Archive for October, 2010

Be smart when it comes to keeping your smartphone safe

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Cell phones allow us to have it all at our fingertips: Internet connections that link to personal places, banking and social networking sites. These phones are evolving and becoming much ore than just phones, but this evolution puts consumers are more risk of identity theft than ever before.

So the Better Business Bureau encourages cell phone users to protect their identities by protecting their cell phones – and everything they contain.

If someone obtains your cell phone without your permission, there is a wide variety of things he could do to harm you, including stealing your identity, and using your name, your account numbers and your PINs. If you remain logged into a social networking or bank site, it can be particularly damaging.

You shouldn’t keep your credit card, PIN numbers, passwords or other personal information stored on you phone. Don’t store or message personal information like dates of birth.

You should be sure your phone is secure by setting up a password, and by properly disposing of your phone when you get a new one. Tossing your phone in the trash after you remove the SIM card isn’t enough. Personal information can also be stored on the phone, and you should be familiar with how to remove it.

Be careful about adding additional applications. Third-party apps are another way that criminals can attack smartphones. You should only use apps from trusted sources.

Be sure to keep your phone updated. When your carrier develops new updates or upgrades for your phone, install them. Very often, these updates are for your protection.

Your smartphone is your lifeline, and you don’t want it cut off. So don’t be careless with your phone. Doing so can result in it becoming lost or stolen. Get software protection when available, set your PIN number and be careful about adding apps. Taking these precautions will keep you safe from identity theft.

Complaints are just sour grapes

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Despite being recognized as the leader in proactive identity theft protection, there are still those who would complain about LifeLock and its services. Here are those complaints and explanations.

• LifeLock doesn’t ensure foolproof protection of the personal information of its customers.

The fact is, LifeLock never promised this. It’s not a detective agency and can’t prevent anyone from obtaining your personal information. LifeLock works instead to make your information useless to anyone but you. And through its proactive services, LifeLock can notify you about any potential identity theft threats and prevent you from facing legal hassles and financial loss.

• There’s no guarantee that LifeLock will preserve the personal information of its customers.

LifeLock gets it. Your personal information is important and LifeLock treats it as such, using strict electronic, managerial and physical procedures to safeguard your information. LifeLock is ISO 27001 certified, which means its standards for data and operational security are the highest and the best. LifeLock is also certified Level 1 compliant per the payment card industry’s data security standards. LifeLock is also a member of Truste and is checked by VeriSign on a daily basis.

To ensure the confidentiality of its customers’ personal information, LifeLock conducts background checks on all of its employees, including random drug testing. The company also has all of its facilities built with high-quality surveillance and alarm systems and the latest biometric security access, and doesn’t store any important or confidential data online. The data is stored off-site in a safe and secure data center.

LifeLock also works to ensure that no computer outside the secure data centers contains critical information on any of its customers.

• Some people complain that the month fee of $10 (for standard services) or $15 for extended services, is unfair.

The services that are provided by LifeLock are worth much more than either of the fees, since they offer you protection from identity theft, and can save you money, time and heartache if you ever do fall victim to it. If it seems you’re paying a monthly fee for nothing, just remember than LifeLock will notify you only if there’s a problem. If you hear nothing, it’s all good.

The bottom line is this: the complaints are just sour grapes. LifeLock works. Period.

Receive 30 days free and get a 10 percent discount on enrollment with the LifeLock Promo Code “Defense.”

Big Foot and your credit card…what do they have in common?

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

We all know what urban legends are, and we’ve all passed along a story or two. Urban legends get passed along because although they sound wild, they also sound like they could be true.

In the world of credit card fraud, there are a few urban legends that need to be passed along to provide some insight for consumers into the psychology of this type of fraud.

• The “secret” to ditching debt…this legend involves racking up a ton of debt, then wiping out that debt by sending all your creditors $10 checks bearing the notation, “Paid in Full.” This is nothing more than wishful thinking. It is possible to settle with your creditors if your debt has gotten out of hand, but the creditor would have to approve the terms first, and you must prove your financial hardship. And remember: this shows up on your credit report.

• The creditor from hell…A man gets a new credit card, and begins receiving statements showing that he owes $0. He throws them away, but he soon begins receiving threatening letters, threatening to close his account if he doesn’t pay the balance. When he finally wrote the check and sent it in, the credit card company notified him that the check had bounced, and sent the debt to collections. Of course, there’s no truth to this one. But checking your statements regularly and thoroughly is advisable.

• Osama bin Laden is a principal owner of Citibank. If you want to help America, cut up your Citibank cards and cut him off. This is not true, but it works because people are both patriotic and in need of a power trip. They want to feel like they’re in control of something. The lesson here is that you can’t make decisions regarding your credit or finances based on untrue rumors or speculation. You do have power over your spending and credit decisions, but you must do the research before you make a move.

• The sneaky credit card scam…A friend goes to the gym and leaves his belongings in a locker. But a few weeks later, he gets a credit card bill for a whopping $14,000. A thief broke into his locker, stole his credit card, and replaced it with a duplicate card that had already expired. The guy is now fit, but stuck with all that debt. The lesson here is that we must all be cautious with our personal information and credit cards. Many credit card issuers have theft protections in place. You should get familiar with what those guidelines are with your cards.

• There is a magical super card for the rich…This is is a doozy. American Express has a secret “Black Card” for the very wealthy, which is available only by invitation. It can be used to buy anything, and is delivered with a security guard. The truth? AE does have what’s called a “Centurian Card,” which is black and has an annual fee of $2,500 and offers many perks. But it’s not the magical card of legend. The lesson is that whether you have a lot of money or a little, you have to learn how to manage your money. You must have a system in place. This is a much better use of time than waiting for a magical card to be delivered by a guard.

So remember: the next time you get an e-mail about some outlandish money, credit card or identity theft urban legend, be sure you check it out before you pass it on. Don’t take any of this stuff too seriously – instead, use it as a reminder to manage your finances wisely.

Don’t be caught off-guard; get ID protection today

Monday, October 11th, 2010

The Mississippi National Guard is working to find out how personnel records from more than 2,600 members of the 155th Brigade Combat Team were accidentally posted online. It is unknown, at present, whether the information was compromised.

The incident shows once again how easy it is for identity theft, the fastest growing crime in America, to happen to anyone at any time. But even though most people are aware of identity theft, most don’t know what to do to prevent it. In fact, a lot of people aren’t even aware when they fall victim to this crime.

For many, that awareness only comes when a debt collector contacts them about an unpaid bill, or when they receive a bill for a credit card they never requested. Then they’re caught off guard and on top of that, face the task of setting things right.
And many victims don’t even know where to begin.

One of the most valuable things a person can have stolen is his or her Social Security card. With it, along with some other, easier to find information, a thief could obtain a credit card or line of credit in no time, and can rack up thousands of dollars of debt before the victim is aware. Yet many people continue to carry their Social Security cards in their wallets or keep them in unsecured places.

One of the simplest things you can do is to shred pre-approved credit card offers, receipts, and bank and credit card statements. Do not throw them into the trash can without shredding them – and remember that tearing them up isn’t enough; most people can put these items back together as if they’re a simple child’s puzzle.

Check your credit report at least once a year to be sure there are no unauthorized or fraudulent charges. You should also keep an eye on your credit and bank statements.

One of the most important things you can do to protect your personal information is to sign up with an identity theft protection service – and the top dog in that area is LifeLock. As the leader in proactive protection, LifeLock will monitor for both credit and non-credit related threats to your personal information, and will notify you immediately if any such threats are located. So, in effect, LifeLock can stop identity theft before it gets started.

So call LifeLock today – don’t be caught off-guard.

Receive 30 days free and get a 10 percent discount on enrollment with the LifeLock Promo Code “Defense.”

Forget the ‘freshman 15′ – watch out that you don’t become a ‘loser’

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Instead of focusing on the freshman 15 – those 15 pounds most freshmen gain when they begin college – students should instead focus on what they could lose; their identities.

Experts say college students are prime targets for identity theft for at least two reasons: first, students tend to be cavalier about their personal information, and second, stunts who do get taken are usually slow to notice it.

Those same experts say it takes about 132 days, on average, for people ages 18 to 24 to detect identity crime, roughly five times as long as any other age group. When parents of college students are polled, 74 percent said they think students are at a high risk for identity theft, while only 21 percent of the students thought so.

To help prevent becoming a victim of identity theft, college students can follow these tips:

• Don’t have sensitive mail sent to your campus address. Use your parents’ address or a post office box.

• Store your Social Security card and all important documents in a locked filing cabinet. When you no longer need a document containing personal information, shred it. Do the same thing with credit card offers that arrive in the mail.

• Never lend a credit or debit card to anyone.

• Secure your computer to your desk to prevent theft. Make sure your computer has up to date anti-virus and spyware software. Install updates and patches as soon as they’re available.

• Before shopping on an unfamiliar Web site, check the company with the Better Business Bureau.

• Closely monitor credit card and bank statements for suspicious activity, especially small, unauthorized charges. Sometimes scammers will rack up a few small charges to see if they can get away with larger charges.

• Review your credit report at least once a year with all three credit reporting bureaus. If you come across anything suspicious, act immediately.

Small business owners must be leery – scammers are looking for you

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Small businesses are often targeted by scammers on the premise that since the business is small, owners are keen to find opportunities that will make them money. Thieves are also seeking easy targets for identity theft.

There are 10 common cons small business owners should watch out for.

1. Fake government grants. Government grants just aren’t handed out to specially-chosen businesses, so if you receive a notice that your business has been chosen for one, you should be leery.

2. Business owners are facing more “pressure” to make their businesses green than ever. But becoming an environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient facility costs money. Scammers are taking advantage of this by dangling the carrot of false rebates and useless energy-saving plug in devices.

3. Tax and bank fee refunds are another common scam. Neither the tax office nor your bank will e-mail you about money owed to you, and they won’t ask you for bank details up front.

4. You may receive an e-mail on your smartphone about special downloads. Be cautious; these typically contain malicious spyware, designed to harvest information from your phone, such as financial details.

5. Investment and real estate seminars – not all are fake, but be wary of seminars for which you are asked to invest large sums of money up front.

6. If you receive a call or invoice demanding that you pay for an advertisement you’ve placed in a publication you’ve never heard of, chances are it’s a scam.

7. Beware of the overpayment scam, in which a “customer” will send a check for an amount more than the quoted price you gave. You may not realize until you have refunded the difference in cash that you’ve been scammed; when the check bounces and you pay for it out of pocket.

8. Scammers will often try to trick a business owner into providing his credit card details or a PIN number.

9. Stay away from work from home offers. These often require you to pay for tools, training or materials up front, and then the con artist disappears.

10. If a stranger asks you to transfer money from them, it is most certainly a scam. The con usually involves the promise of a commission, usually about 15 percent, for receiving money into your bank account and then transferring it out again.

Woman steals SSN, gets her own ID

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

A Russellville, Texas woman has been arrested for forgery and identity theft after another Texas woman reported to the Social Security Administration that someone had stolen her identity.

Alba Villacorte, 21, appeared in the Pope County Circuit Court, after being held on a $50,000 bond.

According to the investigator’s report, income using the woman’s stolen Social Security number was reported from a Tyson facility in Russellville. A Russellville address also appeared on the victim’s credit report. During the course of the investigation, agents determined Villacorte had been using the woman’s identity, and had signed documents and obtained a Social Security card, an Arkansas identification card, a Tyson medical insurance card and other identification documents using the victim’s name.

Immigration officials are also investigating whether Villacorte, who is originally from El Salvador, is subject to removal from the United States.

If the victim in this case had been a LifeLock customer, she would have known almost immediately that her personal information had been compromised. With LifeLock’s proactive services, hundreds of databases are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week to be sure your information is safe. If any threat, whether credit related or not, is detected, you’re notified before the damage can be done.

And if you ever do fall victim to identity theft while a LifeLock customer, a LifeLock representative will do what it takes to restore your good name. LifeLock’s representatives are available to answer your questions anytime, and will help put things back in order.

Now that’s service – service you can rely on.

Receive 30 days free and get a 10 percent discount on enrollment with the LifeLock Promo Code “Defense.”

Read the fine print at penny auctions – they’re not always the best deal

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Online ads are cropping up on popular Web sites claiming you can get great deals on iPads and other electronics with online penny auctions. The deals are tempting, but the Better Business Bureau warns bargain shoppers to do their research before signing up and making a bid, as some of these sites have had issues and have been used to steal personal information.

With most of these sites, users must set up an account and purchase bids with a credit or debit card. Each individual bid may cost less than a dollar and are often sold in bundles of 100 or more. Every item has a countdown clock and as people bid, the cost of the item goes up. Even if you don’t win the item, you must pay for the bids you placed.

The BBB has received hundreds of complaints from consumers about penny auctions – people have reported losing thousands of dollars bidding on items that they never received.

Some of those complainants said they were automatically charged $150 just for signing up for what was supposed to be a free trial. Others complained the sites used phony bidders and “bots” to drive the prices up on items. Customer support has also been a concern as some consumers said they had difficultly receiving refunds or resolving other issues.

Before going online and making your first bid, be sure to research the penny auction with the BBB first, and read the fine print carefully. Before providing any personal information or signing up for a free trial, read the entire agreement. Pay close attention to details on signup and annual fees, minimum bidding requirements, maximum prize amounts and how to get a refund.

Before bidding on an item, research how much it costs elsewhere and keep track of how much you’re spending on bids overall to determine if you’re really getting a good deal.

Be sure to check your credit card statement to be sure you aren’t overcharged and that there are no fraudulent charges. Report any problems to the BBB immediately.

It’s high time you called LifeLock

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Why should I purchase identity theft protection? It’s a question many people ask themselves – and more and more are deeming this type of protection something they don’t want to do without.

Identity theft is one of the world’s fastest-growing crimes, with a new person falling victim every 13 seconds. With the expansion of technology, particularly social networking, everyone’s identity is compromised more and more each day. Hacked Twitter, Facebook and MySpace account information is sold on the black market every day for hundreds of dollars each.

Another commonly-used method is skimming. Identity thieves use machines disguised as part of ATMs or credit card machines to obtain your credit card information, which can then be used to create fraudulent cards. Other ID thieves dumpster dive or rummage through trash to get the information they need. Some go through your mail, looking for bank or credit card statements, bill payments or pre-approved credit offers.

Most people realize their identity has been stolen when they are trying to apply for new credit cards or loans. But wouldn’t it be nice to know before then? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your information was being used to apply for credit, employment or a cell phone. LifeLock can do this for you.

LifeLock makes identity theft protection simple and affordable. For as little as $10 per month, you can be sure your information is safe and secure. LifeLock also offers a promotional code that will allow you to sign up for only $9 a month – that’s under $100 a year.

LifeLock is different from other identity theft protection companies in that it offers proactive serves – LifeLock searches for all credit and non-credit related threats to your identity and notifies you the minute any such threat is found. In other words, you’ll be able to nip identity theft in the bud. No other service offers this.

Call LifeLock today. Receive 30 days free and get a 10 percent discount on enrollment with the LifeLock Promo Code “Defense.”

Credit card fraud and identity theft – what’s the difference?

Friday, October 1st, 2010

When some people think about identity theft, the confuse it with credit card fraud – and the two crimes are distinctly different, although they do share some common factors.

With both crimes, a thief has gotten his hands on your information and is using it to convince others that he’s you. The bad thing is that once he’s done so, he is entitled to all the same benefits you are.

The worst part of the scenario is that you’ve done everything right. You’ve maintained good credit and banking accounts, you haven’t committed any crimes, you aren’t under investigation and you have a steady income. But those are the very things that make you valuable in the eyes of a criminal.

Credit card fraud is when a thief takes your credit card and makes purchases with it. Debit card fraud also falls into this category, since debit cards can also be used as credit cards, bypassing the need for a personal identification number.

Thieves obtain credit cards in one of two ways: first of all, the most obvious is to just take the card from the owner. The other way is more crafty. There are numerous phishing scams online that trick a consumer into going to a bogus Web site and entering credit card information.

Identity theft is a whole other ballgame. With identity theft, a person steals another’s whole identity, including Social Security number, official identification cards or driver’s license and other documents and personal information. With this information, a thief can open credit accounts, get loans, and obtain cell phones, utilities, apartments and employment. Until the victim checks his or her credit report or is contacted by a collection agency, he or she may not even be aware there’s a problem.

The most horrible thing about this scenario is that the victim becomes responsible for the debts and can even be arrested if his or her identity is used to commit a crime. It can be a harrowing experience to restore reputation and credit.

It is important to keep your personal information, along with your credit, debit and Social Security cards, secure. If they are lost or stolen, report it as soon as possible. And you’ll want to make sure to obtain and review your credit report carefully for any fraudulent or unexplained entries.

If you can’t keep watch over your information 24/7 – and who among us can – it’s time to call LifeLock.

LifeLock will monitor for both credit and non-credit related threats to your personal information, and will notify you immediately if any such threat is detected. In other words, you’ll know about a threat before a criminal has a chance to do any real damage to your good name or your credit.

Receive 30 days free and get a 10 percent discount on enrollment with the LifeLock Promo Code “Defense.”