Archive for September, 2011
The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning to consumers: Avoid identity theft by taking non-essential items out of your wallets.
It goes without saying that losing your wallet or having it stolen is a pain in the neck. But it can also lead to identity theft. When you lose your wallet, you’ve not only lost the contents of the wallet, but you’ve also handed an identity thief everything he needs to commit this crime.
In 2010, more than 10 million people became victims of identity theft. But you don’t have to fall victim. A good place to start is to remove the following items from your wallet or purse.
• Social Security card – Never keep this item in your wallet, because it’s the No. 1 item identity thieves are seeking. Keep your card in a secure place.
• Checkbook – While it may seem safe to carry your checkbook, it’s really not. Your checks bear your banking information, name an address. Thieves would love to have that info.
• Passport – Some people actually carry this around on their person on a regular basis; a huge no-no. Leave it in a secure place, like a safe deposit box.
• Cash – Only carry as much money in your wallet as you’re willing to lose if it is stolen.
• Credit cards – Carry only the card you want to use, and keep the rest locked away.
• Unprotected smartphone – If you don’t have a password on your smartphone, you’re just asking for trouble, particularly if you’re one of those people who use their smartphones for personal e-mail, to do banking, or make purchases online.
• Receipts – If you intend to carry around receipts from your purchases, check to be sure they don’t bear your signature, or credit or debit card information.
Many people think identity theft is only something that happens to individuals. But this isn’t true. Businesses are often the targets for identity thieves, because they can get access to more information and more cash, than with a single targeted person.
Incidents of identity theft involving businesses is on the rise, but surprisingly, state laws against stealing the identity of an individual is much more rigorous than those laws against stealing information from a business.
One of the most common ways thieves operate within the realm of identity theft at businesses is to steal credit card numbers. This can be done through a skimmer, which is a device that records the information on the magnetic strip of a credit card. The thief can then download the information later on and use it to create a phony card or make purchases online without a card.
This is why consumers should be vigilant about checking their credit card statements each month, watching out for fraudulent or questionable entries. If you see any such entries, you should contact the card issuer immediately, close the account and get a new card.
Business owners should establish a call-back procedure with their banks, in which the bank will call the account owner to verify a transaction before any transfers are made. This will help prevent thieves from using stolen credit cards.
Businesses should also be careful about shredding customer documents and receipts before disposing them. Identity thieves are above going through trash to find information they can use – and they often do.
Last of all, business owners must be vigilant about computer safety. Make sure you password protect your computers, and only give access to those who must have it. You should also be sure to have the must up to date protection software installed. Make sure your virus checker and firewall are up to date, and that all downloaded documents are checked for viruses or malware.
Almost one-fourth of all identity theft victims in 2010 were between the ages of 19 and 29, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book. The book reports that about a quarter of a million people were victimized by identity thieves last year.
Among the aforementioned age bracket, college students are the most susceptible to “friendly fraud” – when someone they know, like a roommate, friend or relative, takes their Social Security number or other personal information and uses it to commit identity fraud.
Most college students would argue with this, saying they’re careful and that it won’t happen to them. But statistics don’t lie.
To make sure your information is safe, follow these tips:
• Use your parents’ secured mailbox at home to receive mail that is of a sensitive nature, or contains your banking or other financial information.
• Set your privacy settings on social media profiles as high as possible, and don’t give away too much personal information.
• Store your Social Security card, passport, bank and credit card statements in a locked location. Be sure to shred documents that contain personal or financial information before disposal.
• Don’t loan your debit or credit cards to anyone. Period.
• Keep your computer software up to date, and be careful when using public Wi-Fi.
• Make sure you have up to date anti-virus and spyware software, and that you use difficult to discern passwords. Change your passwords often, and use upper and lower case letters, as well as numbers, when creating them.
• Be sure to carefully review your bank and credit card statements, checking for incorrect or fraudulent entries.
• If you shop online, make sure you only do so on secured, legitimate sites.
Identity theft has been an issue for years for individuals – but it’s a bit of a newer concern for the business world.
Apparently, experts say, thieves have discovered that businesses have fewer legal protections, and this makes them a “better” target. A study by Javelin Strategy and Research found that identity theft among small businesses has decreased in recent years; however, businesses are still being hit at a rate of 4.1 percent.
Out of pocket costs for small businesses hit with identity theft is about $4,851 – about twice the $1,574 paid by an individual consumer.
Why are businesses “better” targets? Mostly because businesses have larger amounts of money to steal and bigger lines of credit. And if a business is large, all the better – it just means the theft will take longer to notice.
Protect your business by making sure to limit who has access to passwords and sensitive information. When an employee leaves, change the passwords, and be sure to make them difficult to figure out.
You should also make sure that customer documents are shredded before disposal – as well as business documents containing financial or sensitive information.
And you may also want to consider signing up for identity theft protection for your business. You can’t monitor your personal or financial – or business – information 24/7. Let someone else do it for you.
Check out what LifeLock has to offer at www.lifelock.com.
Want to prevent identity theft? Who doesn’t? Protecting yourself from identity theft is kind of like keeping your children safe from “worldly” influences – it’s virtually impossible. But you can minimize your risk.
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America, with criminals using stolen information for everything from simple fraud to criminal enterprise. The latest data from the Federal Trade Commission shows that in 2009, more than 11 million consumers fell victim to this crime.
Methods used to defraud victims include phishing, vial e-mail and telephone, the use of skimming devices on ATMs and other card swiping machines, and digging through mail, discarded documents and unprotected computer files for personal information.
In most cases, the victims are the ones that are responsible for clearing their own names. The average victim spends 600 hours and $16,000 worth of time in dealing with the issue.
But experts say that safeguarding your identity should be a part of your daily routine. You should check your credit report at least once a year, and verify the information on your bills and statements when they come in the mail.
You should also use a locked mailbox or post office box to prevent mail theft, and limit the amount of information you carry in your wallet, in addition to shredding any documents that contain your personal or financial information before you discard them.
Consumers should also be cautious when using and ATM or gas pump, being careful to check the device before inserting your card. Crooks attach devices to them that steal your information. Be sure to double-check the device, making sure it’s not loose or that it doesn’t look out of place. Tug on the device, and if it comes out in your hand, it’s a skimmer.
Taking the extra time each day to protect yourself won’t prevent identity theft – but it will help minimize your chances of falling victim.