Archive for the ‘Identity Theft’ Category

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.

2. Keep your eye on your card. When at a restaurant or bar and using a credit card to pay for your meal and drinks, watch the server the entire time the card is in the server's hands. Some establishments will have mobile scanners, allowing the server to process the payment right there in front of you.

3. Report any suspicious activity on your account. Your local law enforcement team might already be investigating other victims of a similar crime.

Dinning out is supposed to be pleasant and relaxing, so keep your identity protected so you can enjoy the meal well after the final bite.

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.


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.


It’s the ultimate in financial creepiness: knowing someone’s been spying on your credit or other financial details. How about then having those details posted online for anyone to view — or grab?

That’s apparently what happened yesterday when a group of public officials and celebrities including First Lady Michelle Obama, FBI Director Robert Mueller and, yes, celebrity Paris Hilton. They all reportedly had their credit reports and other financial details posted online. are pointing to a website in Russia that published the information on Monday and continued to add to it throughout the day. So far, it hasn’t been confirmed whether the information posted was accurate or whether it perhaps was a hoax, though it sounds as if it probably was the former.

Though the number of victims here appears to be small — just under a dozen by last report — the fact that they are high profile public figures means the hack not only makes the news, but it brings out the big guns to head an investigation and hopefully track down the perpetrators.


9_Celebrity hacking

It’s one thing to be pursued by fans and paparazzi. It’s another thing when hackers are on your tail.

Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and other well-known names got a taste of a new cybercrime called “doxxing” when their sensitive information, including financial details and photos, was posted to a Russian website. Read more about it here.

Your financial stats and pics may not be as enticing as a pop star’s, but this is a good opportunity to take steps to protect your identity online. Here are some tips from our experts:


Your children may not have bank accounts, credit cards or bills in their name, but they're still ideal targets for identity thieves. Because few parents expect , criminals can use a child's personal information for years before they're detected. In the worst cases, it's not discovered until children begin making financial decisions as adults and find their credit in shambles.

The good news is there are things you can do to protect your kids' identity:

* Guard your children's Social Security numbers closely. Adults have bank account information, credit card numbers and other "grown-up" information that's vulnerable to thieves. Most kids don't, but they do have Social Security numbers, which is the No. 1 thing identity thieves will be looking for. Never carry your children's Social Security cards with you, and only give out their numbers when absolutely necessary.
Your mail carrier may soon get Saturdays off, but identity thieves never rest. The Postal Service has announced that it will cease Saturday mail delivery beginning in August. So now is a good time to take steps to protect yourself against mail fraud.

More than 12.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2012, according to Javelin Strategy & Research. By taking a few precautions against mail fraud, you can protect yourself from becoming an easy target of identity thieves:

• Check mail regularly. Never leave mail in your mailbox any longer than it needs to be there. Or, even better, install a locking mailbox or secure mail slot that keeps mail from criminals.
• Use a secure mailbox. If you don't have a locking mailbox, deposit mail to be sent in a secure post office mailbox.
• Stop mail delivery when you aren't home. If you're going to be out of town, always put a hold on mail delivery.
• Keep mail out of sight. Don't just avoid leaving mail in your mailbox - don't leave it anywhere that criminals could get their hands on it. Avoid leaving it in your car, and carry sensitive mail with you only if you intend to send it that day.
• Shred your junk mail. While you might perceive something as junk mail, don't just discard it without shredding it. Identity thieves will take information in whatever way they can get it, even if means digging through your trash.

If you're expecting mail and don't receive it, follow up with the sender to make sure it was sent. If you suspect you were a victim of mail theft, follow these tips from the postal service to protect yourself from identity theft.

2_Small Biz Javelin

Identity theft is on the rise again, hitting a three-year high and producing one new victim every three seconds in 2012, according to a by Javelin Strategy & Research. Data breaches are responsible for much of the stolen personal information. One in four people who received a breach notification letter fell victim to identity theft, the study found, compared with one in five people in 2011.

Fallout from the upswing in identity theft is hurting small businesses. Fraud victims are more selective of where they shop after an incident, the study said. About 15 percent of all fraud victims actively changed their shopping behavior, avoiding smaller online merchants in favor of larger retail sites.

More than 12.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2012, up by one million from 2011. All told criminals rung up $21 billion in stolen funds, goods and damages in 2012.


Blog_FTC Studey Credit Score

The Federal Trade Commission recently released . The results are unsettling: As many as 40 million Americans may have mistakes on their credit reports; 20 million of those errors may be significant.

The big three credit reporting agencies—TransUnion, Experian and Equifax—collect consumer data from credit cards, banks and loan agencies we do business with, then profit by selling that information to new banks, merchants, insurance companies and even our employers. Consumer credit worthiness often is reduced to a number—your credit score—which can have dramatic effect on insurance and loan rates.

“This study highlights once again the need for consumers to be vigilant when it comes to checking their credit reports and adopting a culture of monitoring,” said Adam Levin, chairman and founder of IDentity Theft 911. “Consumers need to discover negative information, whether it is due to error or identity theft, as quickly as possible.”


3_Fraud Files_Loans

In a new form of identity theft, fraud rings are stealing personal information then applying to low-cost, online colleges to milk money from federal student loan programs. But Uncle Sam is hardly the only victim here. Trapped in red tape, one San Francisco Bay area woman has spent more than a year trying to clear her name and repair her damaged credit report.

In October 2011, Christina Benson*, 71, a teaching coordinator, first received a phone call from a U.S. Department of Education investigator, which handles fraudulent federal loan claims. The inspector wanted to verify some of Benson’s information, but Benson knew better than to divulge that data over the phone since her purse had been stolen and her mail raided by identity thieves. “If you don’t cooperate,” the inspector told her, “we’ll assume you’re the ringleader.”