Category Archives: Identity Theft

teens-identity-theft

Talk to Teens About Identity Theft

Monitoring your children’s activities is easier when they’re young; you walk them to the park, watch them play and drop them off at the bus stop each morning. But when your son or daughter becomes a teenager, it’s much harder to protect them from external dangers, like identity theft. The good news is there are plenty of opportunities to speak with your teen about this crime and ways they can protect themselves.

When Your Teen Signs Up For Facebook or Twitter

Social networking websites are a popular portal identity thieves use to befriend unsuspecting members and monitor their information. Talk to your children about limiting the amount of personal details listed on their profile pages. Restricting information such as date of birth, address and place of employment will make it more difficult for criminals to piece together enough tidbits of data to commit identity theft.

When Your Teen Leaves for College

Living in a college dormitory can be a great student experience, but they also need to be cognizant of the people around them. Make sure there is a bank near the school where your teen might store personal information, such as their Social Security card and birth certificate, in a safety deposit box. It may sound like a lecture, but remind them to lock their door when they are not in the room and password-protect their computers in case anyone tries to look at their account information.

When Your Teen Begins Using a Credit Card

You may be considering whether to allow your teens to obtain a credit card in their name or utilize an existing credit account, so that they may begin building a credit history. Use this as an opportunity to speak with your children about protecting their personal financial details and the implications identity theft can have on a person’s credit report and score. Teach your teen to review his or her credit card statements for suspicious information. Advise your teen against lending the credit card to a friend or leaving it out in the open.

Having a dialogue with teens about identity theft will make them more aware of their surroundings and prompt them to better protect their information. You may fear coming off as a nagging parent, but knowing your teen is educated on the crime will give you more piece of mind.

detecting-identity-theft

Ways to Detect Identity Theft

Most employers run background checks on applicants to determine if they have any criminal information in their past that may disqualify them from a job, but consumers may benefit from doing the same – on themselves.

Background checks are becoming more popular not just among employers, but also among parents hiring new babysitters and even women and men going on a blind date. The checks are a seemingly good way to find out if someone a consumer is trusting has a criminal background or serious financial problems. Because the information listed in a background check is extremely thorough and comprehensive, consumers may want to consider running one on themselves to find out if another has committed any financial or criminal crimes under their name, according to MyBackgroundCheck.com.

Most checks include information that is a matter of public record. This may include criminal and driving records, medical information, education background, property ownership, drug tests, worker compensation, past employers and even professional references. While all of this data may not be included, background checks can provide consumers with valuable insight into what is listed on their file.

Most notably, tax liens, accounts in collection and other negative financial information may be listed on a file (for a seven year period), which can help individuals who think they may be a victim of identity theft confirm or resolve their suspicions.

Identity theft can be a financially – and sometimes medically – debilitating crime, but consumers can take measures to reduce their risk of falling victim to this crime. In addition to safeguarding personal information online and being vigilant about examining credit card and bank statements, consumers can invest in a credit monitoring service that may help them detect fraudulent activity.

Credit monitoring is a service that detects any changes made to an individual’s credit file and notifies them of updates. This means that if a criminal tries to open a credit card account under the name of another person, that individual will be notified of the addition to their report, giving them the opportunity to resolve the issue.

Consumers should also make sure to regularly examine their credit reports for any mistakes or inaccuracies. False information listed in an individual’s credit file can be just as harmful to their financial condition as a case of identity theft, especially if the mistake is blatant enough to result in a denial of credit.

Identity Theft: How to Report Fraud

The first move you should make is contacting your local or state police. Following this phone call, you can contact your postal inspector, the FBI, your credit card company, your bank, and any other agency you feel appropriate depending on the type of identity theft.

(Not sure who else to call? See the list below.)

Some identity theft cases result in the return of your funds – or at least some kind of insurance that has you covered as a victim. Some cases do not have such positive results. However, because ID thieves can hit many victims in a short period of time, justice is vital. This means that victims should always exhaust all measures when it comes to the persecution of identity thieves.

Additionally, the more vocal you are about your case, the more likely it is that credit card companies and government agencies will react and put forth the energy and resources needed to devote to your case. The more agencies you notify, the more likely your chances of receiving some kind of financial restitution once the matter comes to a close.

Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration (SSA), Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Fraud Hotline provides an avenue for reporting fraud, waste, and abuse within SSA’s programs and operations. The SSA OIG Fraud Hotline receives allegations by telephone, regular mail, and facsimile. An electronic form is available on their website as well.
You can visit them at www.ssa.gov

Internet Crime Compliant Center

Reporting cyber crimes has become much easier, thanks to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, otherwise known as IC3. IC3’s mission is to serve as a vehicle to receive, develop, and refer criminal complaints regarding the rapidly expanding arena of cyber crime. The IC3 gives the victims of cyber crime a convenient and easy-to-use reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of suspected criminal or civil violations.
You can visit them at www.ic3.gov

Federal Trade Commission

The FTC is a comprehensive government resource, dedicated to the protection of companies and consumers to provide fair commerce practice. The Division of Enforcement protects consumers: It ensures compliance with administrative and federal court orders entered in consumer protection cases; conducts investigations and prosecutes civil actions to stop fraudulent, unfair, or deceptive marketing and advertising practices; and enforces consumer protection laws, rules and guidelines.
You can visit them at www.ftc.gov

United State Postal Service

The US Postal Service has an informative website that explains various fraud schemes, as well as provides a detailed complaint form for fraud complaints and investigations.
You can visit them at www.usps.com

To ensure ID fraud protection in the future, hire a credit protection service that provides credit monitoring online and receive instant email alerts regarding any suspicious activity on your account. To instantly get your credit monitoring service activated and obtain a copy of your credit report, go to www.creditreport.com now.

identity-theft-risk-with-file-sharing

File Sharing Increases Identity Theft Risk

Most adults understand the risks involved in identity theft and pass this knowledge on to their teenage children. Don’t open email attachments from unrecognized senders. Tear up or shred bank and credit card statements before discarding them. Some may have even educated them on the importance of obtaining their credit report on a yearly basis. However, most teens may not know that they are opening themselves up to identity theft by sharing music and videos with friends.

Peer-to-peer file-sharing networks are used by many teenagers to send and receive music, videos and photos. Such networks include LimeWire, Kazaa and Rhapsody. The risk of a criminal accessing one’s computer through a P2P network are diminished if the software is set up properly, but easy illegal downloads and upgrades can drastically increase a teen’s risk of a data breach, according to online newspaper New Jersey Today.

Illegally downloaded content or non-secure networks may allow technologically-savvy criminals to access all files on a user’s computer, not just the music and video accounts. This may include tax documents, bank or credit account information and school data that may include a student’s Social Security number, the newspaper cautions.

To highlight the threat, the Today Show conducted a study on the dangers of file sharing networks by performing simple searches using key words like “tax return” and “health insurance” on file-sharing networks, the newspaper explains. The newspaper reports that the study allowed investigators to view more than 25,000 student loan applications, 150,000 tax returns and 626,000 credit reports through the networks.

The danger is elevated because easy accessibility to P2P file-sharing networks isn’t limited to those that use them. Even individuals that do not have the networks installed on their home computer can still fall victim to a data breach through third parties that may utilize the software. For example, retail stores, schools and even doctor’s offices that have client information stored on a computer that houses P2P file-sharing programs put their customers at risk, the newspaper reports.

Despite the inability to control what businesses store and transmit, individuals should continue to protect their personal data and only provide the third-party service providers with the bare minimum amount of information they need to perform their contractual duties. Consumers should also be vigilant about obtaining a copy of their credit report each year to review for suspicious activity.

identity-theft-at-businesses

Few Businesses Prioritize ID Theft Prevention

A new investigation shows that, despite national warnings and privacy laws centered around identity theft, many businesses are not taking proper measures to protect employee and customer identities, ABC affiliate WFTS reports.

The report shows that an alarming number of businesses do not properly dispose of sensitive information before throwing it in the dumpster. High-profile identity theft cases usually focus on theft committed through a data breach or scam, underestimating a criminal’s ability to obtain the same amount of damaging information by simply digging through a trash can.

The Hillsborough County Sheriffs Department in Florida stated that they see a minimum of three to four cases each month that involve improper disposal of personal information, the department told the news station.

The reporters sifted through the dumpster of a small office building in Tampa that housed property management companies. The reporters collected enough garbage to fill one 55-gallon trash bag, according to the news affiliate. After examining the contents, they discovered federal tax returns prepared by a company accountant in addition to a number of client files from 2002 to 2009. They also discovered that Avid Property Management, a company housed in the office building, failed to shred a large amount of cancelled checks bearing account and routing numbers from local residents, the news station reports.

In a separate location in Tampa, reporters found a dumpster containing the medical records of local patients. Medical identity theft, which allows criminals to receive medical services and file insurance claims under their victim’s name, is the fastest-growing type of identity theft. In some instances, it can be life-threatening to victims during an emergency situation if their medical records have been tampered with.

The Hillsborough County Sheriffs Department said that companies often do not take proper disposal measures because it’s too expensive.

“They don’t want to spend the money to have the big companies come to their offices and shred these documents because it attacks the bottom line,” Bodie told the news station.

The findings of this investigation are alarming as the incidence of identity theft continues to climb. Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the U.S., affecting more than 11 million Americans annually. In order to better protect their identity, consumers are encouraged to monitor their credit reports for suspicious activity or inaccuracies.

personal-information-databases

Databases of Personal Info Leads to Identity Theft

It’s no secret that identity theft in the U.S. is increasing. It seems that new methods for stealing personal data improve as quickly as law enforcement can detect and stop it. This leaves many Americans wondering how identity thieves are still able to obtain their information if they are taking all of the necessary steps to prevent it. One problem may lie in the length of time that personal data is stored in electronic databases, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal demonstrated their claim by relaying part of an article that appeared in the newspaper’s Weekend Investor section. The article reports that Susan Kusio was recently one of the 3.3 million Americans notified by student loan service ECMC that their personal information had been compromised in a data breach. The notification came as a shock to her family because Susan Kusio had been killed in a car accident nearly 30 years ago, according to the article.

The scenario highlights the problem associated with holding large amounts of sensitive information in a database for long periods of time. This is especially true if, in the case of Susan Kusio, the information is not updated. While most criminals may prey on adults or even children who have not yet established a credit history, some thieves may go after the identities of the deceased, making detection very difficult.

“Historically, people have not seen the risk of holding data,” software company ID Analytics government affairs vice president Tom Oscherwitz told the Journal. “How do we protect the legacy systems?”

Each company or organization may have different regulations regarding how data is stored and who may handle sensitive information, the newspaper reports. Depending on each entity’s rules, information relating to credit card accounts, student loans and medical records may pass through many different hands in the event that a company is acquired or merged, the Journal adds.

Identity theft affects nearly 11 million Americans each year. While most individuals understand the risks of identity theft and take measures to safeguard their information, many businesses and government organizations fall short of providing the necessary protections. A recent article reveals that some office equipment, such as photocopiers, maintain a hard drive that collects and retains any information copied. This may include employee tax and employment forms which often reveal the worker’s name, date of birth and Social Security number.

telephone-scams

Consumer Warning: Telephone Scams

While most criminals are utilizing technology to steal consumer information, such as bank account numbers and passwords, others are sticking to old-fashioned ways of committing theft. Calling consumers to solicit information has always been a popular tool among criminals and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has recently warned Americans that an old telephone scam has been revived, according to identity theft awareness website IDTheftQuiz.org.

The scam, previously popular in 2005, involves contacting consumers about jury duty. Scammers will contact individuals on the phone posing as U.S. court employees to let them know that they have been selected for jury duty. They will then ask to verify personal information such as name, Social Security number and credit account information. Individuals that refuse to release this information are then intimidated with the threat of heavy fines.

The FBI advises Americans who receive such calls to refuse giving out any information. The U.S. court system does not notify prospective jurors that they have been selected for duty via phone and request sensitive information.

In addition to the jury duty scam, a rise in telemarketer scams has also caused consumer advocates to warn Americans about releasing personal information over the phone. Callers may claim to be representatives of a bank or other financial institution and ask for sensitive information so that the individual can receive a special prize or reward. Most will say that in order to claim the offer, the consumer must act immediately and may be required to pay for postage and shipment.

IDTheftQuiz.org warns Americans that it is very difficult to get money back when a purchase is made over the telephone and identity theft committed in this way may be even more difficult to prove. Individuals are discouraged from purchasing anything via phone unless they know that company is legitimate. While unfamiliar companies may be legitimate businesses, consumers should do their research before making a purchase.

Consumers that fall victim to scams over the phone should contact their local police immediately and obtain a copy of their credit report to monitor for suspicious activity. Those who released sensitive information should consider placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on their credit report to make it more difficult for criminals to open accounts under their name.

identity-theft-protection-and-fraud

Identity Theft Protection: Avoiding Fraud

Why should you care about identity theft? Because it could show up at your door at any moment. And ID theft doesnt knock.

Identity theft is when a criminal steals your name, contact information and other personal information to commit fraud or other crimes normally resulting in their own financial gain. ID theft has become an increasing epidemic in the U.S., as the growth of the Internet has provided new opportunities to cash in  by stealing the identities of others.

  • Over 9 million victims a year for two years running
    (Better Business Bureau and Javelin Strategy & Research, January 2005)
  • Over 30 million victims in past five years
    (Federal Trade Commission, 2003 and Better Business Bureau, 2005)
  • Top consumer complaint to FTC five years in a row
    (Federal Trade Commission, National and State Trends in Fraud and Identity Theft, February 1, 2005)

Learn How Identity Thieves Can Get To You

 Social Security

Your Social Security number represents the gateway to your identity, both personally and financially. A thief could use your Social Security number and your good credit record to obtain employment, open credit card accounts, or even acquire loans using your name. Think you can just get a new Social Security number and thats the end of your problem? Its not that easy. One or all of the credit bureaus may use the negative credit information about you from your previous Social Security number and include that information in your credit report.

Credit Cards

Some ID thefts occur when a credit card is stolen. Thieves taking a more tactical approach will complete a change-of-address form at the post office and have credit cards in your name sent to another address. Because your credit card bills are being sent to a new address, you may not discover a problem for a long time. Identity theft also occurs when a criminal completes a pre-approved credit card offer sent to you in the mail, using your name, date of birth and Social Security number, but a different address, on the application form. Identity thieves even access your credit card and purchase information through fraudulent or through unsecured websites.

Check Fraud

  • MAIL: Check fraud often begins at your mailbox. An ID thief will break into a mailbox and almost always find outbound bills containing checks. Consequently, the thief will alter the writing and amount of the check and run all the way to the bank.
  • CHECK FORGERY: More sophisticated check fraud involves the forgery of checks. The thief scans a check using a computer, edits the name and the amount on the check, and even makes multiple checks based on the look of that first check.
  • CHECK WASHING:   A check fraud expert uses chemicals to wash  your check. The result is a blank check with a signature, which he can cash at any time for any amount.
  • HOT CHECKS: These are legitimate checks that are coming from an account that no longer exists or simply doesnt have sufficient funds. Keep in mind, when bad checks are written in your name, this information will show up on your credit report, thereby affecting your financial standing for years or at least for several months as you attempt to repair the problem.

Cell Phone Fraud

Identity thieves can establish new cellular telephone service in your name or make unauthorized calls that seem to come from, and are billed to, your cellular phone. Others make unauthorized charges by using your calling card and Personal Identification Number (PIN).

Internet Fraud

There are numerous fraudulent scams throughout the vast world of the Internet. One popular scam involves sending emails from fake Internet Service Providers. The email will indicate that your account information needs updating or that your credit card has expired. ID thieves will immediately take that information and open credit cards in your name.

Internet auction fraud is another growing problem online. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, Internet auction fraud made up 71.2% of referred Internet fraud complaints. Non-delivered merchandise and/or payment accounted for 15.8% of complaints. And credit/debit card fraud made up 5.4% of complaints.

Phony Identity Theft Prevention Services

The Federal Trade Commission warns that some companies that claim to be identity theft prevention services are guises for obtaining personal information from you such as your drivers license number, mothers maiden name, Social Security number and credit and bank account numbers. Remember, do not give out any personal information over the phone or online unless you are familiar with the business that is asking for it. If you are unsure about a firm, check it out with the Better Business Bureau.

Defend yourself before something happens by employing the services of a credit monitoring and identity theft protection expert. CreditReport.com can help you immediately with their arsenal of Credit Monitoring and ID theft protection services, all for a low monthly fee.  

Places of Business

Many fellow employees are responsible for inter-company identity thefts. Surprisingly, a large segment of the identities were stolen not by an employee but by the owners and managers of many companies or small businesses.

If any employer requests your Social Security number, a Privacy Act notice must also be presented to you. Never provide your Social Security information until you have been officially offered a new job. If a Social Security card is requested, see if a copy will suffice. If the actual card must be presented, be sure to return the card to a drawer or safe place at home. Do not carry it around with you.

Internet

Online phishing  has become very popular. ID thefts occur when you receive emails from people posing as legitimate companies asking for your contact or credit card information. Some will directly ask you to send them a check.

Schools and Universities

At many colleges, Social Security numbers are used for just about everything from financial aid to Student ID numbers and more. Faculty and students all become prey when Social Security numbers are so readily available to be targeted by Identity thieves. Computer systems are also often left unattended, allowing for possible hacking and information theft.

Mail

ID thieves can easily steal your mail, including bank and credit card statements, credit card offers, checks, tax information and more. They will even steal the mail you leave for the postman if your mailbox isnt secure. They may fill out a change of address form in your name and send it back so they receive your mail.

ATMs

ID thieves can capture your ATM card information using a technique called skimming.  They get your information by attaching a data storage device to an ATM machine and get your information when you swipe your card.

In or Around Your Home

Many ID thefts occur in or near the home. In fact, more than a quarter of identity theft cases prove that the victims knew (or are related to) their perpetrator. This is why sharing personal information is so dangerous to your credit and overall finances.

Phone Fraud

An ID thief gains access to phone service in your name and then makes unauthorized phone calls. These calls may seem like they are coming from your cellular phone or your home phone. The charges will show up on your bill, which you will have to dispute. Contact your provider immediately and set up a new account.

To ensure identity theft/ID fraud protection in the future, hire a credit protection service that provides credit monitoring online and receive instant email alerts regarding any suspicious activity on your account. To instantly get your credit monitoring service activated and obtain a copy of your credit report, go to  www.creditreport.com  now.

technology-and-identity-theft

Tech Enthusiasts Targeted By Identity Thieves

A recent report by the Washington Post pointed to Apple’s iPad as a popular target for these cybercrooks, who may offer fraudulent discounts on the $499 device to those who enter an address or credit card number.

Using this stolen information, identity thieves may be able to purchase electronics and shop them overseas for resale. This is a less risky approach than transferring money, and is particularly profitable with Apple products, which often fetch higher prices on the international market.

“Discrepancies like this can be tempting to black-market buyers and sellers,” the report said.

The sweeping nature of these scams often gives thieves access to dozens of credit card numbers. Using them to make small purchases allows such scammers to determine which numbers are active, without triggering a lender or consumer’s suspicion.

Online fraud has become more prevalent in recent years, increasing by 22.3 percent from 2008 to 2009, according to data from the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Criminals involved in this type of crime often have an advantage over commercial banks and borrowers. Access to the latest technology may allow them to remain under the radar longer than other identity thieves.

There are some steps consumers should take in order to protect themselves from these scams. First, it is best to reject any online offers than seem too good to be true and employ caution when opening emails from unknown senders. These emails may include attachments that contain malware, allowing senders to trace a consumer’s online activity.

Consumers should also be wary when entering personal information like a credit card or Social Security number online. Reading the fine print can help protect them from post-transaction marketing practices, which place monthly charges on a credit card, and scams on electronic devices.

“If the iPad turns out to be as much of a blockbuster as Apple hopes, it’s safe to assume the device will play a starring role in online scams for some time to come,” the report said.

Detecting fraudulent charges is the first step in stopping them. Credit monitoring services allow consumers to keep track of their credit history, which can be badly damaged by identity thieves.

Carefully viewing their monthly credit card bills can also alert consumers to fraud. Those who think their information has been compromised should contact their lender immediately to prevent further charges and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

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Signs of Identity Theft

Signs of Identity Theft

If youre proactive and take advantage of a low-cost credit monitoring service, you can save yourself a lot of aggravation in the long run. Receiving instant notifications alerting you to any possible signs of identity theft can prove very beneficial to your financial standing. However, maybe you’ve already been victimized.

Signs that may indicate you’ve already become prey to an identity thief:

Bills and statements are arriving late or not arriving at all to your residence.

Know when they normally arrive, so you can monitor this yourself. If your bills and statements don’t arrive when they are supposed to, its possible that someone has changed your address or stolen your mail directly from your mailbox.

Collection agencies or creditors are contacting you regarding accounts you dont have or show charges for which youre not responsible.

Someone may have opened a new account in your name, or added charges to an account without your knowledge or permission.

Financial account statements show withdrawals or transfers you didn’t make.

A creditor calls to say you’ve been approved or denied credit for which you never applied or you receive credit card statements for unfamiliar accounts.

You are turned down when you apply for credit for which you should be financially qualified.

This could mean youre denied a credit card, loan, mortgage, or other form of credit due to unauthorized debts on your credit report.

You receive bills from companies you dont recognize.

If youve experienced any of these identity theft warning signs, please visit our getting help page.