong person getting his hands on it.

    And never give your Social Security number to anyone unless you are sure they really require it. Don't be afraid to ask if an alternative form of identification can be used instead, particularly if you are unsure how your information will be used and stored.

    Make sure your shred any and all documents that contain your personal or financial information before you dispose of them, and be sure that the ones you keep filed are secured.

    You should also make sure to check your credit report each year, being careful to look for fraudulent or questionable information. If you find anything that looks out of place to you, take action immediately with both the creditor and the credit bureau.

    Protect your computer as well, making sure your passwords are tough and updated on a regular basis. You should also install anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall.

    When it comes to requests for your personal or financial information, don't respond if you are unsure of the person asking, particularly if the request comes to you unsolicited.

    Taking just these simple steps will go a long way toward protecting you -- and your information.

    Posted Mar 20 2012, 10:18 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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