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ID theft

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

December 2011 - Posts

  • New scam making the rounds

    If you got a new Macbook, iPad or some other Apple product for Christmas, you should be aware that there's a new e-mail scam headed your way. Scammers are sending out a very official-looking e-mail, which requests that you update your billing information.

    The scam reportedly targets new Apple owners who are just setting up and registering their new equipments and accounts. The e-mail apparently looks legitimate, and reads, "It has come to our attention that your account billing information records are out of date. That requires you to update your billing information. Failure to update your records will result in account termination."

    There is also a link included, "," which actually goes straight to the scammer's servers. Clicking on the link and then inputting your information will give the scammer all he needs to steal your identity.

    Once you click on the link, you are directed to a fake Apple ID sign-in page, which will give the scammer your login credentials. You will also be prompted to input your name, date of birth, Social Security number, credit card information, billing and shipping addresses, and your Apple ID and password. 

    Be extra vigilant when you receive unsolicited e-mails. Do not click on any links contained in them, and don't give your personal, financial or account information to anyone unless you are sure of the person on the other end of the request. It's best to check with the company directly to see if the request was made in the first place. 

    Posted Dec 28 2011, 03:59 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Be cautious when it comes to using 'smart' media

    With all the smartphones out there, as well as the fact that it seems everyone is using social media, it's no wonder that old scams are making a reappearance.

    One example is the grandparent scam, in which a scammer calls a elderly person pretending to be a grandchild in desperate need of money. The caller will ask the grandparent to send money via wire immediately. The scam has been quite effective.

    Now, thanks to social media, the scammer can call Grandma knowing the gender, name and age of her grandchild. This makes the scam all the more believable. 

    Another issue on the rise is malware. Everyone likes to download apps for their smartphones and tablets, but not everyone is careful about where they get these apps. Criminals know this and are using this knowledge to their advantage. Ever get a message about a new app? Ever see a new app advertised? Not all apps are legit, and many contain malware designed to find your personal or financial information and get it to the scammer. 

    There are even apps that are designed to look like games or other applications that appear to be from a legitimate source. In March, Google removed 58 malicious apps from the Android market, and there have been numerous phony apps that have appeared in the iTunes store as well.

    How do you protect yourself? First of all, don't download apps from sources you're unsure of, particularly if the app comes to you unsolicited. You should also avoid smishing, a technique criminals use to send you text messages that send you to phishing pages, designed to mimic legit sites and trick you out of your personal or financial information. 

    Beware of likejacking as well. This is a common Facebook scam in which your newsfeed will show "must see" videos or promotions. Clicking on the included links can not only cause issues for your safety, but will also post the link on your friends' walls as well, compromising their safety.

    The bottom line is this: When in doubt, don't. It really is that simple.

    Posted Dec 20 2011, 11:22 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Do I have to shred documents before I toss them?

    Is shredding documents really necessary? Is shredding enough to prevent identity theft?

    These are questions asked by consumers all the time. Some people don't believe shredding sensitive documents is enough, while others claim that everything must be shredded. 

    The truth is that even with all the cybercrime out there, most of identity theft relies on a good, old-fashioned paper trail. In other words, identity thieves are not above digging through your trash, looking for documents that bear your personal and financial information. They'll go dumpster diving, and they'll steal your wallet – whatever it takes. This means that tossing anything that bears your name, address, telephone number, birth date or banking information can put you at risk.

    Documents that should be shredded include credit card receipts and expired credit cards, medical and financial records, canceled checks, computer printouts, tax records, bank statements, credit card statements, and pre-approved credit offers. You should also shred documents you no longer need. Each state has regulations on how long certain documents should be kept, particularly if they are needed for business or tax purposes.  Non-tax documents, including utility, credit card and medical billing statements, should be kept for one to three years. Tax documents should be kept up to six years. 

    Will shredding prevent identity theft? No. Nothing you do can prevent it. But you can certainly put a damper on a thief's efforts – so yes…shredding documents is necessary. We must all do whatever we can in order to thwart identity theft. 

    Posted Dec 13 2011, 11:38 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Use these tips to stay safe when shopping online this holiday season

    Identity theft – it's one of the fastest-growing crimes in the country, and now that it's the holiday season, you can bet identity thieves are scheming toward a very merry Christmas for themselves. Scammers are counting on shoppers to be too frazzled and rushed to be careful. 

    Many people are avoiding the rush at stores and malls by shopping online. Here are some tips to help you make safe online purchases.

    1. Consider investing in antivirus and anti-spyware software. If you already have antivirus software, be sure to download the latest security updates, as there are new viruses and malicious programs every day.

    2. Use a credit card instead of a debit card. A stolen debit card gives an identity thief a direct line to your bank account, whereas credit cards offer added protection from fraudulent transactions. To be safe, don't store your credit card numbers online, and review your credit card bills monthly for unauthorized charges.

    3. Make purchases through websites that offer secure connections. When shopping online, choose websites or e-merchants that offer heightened Secure Socket Layer security to protect your personal information. Before inputting your phone or credit card number, check your browser's status bar for an unbroken "padlock" icon, which indicates the site uses SSL. Also, because most e-mail accounts are not secure, it's best not to send payment information in an e-mail.

    4. Watch what you post online. The Internet has made it easy to store and share information, but we should be careful when sharing personal information online. Avoid posting addresses and phone numbers on social networking sites, or storing credit card information and passwords in your e-mail account.

    5. Strengthen all your passwords and PINs. With so many passwords and personal identification numbers to remember these days, it's tempting to use a birthday, child's name, consecutive numbers, or other predictable passwords or PINs. Use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols to protect your shopping and e-mail accounts with the strongest possible passwords.

    6. Talk to your kids about the dangers of online shopping. Children are often so comfortable and confident online that they don't think they need to take special precautions. And identity thieves know this, which is why kids are among their prime targets. Supervise your kids' online shopping and talk to them about keeping their information secure.

    7. Shop at trusted websites. Everyone wants to find the best deals when shopping online, but be cautious when using unfamiliar websites. When shopping at a site that is new or unfamiliar, review customer reviews and Better Business Bureau listings to check the site's legitimacy.

    8. Be wary of fake online stores. Many online scammers steal personal information by redirecting shoppers to fake web pages that look like the checkout pages of legitimate shopping sites. To avoid these traps, be careful what links you click. Set your browser to block pop-up windows, and make sure you type in the store's web address into your browser window instead of clicking links from e-mails or other websites.

    9. Guard your Social Security number. There's no reason for an online shopping site to request your Social Security number to make a routine purchase.

    Posted Dec 06 2011, 12:10 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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