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ID theft

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

August 2010 - Posts

  • Your identity has been stolen – what do you do now?

    The unthinkable has happened – your identity has been stolen. Now what?

    First of all, don't panic. Panic is your worst enemy in any situation,  because it clouds your ability to think clearly and act wisely. Instead, you should remain calm and prepare to fight. It might take a while before things are back to normal, but the following steps can help.

    The first thing you should do is to report the theft to your local police department. Then you should contact your bank, as well as you credit card issuer. You should also place a fraud alert on your credit report. Call one of the three major credit reporting agencies. When you place an alert with one, the bureau will alert the others.

    Contact your insurance agent. Most homeowner's policies have some sort of identity theft coverage. This would be the time to find out what it covers. Don't be surprised if it's not much. 

    You'll also want to contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-IDTHEFT. The agency collects information about identity theft for studies and analysis. The FTC will suggest that you file a fraud affidavit. Be sure to keep copies of this form and the police report you filed.

    Go ahead and get a new driver's license, making sure to get a new number, and not a duplicate of the old one. This is important because if the thief tries to use your license, the old number will be invalid because you've been issued a new one.

    Change your locks. The thief has your address, and you'll want to be sure your home is secure, particularly if your wallet or purse was stolen with keys inside.

    Call the Social Security Administration. They won't do anything, but it's a good idea to have them note that your information was lost.

    Contact your attorney. Identity theft almost always causes legal problems, and you should talk to your lawyer about what's happened, and see if he has any advice. 

    You may want to consider a credit monitoring service. Remember that most identity theft happens after the information was lost or stolen. Fraud alerts only last three months. Credit monitoring is a great way to keep tabs on things.

    Posted Aug 25 2010, 01:36 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Time to check the mail – and change some habits

    According to their own statistics, the U.S. Postal Service handles more than 207 billion pieces of mail a month. That's 207 billion opportunities for identity thieves to strike.

    Your mailbox is the riskiest non-technological point for identity theft. The top two methods of non-technological identity theft are re-routing mail and mail theft. So it's a safe assumption that your mailbox is the biggest threat to your identity.

    Re-routing mail tops the list of non-technology threats for identity theft. The re-routing is done fairly easily. The thief gets his hands on your address information, then walks into the local post office and fills out a change of address card. Your mail will then go to the thief's address. This includes any bank or credit card statements you might receive, as well as pre-approved credit card offers. 

    Obtaining a person's address is simple: the thief just drives by your residence or looks in the phone book. He can also go through your trash, which is why it's important to shred any documents that contain your personal information.

    Stealing mail is also easy if you have an unsecured mailbox. But if you're paying attention to your mail delivery, then you can quickly tell if someone has tampered with or stolen your mail. If a criminal has changed your address, you will be able to tell within a few days, since you won't receive any mail. 

    Mail theft is a little harder to catch. Thieves usually take a little of the incoming and outgoing mail, until they have the information they need. This makes it crucial that you know your delivery schedule. You may even want to consider not using the mailbox at the street, and purchase a locked box instead.

    In addition, you can put the following safe practices in place:

    • Don't leave mail in your box, whether incoming or outgoing. 

    • Rent a post office box. 

    • Use electronic payments and banking when possible. 

    Protecting your mail – as well as your identity – really is just a matter of changing the way you think. It's time to think about the mail habits that you have that could put you at risk, and change them. 

    Posted Aug 18 2010, 11:56 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • What can I do to protect myself against identity theft?

    Identity theft is one of the fast-growing types of crime, and is so widespread, that more than 11 million people were victims in the past year, with a total loss of about $54 billion.

    Identity theft is defined as the stealing of personal information such as your name, credit card number, Social Security number, driver's license number or other personal identifying information in order to commit fraud. 

    Thieves use this stolen information to apply for telephone service, credit cards, lines of credit, payday loans, purchase cars, lease apartments, obtain medical care or apply for a job. They can even commit crimes, using your name, which means you would have the criminal record – and not the identity thief.

    Identity theft is so common because it's so easy. Many people think it won't happen to them, and therefore take little or no precautions. How can you prevent being a victim of identity theft?

    First, be sure to review your credit card statements monthly. Call your credit card issuer immediately if you see any fraudulent or questionable items. If you don't receive your statement at the usual time, call your credit card issuer immediately. Someone may have changed the billing address to prevent you from seeing unauthorized charges.

    Don't throw away credit card slips, statements or other documents containing personal information. Shred them. You should also shred pre-approved credit card offers.

    Go through your credit report with a fine-toothed comb at least once a year. Contact any creditors that appear as fraudulent or questionable items.

    Be sure to guard your Social Security number and never carry your card in your wallet. Keep it someplace secure.

    Never give out personal information over the telephone unless you initiated the call or are sure the person on the other end is trustworthy.

    When shopping online, be sure to use secured sites, which have "https" in the URL. Don't click the box asking if you want to save your credit card number for easy ordering on your next visit. It's safer not to have this information stored.

    If you fall victim to identity theft, report it immediately to the bank or credit card company. File a report with the local police or sheriff's department. You should also call the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338, and call the three credit reporting bureaus as well. 

    Posted Aug 11 2010, 12:15 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Keeping your information safe online just takes common sense

    Reports of identity theft are registered every day, and more people are falling victim to it than ever before. Increased Internet use, whether on a personal computer or handheld device, may be to blame. Sixteen percent of American households with the Internet reported some kind of identity theft last year, according to a survey by Consumer Reports.

    So how do you keep your personal information safe online?

    If you access the Internet at home via a wireless network, having a firewall is a must. This helps to form a barrier between your trusted network and any untrusted networks trying to access your computer. Make sure you regularly update anti-spyware, anti-phishing and anti-virus software. Having anti-virus software protection is an important thing that a lot of folks just simply forget about. Most of these programs are subscriptions, so you can't assume that you just have them on your computer or that the subscription lasts more than a year.

    Make sure to secure your mobile devices, like smart phones or iPads, with passwords and encryption, just in case they are lost or stolen. For many people, these devices contain just as much personal information as a home computer. You should also set up your accounts with a pin code as well, so that in order to make any changes regarding your personal accounts, you would need to have a four-digit code to access them.

    Do your research before you download free apps to your device. You never know who might have access to your personal date via your apps.

    Beware of social networking sites. This is where most personal information is lifted. So consider how much you post on your page. If your date of birth, phone number, address or maiden name appear on your Facebook or MySpace page, these could be used to obtain the rest of your personal information. Be sure to set restrictions on your profile so only certain groups of people can view your personal information.

    Never give anyone your personal information, such as your Social Security number, in an e-mail. "Phishing" e-mails may look like they're from your bank or credit union, but if you are affiliated with a bank, that institution already has your personal information. They won't need you to e-mail it to them. If you receive an e-mail requesting that you do so, call your bank to confirm the e-mail was sent before responding.

    If a suspicious e-mail contains a link, don't click on it, no matter how tempted you are. The safest thing you can do to find out what the site is would be to get out of the e-mail, and type the URL for the link into your Web browser separately.

    When it comes to protecting your personal information, the best advice is to follow your own common sense. When in doubt, don't.

    Posted Aug 04 2010, 12:40 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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