Archive for the ‘Identity Theft Tips’ Category

The thought of losing a smartphone is about enough to make any user's blood run cold. But there's much more at stake with a misplaced phone than just the cost of replacement or missing some calls and texts. Because of all the sensitive personal information that many of us store on our mobile devices, the loss of a phone could very easily lead to a loss of identity at the hands of thieves.

While no one can put a safety lock on their brain to guarantee never losing or misplacing a phone, there are preventive measures any smartphone user can take to head thieves off at the digital pass.

1. Use a password. It might seem like an obvious step to take, but as many as a third of smartphone owners admit they don't their phones. Setting up a password takes only seconds, but can make data much more difficult for thieves to access.

2. Don't stay logged into apps. If it's convenient for a user to stay logged into-or save passwords for-Facebook or email or retail apps, then it's that much easier for thieves to see everything they need to steal an identity. The extra minutes spent logging in are well worth it, in terms of .

3. Turn on tracking. It's true that many smartphones have tracking functions built in, like "Find My Phone" on iPhones, but not all users are aware that the apps need to be activated. Take a few minutes and turn it on, in case the need to track a stolen device ever arises.

4. Make data disposable from a distance. Service providers and apps alike can offer capability to remotely wipe data from a device. If a smartphone is stolen, or simply lost, the owner can get rid of the very information that thieves are after.

It's important to remember that none of these strategies should be a stand-alone option. After all, a thief could find everything he needs in the time it takes to realize that a phone has been lost. Used in tandem, these tips will protect users' data - as well as that of their friends, family and even coworkers.
Children are almost the perfect victims for identity thieves: They're unlikely to monitor credit, they don't keep track of a bank account and they probably won't do either of those things for years. The only potential protection comes from vigilant family members-but sometimes those family members are the very ones who abuse children's identities.

In many cases, when a family member or friend steals a child's identity, the crime goes unreported. However, statistics show that in of reported instances of , friends and family are responsible. Parents, relatives or friends of the family might use a child's identity to get a mortgage, apply for credit cards, employment, government benefits and more.

Protecting a child's identity from those whom you trust the most can feel particularly difficult, but taking preventive steps could make a world of difference. While there's no need to treat friends and family differently, these tips can lessen the risk of your child's ID being stolen:

* Guard your child's . Don't give it out without first asking how it will be used, how it will be protected, and whether providing only the last four digits is an alternative option.

* Secure documents. Paper records should be filed in a secure location-an in-home safe is a good option-so that visitors to your home can't easily get access to them. Electronic records should be equally well protected; make sure the sites where the documents are hosted are secure, and use strong, safe passwords.

* Think critically. Consider whether there's anyone in a child's life who might need a quick and easy way to turn over a new leaf. Those who are struggling financially, or who have been in trouble with the law, might be desperate enough to misuse a child's identity.

The consequences of identity theft can last for years, and children affected by it will have a much more difficult time establishing credit. Protection in the present will give them a better shot at a sound financial future.
Knowing all the right tips to foil identity thieves online and in public places (such as ATMS) can go a long way in safeguarding confidential information. However, the documents and records that linger in homes and get casually tossed into garbage cans and recycling bins are turning many unsuspecting people into victims of .

Thieves are no dummie-they know where to look for the information needed to steal an identity. Unfortunately, honest people don't know the tricks of the thieving trade and often leave themselves vulnerable. According to the , 56 percent of identity theft victims could trace the theft back to something that was taken from their possession. With statistics like that, it's clear that taking steps to secure your identity isn't just a good idea-it's essential. One of the best places to start is by shredding documents printed with sensitive information.

On April 20, the BBB is holding "Secure Your ID Day" events across the , offering free secure shredding services and advice on everyday actions to . It's a perfect opportunity to get rid of documents that have personal information on them. Unsure of what to shred? Here are some items that should be on the list:

* Credit card offers and applications
* Insurance, bank and billing statements older than two years
* Duplicate deposit slips older than two years
* Tax returns older than 5 years
* Old pay stubs
* Cancelled checks (but not checks used for taxes, property purchases, etc.)

This free shredding event can be the kickoff to better identity protection. It's also a good idea to purchase a home shredder-having one on hand makes it easy to shred whenever it's necessary.
Unforgettable, Unguessable Passwords Fight ID Theft

For better or worse, life has moved online. While people still live and breathe outside the digital setting, banking, shopping, dating, socializing and more all happens on the Web and, often, behind a wall of security. But how simple is it for hackers and identity thieves hop over that wall? In many cases, it's all too easy, but users can make it harder to scale by creating-and remembering-uniquely hard-to-hack passwords.

Identifying information is all over the Internet, and do everything they can to get what they need. While the average spam email packed with poor grammar isn't too hard to spot, hackers are savvy. The public needs to be as well, in order to keep data safe. Follow these tips to ensure that passwords provide the security necessary to protect your identity.

• Don't use the same passwords across the Web. Having the same password for online banking, Facebook, professional and hobby organizations is asking for trouble. Make each password different, and if necessary, cleverly work part of the website name into the password. For instance, add the last four letters of the site or company name somewhere within the password. Associating the site with the password will make that latter more memorable.

• Know what thieves know-the most common passwords. Thieves love easy-to-hack passwords, and people often make it all too simple for them. Names spelled backwards, birth dates, pets' names, or phone numbers are highly common and easily breakable choices for passwords. Either avoid them or get creative with them (such as typing one row up, in which "kip" becomes "i80"). It's a quick way to put a unique spin on a password that's hard to forget.

• Make a password template. If all passwords follow a format, but contain different characters, it's a surefire way to make memorable passwords that are hard to guess. A certain number of letters, followed by a special character (like a dash or pound sign), then followed by a group of numbers is just one example; UIO#1206 or SJO#0817 both follow the same format, but could be used for different sites. Just make sure that the letters and numbers are meaningful enough to be memorable - a mother's initials followed by the date of a marriage proposal, for instance.

Keeping your identity secure can be a tricky business, but making the effort will help prevent identity thieves from breaching your online life.
Standing face to face with a cashier, every consumer has an array of payment options: cash, check or card. There are plenty of ways for identity thieves and scammers to take advantage of a credit or debit card, but personal checks can be even more problematic. Consider this: If an identity thief gets a hold of a personal check, they have one slip of paper with an incredible amount of information, including a bank name, bank routing number, bank account number, account holder's name, home address and possibly even more sensitive information. In short, everything they need to steal an identity.

A healthy dose of suspicion can serve consumers well when it comes to paying by personal check. It's critical to only give personal checks to trusted companies and people. Even then, keep in mind that while Aunt Mildred is a trustworthy person, she might leave your check lying around where a thief could snatch it.

For many people, ordering checks is a reflex leftover from the days when identity theft was nowhere near as common as it is today. Back then, it wasn't uncommon for people to ask that their driver's license number, home phone number and even their Social Security number be printed right on the check. In today's world, where identity protection should always be top of mind, rethink the old conventions. Use a P.O. Box for the address, list a work telephone number rather than a personal one and never include critical information like your driver's license or Social Security numbers.

If ordered checks go missing or never arrive, it's important to inform the bank immediately. They can help protect potentially compromised accounts if they're aware of the situation. For even more protection, shred canceled checks.

A little forethought and caution go a long way when using personal checks. Take the right actions and it's easier to pay with confidence.
Heading to the airport is already a stressful experience, but that's just what identity thieves are counting on-a distracted traveler is a ripe target. Passengers checking in, fumbling with bags, documents and one-quart baggies filled with toiletries aren't thinking about guarding their identities. But they should be.

Airports are hubs that transfer travelers from Point A to Point B, but they're increasingly hubs of identity theft, too. Being aware of thieves' tricks and tactics will help safeguard your identity and make sure that your trip doesn't turn into a nightmare.

• Watch out for Wi-Fi. Most travelers take at least one Wi-Fi-enabled gadget along for the ride, and many take a handful-smartphones, tablets, laptops and more. Logging on to a public Wi-Fi network in an airport is a risky move. Many are unsecured, leaving your data visible to thieves and vulnerable to attack.
• Cut RFID risks. In newer passports (issued after 2006) and some credit cards, an embedded RFID (radio frequency identification) chip holds all your important information-exactly what identity thieves are after. Using a scanning device, thieves can access the information in the RFID chip without even getting their hands on your passport or cards. New RFID-stopping wallets and passport cases cut down on the risk.
• Beware Bluetooth. Many business travelers are "on" even when they're in an airport-working remotely and staying connected to the office. But leaving Bluetooth switched "on" can give thieves a clear path into your electronic devices. Use it when necessary, but otherwise, keep it off to block this path to .
• Protect personal information. Putting identifying information on baggage is important in case it gets delayed or lost. On the other hand, writing too much information down could give thieves the data they need to steal your identity. List a work address, cell or work phone number, or a specially created email address (other than a primary one).

Smart traveling today means so much more than knowing how to say "hello" in five languages and packing light. Stay aware of how identity thieves are exploiting airports and the journey will much more enjoyable.
Brides and grooms are busy people in the months leading up (and even following) their weddings. There are flowers to be arranged, photographers and caterers to be hired, dresses to be purchased and honeymoons to be booked. But with all of that activity comes the risk of identity theft, which can put the brakes on marital bliss in a hurry.

Both before and after the wedding, couples need to keep their guard up, even when doing fun activities like attending wedding fairs. To ensure that fraud doesn't end up on the guest list, newlyweds should keep these tips in mind:

• Don't sign up for trouble: At wedding fairs, brides and grooms are often asked to give vendors contact information. There's no guarantee that the vendor will safeguard the data they're given, so think twice before disclosing identifying information.

• Change accounts carefully: Many couples merge accounts after they're married and the long-held tradition of a bride taking her husband's last name is still going strong. The paperwork associated with both of these actions needs to be carefully guarded, as it often contains the information that thieves are dying to get their hands on. Shred non-essential documents that contain sensitive data.

• Pay wisely: Paying with a check can be a risky decision, but many couples hand personal checks over to wedding vendors. Just think about it: a lists about everything an could need: names, addresses, phone numbers, bank names and addresses and bank account numbers.

• Safeguard the honeymoon: Traveling to that long-dreamed of destination is a great way to kick off newlywed life, but with travel comes the risk of identity theft. Talk to banks and credit card companies about where you're going so that they can help guard against fraud. While traveling, keep cards and IDs close at hand (or in a money belt) and stay vigilant. Once home, carefully monitor your accounts.


can have massive negative effects on millions of people nationwide every year, but today, even many victims who are no longer living may be susceptible to being ripped off by criminals.

These days, there are a number of websites frequented by criminals that . Criminals then can in turn exploit the information to file falsified documents for the purposes of identity theft, according to a report from Tampa, Fla., television station WFTS. These sites sell information on dead people, culled from the Social Security Administration’s “Death Master File,” which contains information including the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers for some 89 million people.

Ostensibly, this file can provide a legitimate amount of protection to the recently deceased, as it will alert lenders, insurers and other companies that a person with the information being used is no longer living, and therefore the request should be denied, the report said. However, this doesn’t always work, and some requests for credit or coverage in a dead person’s name will occasionally slip through the cracks, and cause significant difficulties for their families as a result.

However, federal agencies are aware of the problems these sites can cause and are now trying to do more to keep close tabs on them, the report said. Some lawmakers’ efforts have led to the closure of many of these sites, most of which operate as legitimate businesses.

“The IRS is taking active steps to identify those websites, and we’re working with our external stakeholders to try and create more of an alertness about this,” assistant special agent Ismael Nevarez, Jr., told the station.

In general, consumers who are wary of how identity theft might affect them or their family members should keep a few things in mind, including that they need to do more personally to protect the information crooks looking to perpetrate these crimes might want. That includes personal data such as names and Social Security numbers, as well as financial information like numbers, bank account details, PIN codes, and more. Identity theft can unfortunately take many forms, and affect consumers in ways that they may not anticipate, and for this reason it’s also vital to keep close tabs on all financial documents throughout the year, including credit card bills, bank statements and .

This blog post originally appeared on .

A wedding is the happiest day in the life of every bride and groom. What comes after the celebrations should be filled with joy as much as possible, too. A harmonious marriage, as any longtime couple will attest, takes work-that's why it's important to get off to a good start. Surprisingly, the gifts on a registry list can make a real difference-something as seemingly simple as a paper shredder can save a lot of stress in the years to come.

Marriage involves a lot of documentation and paperwork concerning brides' and grooms' identifying information-keeping all of it secure should be a priority. The last thing any newlyweds want is to have to deal with the headaches and damages that come with . That's where registering for a shredder can come in handy. Some documents need to be kept in a safe location, but others like credit card and bank statements, should be sent through a shredder that will keep identity thieves from finding the crucial information they're after.

When registering for a , choose a cross-cut version that cuts both horizontally and vertically, rather than just into horizontal strips, which could be pieced back together by a patient . While there are companies that offer shredding services, keeping the task at home ensures that no third party will have access to the information you're trying to conceal.

Working together, newlywed brides and grooms can foil the efforts of identity thieves. Register for a shredder, keep those key documents secured and shred everything that could pose a potential risk to that new-found marital bliss.

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: