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Sunday, August 27, 2006
Identity Theft - Still A Growing Issue
Woman gets 5-year prison term in identity-theft case
Feds Bust Alleged Identity Theft Ring
ID theft growing concern on campuses -Colleges move away from using Social Security numbers
With the largest shopping season soon approaching, identity theft will rise. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is "high season" for ID theft. So why an article about it now?
Preparedness. Be aware. Watchful. I'll keep it to those three reasons. All year long, people fall victim to identity theft, so any information about the subject is timely. However, as we are nearing "prime time", so to speak, I think it is important that heightened awareness start taking place BEFORE we reach peak season. So, let the "reminding" begin.
We're all starting to learn the buzzwords of identity theft, such as "phishing": You know, the emails that have subject lines like: “Your Account Is About To Be Closed,” “There’s A Block On Your Account,” “Could You Help Me Claim My Funds,” or my all-time favorite “there has been suspicious activity on your PayPal account.”
First and foremost, DON’T FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS IN THE EMAIL! If you think there might be a problem, access the account in question as you normally do on your PC and not with the link supplied in the phony email.I’ve had some very authentic looking email supposedly from banks, that even went so far as to copy the colors of the bank logo and stationery style. But, don’t fall for the scam. In fact, don’t even open the email, because many are just set to loose a virus program on your computer by being opened. Simply forward the suspicious email to the “spoof email” address supplied by your bank, or credit card company.
There is a fairly new scheme on the rise, called "vishing". This identity theft snatcher is scarier, perhaps because it doesn't take place on the internet. It happens over the phone.
We've learned to be careful of internet schemes but when it comes to the telephone, the only thing we really guard against are telemarketers. This is where vishing takes place and is so dangerous.
With vishing, the thief, claiming to be a bank or credit card representative, actually calls you on the phone and may have even set up their caller ID to read the name of the comapny.
They tell you there has been unusual activity on your account and give you a toll free telephone number to call in order to verify your information. This can use an automated recording device that requests the entry of your personal information by using the touch tone pad of your telephone.
If you happen to get a call such as this, physically GO to your bank and discuss the situation. This will eliminate your susceptibility of being a victim of vishing.
Here are some other tips to help you:
1. Understand debit card dangers: Greater liability than credit cards. When it comes to fraud, debit cards carry much greater personal liability than credit cards, depending on how quickly you report the loss of the card. If you fail to report unauthorized use within 60 days of receiving your bank statements, you could lose all the money in the account and be held responsible for the amount of money that has been tapped from your line of credit.
2. Rethink check writing: That little slip of paper has way too much information. Some experts advise against check writing because it gives away your address, bank account number, signature and license number to complete strangers. On top of that, there’s no federal legislation to limit your liability for forged checks (each state has its own set of rules). Experts advise that you look into automating your bill paying.
3. Secure your mail: Your mailbox is a goldmine of information. Between bank statement, bills, and all those pre-approved credit card offers, your mailbox is loaded with personal data which identity thieves can use to easily apply for a credit card in your name. Unless you diligently check your credit report, you may never even know about it. One way to avoid this is to have your mailbox under lock and key. The other solution is to have a rented mailbox, or to foil “dumpster-diving” thieves by buying a shredder and destroy documents before discarding.
4. Go virtual: For shopping online, there are “virtual” card numbers. These are randomly generated credit card numbers that are disposable and that on-line shoppers use once and throw away. It’s linked directly to your real credit card account so purchases show up on your monthly bill. The service is easy to use – and it’s FREE! All you need to do is register with companies offering the virtual card, and they are MBNA, Discover, and Citigroup.
5. Unzipped purses, open bags or ones hanging over your back or that may have
slipped over your back are open invitations to pickpockets. Carry your wallet or purse securely. The Identity Theft Resource Center recommends fanny packs for men and women. Attach it so that it rests against your stomach. If a woman is carrying a purse, you should loop the strap over the shoulder and have the clasp-side of the purse against the FRONT of your
body. A man with a wallet should carry it in front pocket or in back in a velcro-closed pocket. Put a large rubber band around the wallet a couple times to create more friction and make it harder for the thief to pickpocket.
6. Create an emergency identity kit: Would you know how to contact your credit card company in an emergency? Create an emergency kit that contains: your account number, expiration date, issuing company name, and emergency contact number for each card you own. While you’re at it, make copies of your driver’s license, social security card, birth certificate and passport and store them in a locked box or file cabinet, or a safe deposit box. I like the safe deposit box best, because this gives you protection in the event of a catastrophe such as fire, earthquake, etc.
This may all seem like a lot of unnecessary work, but if you’re ever the victim of identity theft – even just once – you’ll realize that it’s well worth the effort.
Many of us forget that were it not for what we carry in our wallets or in our purses, we’re all John and Jane Doe’s if we can’t speak due to injury or are unaccompanied by someone who knows us. How much less stressful is it to know that in a bank box, no matter where you are, there are items that can verify your identity. Better to be safe, than sorry!
Nearly 10 million Americans fell prey to identity theft, costing businesses and individuals billions of dollars. According to the Federal Trade Commissions Identity Theft Survey Report, these victims discovered that their personal information had been used to open fraudulent bank, credit card, or utility accounts, or used to commit other crimes.
A little bit of caution and pre-planning can save time, headache, heartache and a long journey back from being a nobody. Be prepared. Be aware. Be watchful.
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posted by M. Lanphier at 6:00 PM
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