Archive for March, 2012
It’s spring and that means it is time for spring break – for many families and students, this means a trip to the beach or some other spot.
But for identity thieves, this means it’s time to get to work.
When most people travel, they carry sensitive information with them, like identification documents like a passport, and credit and debit cards. Add this to the fact that you’re in an unfamiliar place, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
So how do you keep this from happening to you and ruining your trip to the beach? First, don’t carry your Social Security card with you. There’s no need to, and you should make sure that it’s locked away safely at home. Your SSN is the No. 1 thing a criminal needs to steal your identity and ruin your credit.
Don’t leave your personal documents in a hotel room, and make sure you only carry the minimum. Check with your hotel to see if they have a safe you can lock up your items in when you don’t need them.
Never write your name and address on luggage tags. Once your luggage is out of your sight, you don’t know who has access to it or what they’ll do with it. You shouldn’t leave documents bearing your personal information in your suitcases en route either. Check into a belt with a zippered pouch that fits inside your shirt or pants that can store your documents until you reach your destination.
Last of all, keep your eyes and ears open. Be aware of your surroundings, and keep an eye out for people who get too close, particularly when you’re using an ATM or inputing your PIN.
You may not realize it, but criminals can get our personal information fairly easily. In public places, thieves can shoulder surf as you type in your PIN number or credit card number, or they can listen while you give this information over the telephone.
Another way they get to information is by dumpster diving, which is when they go through garbage bins or even the trash cans out by the curb for pickup. By doing this, they can easily find checks, credit card or bank statements, or even pre-approved credit offers you’ve tossed.
Speaking of pre-approved credit card offers, be sure you shred them before you dispose of them. You may think since the offer is blank, you can just trash it. But a criminal can fill it in, using the information already printed on it, and obtain a credit card. He’ll then use that card to rack up thousands of dollars in debt – and you will be the responsible party, without even knowing it.
The Internet has also become a common tool for identity thieves. Criminals use hacking, social media, phishing and other techniques to obtain your personal and financial information. You may even find your computer infected with malware – and it’s because of something you downloaded. Be sure of what you are downloading and of the source.
Once a criminal has your information, or at least enough of it, he can apply for loans and credit cards, make withdrawals from your bank accounts, and get other good and privileges.
Take steps to protect yourself and your information today. Call LifeLock – LifeLock can lock down your information and help protect you against identity theft.
By now, it’s fairly safe to assume that most people have heard of phishing. Phishing is defined as the act of sending an e-mail to someone, claiming to be a legitimate business or agency, in an attempt to fool the recipient into surrendering personal or financial information. This information is most often used to commit identity fraud. Sometimes, thieves will sell the information they obtain online.
According to a recent survey, one in four Internet users have been the recipients of phishing scams, and about 70 percent were fooled by them. How do you avoid falling victim to phishing scams? Here are some tips to help you spot and avoid phishing scams.
First of all, if you receive an unsolicited e-mail, be extra cautious. If the e-mail contains a link, don’t click on it. It could contain malware. If you do open the e-mail, look for signs that it’s fake: no personalization, a sense of urgency, or a demand for your personal information, such as user names, passwords, credit card numbers of your Social Security number. If the e-mail contains a form or a link to a form, don’t fill it in.
If you do receive such an e-mail, make sure you run your anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and double check to be sure your firewall is functional. If you don’t have these things, get them as soon as possible.
Check your credit card and bank statements faithfully, to be sure there are no fraudulent or questionable entries. If you see something that raises a concern, contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately.
You should also check your credit report to be sure there is no unauthorized activity. You can get your credit report free once a year, but you may wish to access it more than that if you suspect there is a problem.
March is Fraud Prevention Month, and it’s important to remember that identity theft is rampant – and it can happen to you. The list of possible scams and ways identity theft can happen is seemingly endless: mailbox theft, phishing, hacking, dumpster diving, smishing…the list goes on and on.
Here are some tips to help protect your information.
• Make sure you pick up your mail each day from your mailbox. Don’t leave it sitting in your mailbox, even just overnight. If you leave town, have someone you trust pick up your mail, or have it held at the post office.
• Shred all documents before you toss them into the trash. Tearing them up isn’t good enough – a thief can put them back together and get what they need to commit fraud in a heart beat.
• Change your passwords frequently and make them difficult to figure out. Use upper and lower case letters, as well as symbols. Don’t use the name of your pet, your favorite team or your mother’s or child’s name.
• Make sure your computer is equipped with a firewall, as well as anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
• If you receive an unsolicited e-mail containing a link, do not click on the link, and do not respond to the e-mail. It could contain malware, or could lead you to a legitimate-looking site that fools you into inputting your personal or financial information.
The bottom line is this: Use your smarts. Be extra cautious. Don’t get fooled.
It’s that time again – spring break. Families all over the country will be packing their cars and heading out for a little family fun, while college students will stampede beaches everywhere.
As a general rule, the things you need for spring break include your swimsuit, shorts, T-shirts, flip flops, sunscreen and floatation devices for the pool. Most people know to pack these things. But what many don’t think about is what you need to do in order to protect yourself from identity theft while you’re off having the time of your life. Here are some tips.
First, don’t carry your Social Security card with you. Make sure it is stored somewhere safe while you’re gone. If you are leaving the country and will be carrying your passport, make sure you don’t leave it, or any other important papers containing your personal information, in your hotel room.
Don’t put your personal information on your luggage. You never know who might be handling your baggage when it’s out of your sight, and the baggage handler could be an identity thief.
When it comes to money, if you must use an ATM when traveling, make sure you pay attention to the machine. If there are parts sticking out of it that look unusual or appear to be loose, don’t use the machine. If you do use a machine, cover up the key pad when inputting your PIN.
If you carry cash, use a money belt or some other secure device. It would be wise to use credit cards instead of a debit card, since your debit card is linked directly to your bank account.
Remember, when traveling and meeting new people, be careful who you give personal information to and who you invite to “friend” you on social media sites. You never really know who you’re really talking to – and it pays to be cautious.
Scammers are working overtime to find ways to fool you into giving them your personal and financial information – so you’d better be working overtime to find ways to prevent this from happening. There are some things you can do to help prevent identity theft.
First, never give your personal information out over the phone if you didn’t initiate the call. Scammers will call you claiming to be from your bank, or from the IRS or even tell you you’ve won the lottery – and all you need to do is confirm your Social Security number, or your debit or credit card information. Don’t be fooled. Be careful.
Phishing is another method criminals use frequently. This involves them sending out e-mails to potential victims, asking them for verification on personal or financial information. All you have to do is click on the embedded link and type in your information. The e-mails look legitimate, and there’s verbiage included that claims the need for you to comply is urgent – your account will be shut down if you don’t. Don’t be fooled. These are scams. If you’re unsure, call your bank to verify it. You may also get an e-mail with a link that contains malware, which can infiltrate your computer and provide the scammer with your personal and financial information, without you even knowing it.
Don’t put your personal information on your checks, including your Social Security number, credit card number, driver’s license number, etc.
If you keep personal and financial information on your computer – and who doesn’t these days – install a firewall, use anti-virus protection and password protect your programs and files.