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ID theft

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

September 2011 - Posts

  • Facebook ticker can mean trouble

    Social media sites have been abuzz with commentary about the most recent changes made to Facebook. Among those changes are a new ticker, a real-time list of what your friends are doing, positioned to the right of the screen. This new feature is being added on a staggered rollout, so you may not have it yet. But rest assured, everyone will soon see this next to their news feeds.

    The ticker is collapsible, meaning you can click on it and keep fully up to date on your friends' activities. But there is a problem. With this new feature, you can eavesdrop on "conversations" between your friends and people you don't know. You can even read what the stranger originally wrote.

    If you have your privacy settings set high, they will still work with this new feature. However, the enforced eavesdropping will be due to lax or non-existent privacy settings amongst your friends.

    In other words, if you have "friends of friends" or "public" as the privacy setting for your posts, then one of your friends clicks "Like" on your post, all of the people your friend is friends with will be able to read the commentary. Your friend's privacy settings can't block this from happening, but your privacy settings can protect your friends' privacy.

    So what should you do? First of all, stop using the "friends of friends" setting for your posts. If you use the "public" setting, let your friends know you are doing so. This gives your friends the option to decide if they want all of their friends, or yours, to be informed of their comments.

    You should limit all previous posts you have made via the privacy settings, which will change everything to "friends only" and will stop people you have deleted, people who sent you friend requests that you chose to ignore, and friends of friends from seeing your activity. 

    You can use lists to decide who you want to see things by using the privacy controls in the top right of your posts, and you should encourage your friends to restrict their settings to "friends" or custom lists as well. 

    How do you know if a post will be broadcast to all of your friends? Under each post on the right is an icon which will tell you who it was shared with. If there's a globe, it means it was public. A "friends" icon means it was shared with friends only, and if there's a "custom" symbol (a gear), it means your settings are either friends only or customized, which means the post is safe to comment on because there will be no sharing with strangers via the ticker/news feed.

    The bottom line here is simply this: Don't post something you don't want shared. Once it's out there, it can never be retrieved.

    Posted Sep 27 2011, 11:26 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • What to do if you're a victim of identity theft

    You just found out that you are a victim of identity theft. So many things are crashing through your brain, including what your first step will be.  Here's a list of things you should do if you've been victimized by an identity thief.

    1. If you've gotten collection calls for debts you don't owe, speak with the debt collector or credit card issuer. Take notes about the conversation, and get the name of the person you're talking with, and his or her phone number and address. Follow up the phone call with a certified letter so that the collector also has a record of your conversation. It's important whenever you receive collection calls, that you are pleasant, and that you collect and record information about the debt. Check into any charges or debts immediately.

    2. Opt out of programs that share personal information – this includes your bank, broker, credit card issuer and department stores. 

    3. Change your passwords online. Make them difficult to discern, and use upper and lower case letters, as well as symbols and numbers.

    4. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports. You can call Equifax at 1-800-685-1111, Experian at 1-888-397-3742, and TransUnion at 1-800-916-8800. You should also get a copy of your credit reports, and carefully review what's there. If you find errors, report them to the respective bureau.

    5. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. You will also want to let other creditors know about the theft, even if the accounts you have with them are untouched. 

    6. Notify the Social Security Administration of the theft, even if your card wasn't stolen. You can call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213.

    7. File a police report with local law enforcement, and notify the Federal Trade Commission as well by calling their hotline at 1-877-438-4338.

    8. You may refuse to pay off debts you did not create, but tell the debt collector you are willing to cooperate. You will need to put your dispute in writing, and send it to the creditor. If creditors or debt collectors harass you, report them to the FTC at 1-312-353-4423.

    Last of all, from here on out, make sure that your personal and financial information is secured. Shred any document that bears your information before disposal, and be careful online. Identity theft is a part of life – it doesn't, however, have to be a part of your personal experience.

    Posted Sep 20 2011, 11:32 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • It's not too early to begin thinking about Halloween safety

    Retail stores have already set up Halloween displays, and are selling costumes and candy – and Halloween is still more than a month away. 

    Identity theft is often seen as a sophisticated crime – involving the Internet or some extensive scam. But it can also be as simple as a stolen wallet or break-in. Halloween provides a prime opportunity for thieves to steal your wallet or break into your car or home, using the Halloween festivities as a cover-up. 

    It's important to protect yourself from would-be thieves every day, but particularly on Halloween. It's a fun day for kids, but adults use the opportunity to "let loose" as well. When you're out and about on this holiday, be aware of your surroundings, and who's around you. If you host a party, make sure you know who your guests are, and lock up valuables during the party, including purses and wallets. If you're attending a party, lock up your valuables, and leave credit cards at home.

    At no other time of the year would we open our doors to complete strangers – but we do it willingly on Halloween. But don't get so caught up in the fun of the night that you forget to be just as cautious when opening your door to people you don't know as you would be any other night. Look out your peep hole or window before opening the door, and don't open your door at an unreasonable hour. Most kids are done trick or treating between 7 and 8 p.m., so it would be a good idea to turn your porch light off after then. Even if your doorbell rings, don't answer it any more. 

    If you won't be home that evening, remember that thieves use the holiday to check out who's home and who's not by posing as trick-or-treaters. Don't leave a note on your door and a bowl of candy – this is a dead giveaway that you're not home. If you won't be home, ask a friend to man the candy bowl for you, or ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your house. You may even wish to call your local police and ask them to drive by and check your home. 

    Halloween should be a little bit scary – not downright terrifying. By taking these precautions, you'll make sure it stays that way.

    Posted Sep 14 2011, 11:51 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Don't be a headline – Protect yourself from ID theft

    Identity theft can happen to anyone – even those who are famous.

    The latest victim is Grey's Anatomy star Sandra Oh, who reported to the police that she is an identity theft victim. Apparently, the IRS has been after her for failing to pay taxes for a hotel job she held in 2009 – which she never held.

    According to a report by the Los Angeles Police Department, the thief used Oh's Social Security number to obtain the hotel job, not to pose as the actress.

    There are things you can do to protect yourself. First of all, never carry your Social Security card. Keep it locked away and only bring it out when necessary. You shouldn't give your SS number to anyone unless it is absolutely necessary, and only if you know for sure the person you are giving it to is legitimate, and you know how your information will be handled.

    Make sure you shred all documents bearing your personal and financial information before you throw them away. Identity thieves love to dig through trash to find documents they can use to piece together a person's identity. 

    Be careful online as well. Don't click on embedded links in unsolicited e-mails, and if you receive an e-mail that appears to be from your bank or credit card issuer, don't click on the links contained within and don't give out your personal or financial information. You should contact the bank or card issuer first to verify that the request is legitimate. 

    Make sure your computer is equipped with the latest in protection software, and that you make your passwords difficult, and change them often.

    Doing these things may seem insignificant, but these small steps can help prevent you from becoming a headline – like Sandra Oh.

    Posted Sep 06 2011, 10:57 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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