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ID theft

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

November 2010 - Posts

  • Wolf in sheep's clothing could cost you money, time

    Aesop was a slave and storyteller who lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 B.C. His fables are some of the most well known in the world, due in great part to the morals taught in them. Many a child has received an education on right and wrong by hearing one of Aesop's Fables.

    Aesop's tales include such famous yarns as "The Fox and the Grapes," "The Tortoise and the Hare," "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," and "The Ant and the Grasshopper."

    Aesop was known for taking a common, everyday occurrence and making it into something that taught a universal great truth, concluding each story with advice about whether to do or not do the act the story centered around.

    But there are those who think that Aesop didn't write all of the tales he's been attributed, while others argue that he never even existed. 

    Whether or not he existed or wrote all of the fables, Aesop's tales can still teach us much. Take, for example, the story of "The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing."

    In this story, a wolf has difficulty getting at the sheep he drooled over day after day, because of the shepherd and his dogs. But one day, the wolf found a sheep's skin that had been flayed and thrown aside, and he put it on and strolled down among the sheep.

    The lamb that belonged to the slain sheep began to follow the wolf. The wolf led the little lamb away from the flock, and devoured her. He continued this practice for some time, enjoying hearty meals.

    The moral: Appearances can be deceptive.

    This is true in life, and it's certainly true in identity theft, particularly when it comes to phishing. Phishing is the practice of using legitimate-looking Web sites to convince unsuspecting surfers to click on the sites in the hopes of obtaining the needed personal information to commit identity theft.

    For example: You receive an e-mail from your bank, telling you that you're overdrawn. There's a link to take you to the bank's Web site, so you click on it, and a new window opens. The newly-opened site looks legitimate, and so you continue. You are asked to enter your personal and financial information – and once you've done so, you've been had.

    The lesson here is that even if a site looks legitimate, it could be a "wolf in sheep's clothing." If you receive an e-mail that looks suspicious, whether from a retailer, private organization, bank or credit card issuer, don't click on it. Instead, contact the organization directly, and ask whether an e-mail was sent to you. 

    Don't assume that you can tell the difference. Thieves are becoming more and more sophisticated, and are doing a better job of creating legitimate-looking sites. The best rule of thumb is this: when in doubt, don't.

    Don't follow the wolf in sheep's clothing; instead, follow your own gut instinct. 

    Posted Nov 22 2010, 10:47 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Seniors must be vigilant when it comes to protecting ID information

    If you are a senior adult, you have a different lifestyle than that of your younger contemporaries. You don't have kids, you can plan your days around your wants and needs, and you're free to spend the day at the beach if you choose. But not everything about the senior lifestyle is a barrel of laughs, however.

    Many seniors deal with major health issues, and therefore have people in and out of their homes. Caregivers and family members are in and out, helping with everyday living needs or just visiting. It's also possible that you're fighting for your independence.

    Some of the very differences that set seniors apart are the very same things that make them attractive targets for identity thieves. Add that to the fact that most seniors have spent their lives building up their credit and retirement funds, along with the fact that many seniors are far too trusting, and senior identity theft becomes a problem.

    Seniors have more money and higher credit than younger people, but they're also less likely to guard their identity. They're also less likely to report a case of identity theft for fear that their families or caregivers may deem them incapable of handling their own affairs, and try to take control. Identity thieves know this – and they work hard to take advantage of it.

    Seniors should be especially vigilant about protecting their identities. Personal information should be guarded closely, and checks, credit cards, Social Security cards, Medicare cards and mail should be watched carefully as well, since ID thieves work off of this information.

    These steps can help seniors prevent identity theft:

    • Be wary of family, friends or caregivers that start asking for small loans or give you stories of hard times or financial hardships. Some criminals will play on your emotions to gain access to your personal information or your money.

    • Keep your personal information locked safely away from visitors in your home. This includes bank statements, credit card statements, Medicare statements and other financial documents. 

    • Have your mail delivered to a post office box instead of your home. This is particularly important if you cannot pick up your mail every day. If this isn't possible, ask your postman to deliver your mail to your door.

    • Shred or burn any documents that contain personal information. 

    • Opt out of direct mail credit offers by calling the Federal Trade Commission's OPTOUT line at 1-888-567-8688.

    • Don't carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet unless you know you'll need it. Keep it locked up otherwise.

    • If you use paper checks, don't have them delivered to your home. Instead, pick them up at the bank or have them sent to your post office box.

    • Don't have your phone number, Social Security number, driver's license number or date of birth printed on your checks. When ordering checks, use only your first and middle initials, but sign the bank signature card with your full name. This will help alert the bank if there's a problem.

    • When paying credit card bills by check, write only the last four digits of the account number on the memo line, if at all. 

    • Don't sign the back of your credit or debit cards. Instead, write "photo ID required for use."

    Be sure to keep a list of your credit card numbers and contact numbers for the card issuers stored in your safe or safety deposit box. That way, if your card is lost or stolen, you can easily access it to contact the card issuer.

    By being vigilant and following these tips, you can help prevent an identity thief from taking the shine off your golden years.

    Posted Nov 17 2010, 11:53 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • How to avoid credit card fraud

    Credit card fraud costs cardholders and issuers hundreds of millions of dollars each year. While theft is the most obvious form of fraud, it can occur in other ways. For example, someone may use your card number without your knowledge. 

    It's not always possible to prevent credit or charge fraud from happening, but there are a few steps you can take to make it more difficult for a thief to capture your credit card or card numbers and minimize the possibility.

    When you receive your card, sign it as soon as you have it in hand, says the Federal Trade Commission. Carry your cards separately from your wallet, in a zippered compartment, a business card holder or another small pouch. Keep an eye on your account numbers and expiration dates, and keep the phone numbers and addresses of each card issuer in a secure place.

    When making a purchase or paying for services, keep an eye on your card and get it back as soon as possible. Void incorrect receipts, and destroy carbons. Save receipts to compare with billing statements. You should open your bills promptly and reconcile your accounts monthly. 

    If there are any discrepancies or errors, notify the card issuer immediately. 

    Don't lend your cards to anyone, and don't leave cards or receipts lying around. Don't sign blank receipts, and draw a line through any blank spaces above the total. 

    You should never write your account number on the outside of an envelope or a postcard. Don't give your account number out over the telephone unless you initiated the call or you know the person on the other end is trustworthy. 

    If you lose your card or it is stolen, call the issuer immediately. Many companies have toll-free numbers and 24-hour service to deal with such emergencies. By law, once you report the loss or theft, you have no further responsibility for unauthorized charges. In any event, your maximum liability under federal law is $50 per card.

    Posted Nov 10 2010, 01:45 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Make like a Boy Scout when it comes to identity theft

    It's a safe bet that everyone has heard of identity theft. But not everyone takes it seriously.

    It would be nice if we didn't have to think about things like identity theft. But that's just not reality. The world we live in has some very real dangers, including identity theft, one of the most messy and inconvenient dangers of all. 

    Many people think that the "If" part of "if it happens to me" is dominant. But statistics show that people fall victim to identity theft every minute of every day. And it's time to take it seriously. If you are serious about thwarting identity theft, then you need to acknowledge that it can happen to you, and cleaning up the mess isn't as easy or quick as you might think.

    Identity theft is about more than just credit. The use of a credit card number by an unauthorized party is just the tip of the iceberg. Your medical records could be compromised, your Social Security number could be used fraudulently and your tax returns could be falsified. And that's just the start. 

    We must remember that criminals have the latest technology. Phishing, smiting, vishing, skimming, spoofing, click-jacking, tab-napping, farming…it all turns into bad mojo for you if you're the victim. So you must be armed with the latest technology as well, including an identity theft protection service that uses the latest technology to detect activity before the damage occurs.

    Identity theft impacts your pocketbook. if you're looking to save money by cutting services that aren't worth it, then you're just like everyone else. Everyone is cutting corners. But before you cut your identity theft protection, you should think about what recovery will cost. Is it really worth it?

    Social networking is everywhere, and peer-to-peer file sharing has become the norm. But it's also an excellent way for personal information to make its way onto the Internet and into the hands of thieves. This makes it even more important to protect your data.

    Remember that the best defense is a good offense. You can't always avoid becoming the victim of an accident, fire or crime. But you can't stop a determined identity thief either. But you can take steps to lessen the impact a thief will have on your life. 

    Don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish. You could save money by not having insurance, but then when something happens, you will pay the price for being unprepared. The same goes for your risk of identity theft. Do you have enough money set aside in savings so that you are taken care of if a thief wipes out your checking account? 

    Identity theft is a growing problem, and statistics say that it is less likely that your car will be stolen than your identity. It's the nation's fastest-growing crime. It can happen to you. Be prepared. 

    Posted Nov 03 2010, 02:06 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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