Archive for March, 2013

4_April Fools

This is one best-of list you don’t want to be on.

In honor of April Fool’s Day, here are our top five April fools—the people, criminals, and organizations responsible for the dumbest data breach and identity theft incidents on record. We couldn’t make this stuff up.

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Online shopping is now second-nature for millions of consumers, but it carries with it certain risks for identity theft. Some shoppers might think that avoiding online purchasing will eliminate potential problems, but in-person shopping can also have its own perils.

Determining the safest method for shopping isn’t necessarily about choosing one or the other – it all comes down to knowing how to shop safely in either environment. Consider these potential identity theft pitfalls of shopping in person and online:

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5_Egg basket

Getting a basketful of chocolate eggs is an Easter treat that anyone would love. But having a basketful of passwords stolen is a nightmare that no one wants to deal with. Protecting yourself from identity theft involves a number of steps, and being smart about passwords is the first one in keeping your identity safe online.

Get smart about password safety—and —using these steps:

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2_ATM Skimmers

Consumers who use credit and debit cards for everything—even $3 purchases—enjoy a quick and easy shopping experience, rewards points and greater accounting of their spending.

But convenience has its risks: Point-of-sale purchases, as well as ATM transactions, put shoppers and their financial accounts at risk for skimming—a pervasive form of identity theft that costs U.S. banks nearly .

Most Americans aren’t aware of the skimming dangers we face every day. Skimming happens when criminals attach a hidden device to capture account information and PINs. Your identity and accounts are in jeopardy any time you use your credit or debit card to:

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Online shopping used to inspire suspicion among consumers-now it’s a no-brainer. But was that watchful mindset of just a few years ago the wiser attitude to take? In some ways, yes – and being vigilant about how and where you’re giving out your financial details is equally smart today.

Since buying online is the new norm for many people, are well prepared to target shoppers. A bit of forethought and preparedness is all it takes to foil thieves’ efforts. Keep these tips in mind when shopping online:

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You’ve just finished the last bite of a delicious meal. It was worth every penny, and as you put your John Hancock on the credit card receipt, you make certain that you leave a good tip to show your appreciation of the meal.

That meal will remain a good memory, until several months later when you start receiving bill collector calls, or strange merchandise that you didn’t order is being delivered to your door with your name on it.

Identity theft unfortunately happens frequently at restaurants and bars, usually involving credit card fraud. Investigations often discover skimmers on the credit card readers, which capture and store the data embedded in the cards. This data is then used to add additional bogus charges to that account, or create new purchasing accounts in the victim’s name, without the victim’s knowledge.

So how do you protect yourself when eating out? Here are three tips to help protect your identity:

1. Pay in cash. It might feel dangerous to carry around a large amount of cash to cover all the evening’s activities, but even if you lose the cash, in the long run it’s a better deal than if someone steals your credit card number and runs up the balance making online purchases.
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Your identity was stolen, and now you (finally) have it resolved. To protect against another occurrence, and to keep a closer eye on your accounts, be sure to take the following steps to reduce your risk.

• Check your credit reports from the three credit reporting companies on a rotating basis. While you were working to fix your case of identity theft, you were entitled to a copy of a free credit report, but once everything is resolved, you will only qualify for a free report from each company once a year. Always review the report for any information that is inaccurate.

• Establish a bill-paying calendar. Identity thieves often target mail service, because bills can contain account and other personal identifying information. If you are able, opt for online billing services, and keep track of dates bills should arrive. If they don’t show up, contact the account provider to check the account information.

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Unfortunately, it isn’t very hard for a person with bad intentions to gather bits of personal identifying information and create fake accounts in a victim’s name. And often, the victim’s behaviors could lead to the identity theft in the first place.

Pay attention to how you’re handling your personal identification numbers. If you have any of the following five bad habits, you might be making yourself a target for .

• Carrying your Social Security card-Most institutions have moved away from using Social Security numbers as an identifying number. Leave your Social Security card at home, and only give out the number in limited circumstances.

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1_Tax infographic

Everything you need to know about tax-time fraud is in this primer. Learn how the fastest growing form of identity theft occurs, what puts you at risk and how to protect yourself.

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You have your credit cards, driver’s license and Social Security card safe and sound in your possession, so your identity should be secure, right?

Not necessarily. These are some signs that indicate your identity has been compromised.

1. Tax W-2 Forms Arrive In The Mail-If you start receiving W-2 forms for companies you haven’t done business with, there’s a good chance you’re a victim of theft. Contact your local law enforcement and the company to report this fraud.

2. Your -A credit card denial could indicate your account has been overcharged. Check your account right away to find out if the charges filed for the account are correct. If you spot errors, contact the provider immediately to report the theft. If the account appears to be error-free, contact the provider to ask why the recent purchase attempt was denied.

3. Packages Arrive At Your Home/Office-If your credit card number has been stolen, but your default shipping address is used, you might receive surprise packages at your door. If this happens, contact your credit card provider to change your account information, and then arrange for the merchandise to be returned, putting the credit back on your card.

4. Bill Or Debt Collectors Contact You-Receiving a call from a debt collector could be an indication that someone is establishing accounts using your personal information. Write down information about the debt, and if you have documentation showing the debt is not yours, mail copies of it, along with a letter asking for no further calls, to the debt collector and yourself at the same time. It’s recommended that you mail this with a certified receipt.

5. Your Credit Score Changes Dramatically-Check your credit reports with the three reporting bureaus once a year. If you see errors on your reports, or if you receive your credit score and notice a big change, your identity may be compromised. Contact each of the bureaus to flag your credit and begin the process of correcting the errors.