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.
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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.”