Archive for December, 2012

Broken Tree

Several southern states are still cleaning up following a on Christmas Day that spawned 34 tornadoes, at least six deaths and widespread power outages.

While the American Red Cross offers helpful on how to prepare for different emergencies, it’s also important to safeguard yourself from identity thieves, who often strike when people are most vulnerable.


3_Medicare bill
Medicare identification cards will be redesigned to remove Social Security numbers from the display in an effort to protect seniors from identity theft.

The change—thanks to the of the Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act—was a long time coming. It follows a recent study that revealed beneficiaries were at risk for identity theft but couldn’t get new cards due to high costs. Beneficiaries are required to carry their Medicare cards on them at all times, but the cards use their SSNs for identification purposes.


In 2013, we’ll have to make a choice: Either we acknowledge we’re at war and push back hard, or we keep pretending nothing’s wrong⎯and get snuffed.

In the coming weeks, as we’ve seen every year for the past six, there will be endless reports detailing the digital dangers and identity threats lurking in every corner of our highly networked universe. But allow me to ask a heretical question: To what end?


Convenience: It’s the catchword of our time. Coffee comes in pods, checks are deposited by smartphone, and big-ticket purchases are made—literally—with the click of a button.

But with convenience comes risk (OK, maybe not the coffee). As companies offering instant credit allow consumers to acquire thousands of dollars of debt in an instant, criminals cash in. Services such as BillMeLater, a PayPal company that allows customers to make purchases on credit after a simple sign-up process and credit check, have created an identity theft trend and left victims fighting to clear their names.

The IDentity Theft 911 Fraud Resolution Center reports more than 55 such cases this holiday season. “It’s a growing problem,” said Donna Miller, an IDentity Theft 911 fraud investigator. “It’s unfortunate that this crime is striking at a time when consumers are more likely to be distracted.”


As more consumers pick up their smartphone and tablet to go holiday shopping, cyber crooks will try just about anything to dupe them out of their hard-earned money.

Forty percent of identity theft victims were targeted while making online purchases in 2011, according to an identity fraud report by Javelin Strategy & Research. Meanwhile identity fraud increased by 13 percent, with more than 11.6 Americans falling prey to the scams.


Tax day is months away, but take steps now so you can file your return early—before identity thieves beat you to the punch.

Many victims of tax-related identity theft uncover the fraud after they have filed their returns, leading to delayed refunds and additional problems with the IRS and Social Security Administration.

“One way to stay ahead of the bad guys is to file your taxes early, in January or February,” said Vicki Volkert, an IDentity Theft 911 fraud investigator, who has helped many customers resolve their tax fraud woes.

Here are some additional FAQs about tax-related identity theft from our experts:



By Gerri Detweiler

You’ve heard the standard advice: check your credit reports for free once a year at You may have even heard the suggestion that you stagger your requests at that site so you’ll get a report from one of the three major credit reporting agencies every four months, thereby allowing you to check your credit periodically throughout the year.

While reviewing your free credit reports once a year is always a good idea, there are times when it’s simply not enough. Here are three examples of times when you should review your credit reports more frequently.


Long gone are the days when all your daughter wanted for Christmas was her two front teeth. Now she wants a cell phone.

All her friends have one. And despite headlines about cyberbullying, sexting and texting while driving, you embrace the idea that cell phones are a way of life. “After all,” you tell yourself, “it would help me stay connected with her between school, volleyball practice and babysitting jobs.”

But before you comparison shop for talk, text and data plans, take time to reflect on what bringing a cell phone into your child’s life really means. It’s an instant connection between your child and the world—and all the good and bad things that brings.

These three tips can help you ensure your child’s experience is positive and age-appropriate:


Tax season used to be simple for David Parker. His accountant electronically filed taxes for his businesses and investments, and the refund arrived promptly in the mail.

But in the past few years, fraudsters have hit Parker again and again, despite IRS efforts to resolve the problem.

Parker is among a growing number of taxpayers who are becoming repeat victims of tax-related identity theft. “It’s a pattern we’re seeing on the rise,” said Brett Montgomery, a team leader in IDentity Theft 911’s Fraud Resolution Center. “The IRS investigation process takes so long to run its course that victims are getting hit year after year. It’s a vicious cycle.”