Technology and Business Law Blog

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity theft is all over the place, and it is up to us to reduce its happening. We are always giving out personal information starting from the gym to the clothing store just because it is asked in some form or paper work. It is so automatic that most people don’t even think of asking why do they need all this information that is personal like date of birth etc or even show some kind of resistence. Identity theft costs time and money and destroys your credit and good name.

Here are some common ways that ID theft happens.

When you leave our recycled bin out there with unshredded paperwork then the identity thieves rummage through it looking for bills or any paperwork with your personal information. The thieves also steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.  The electronic way of getting personal information is Phising where they pretend to be financial institutions and send out spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information. They also divert your mail and your billing statements to another location by sending in a “change of address” form. Then there is the old fashioned way of simply stealing your purses, wallets, mail, bank and credit statements, pre-approved credit card offers and new checks or tax information. They also steal personnel records from their employers or get it from other employees who have access to it.

One can take steps to deter identity theft from occurring by doing simple things like shredding paperwork and other documents that have personal information. Don’t give out our social security number because it is asked somewhere and give it only when it is absolutely necessary. Also don’t carry the social security card with you.

Don’t give out personal information when someone calls over the phone, over the Internet or through the mail if you don’t know who and for what purpose it is going to be used. Everyone who has an email id gets spam mail and attached to it are links that they are asked to click and it is real important not to click on any of the links that are sent out in unsolicited mail and it is always a good idea to use an anti-virus software , firewalls and anti-spyware to protect your computer.

Password selection is a tricky one, people normally use a password that is easy for them to remember but then it is also easy to hack into, so choose your password carefully and change it often. Don’t use your birth date, mother’s maiden name or the last four digits of your Social Security number as a password because it’s out there in the numerous forms that you filled out.

Apart from detering ID theft, you also need to be vigilant and detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your fiancial accounts and billing statements. Bills that do not arrive as expected, unexpected credit cards or account statements, denials of credit for no apparent reason, calls or letters about purchases you did not make are signs that require immediate attention. So, inspect your credit report which contains information including the accounts you have and your bill paying history, you can get a free copy of your credit report each year from the three major nationwide consumer reporting companies which are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can write to the Annual Credit Report Service at P.O. Box 105281,  Atlanta, GA 30348-5281 and also go to www. AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 to get your free reports. Most importantly take the time to review financial accounts and billing statements to check if you are being charged for something that you did not authorize, make or purchase.

The final step is to defend agaisnt ID theft. This can be done by placing a fraud alert with the three nationwide consumer reporting companies on your credit reports and reviewing them often, what this alert does is that it alerts creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. Placing a fraud alert also entitles you to free copies of your credit reports, and in the credit report look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open and debts on your account that you can’t explain.

Ensure that you close any accounts that have been tampered with or has been establishe d fraudulently, call each of the companies where an account was opened or changed without your authorization and follow it up in writing enclosing copies of supporting documentation. To support the written statement use the ID theft statement found at ftc.gov/idtheft and verify that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged and always keep copies of documents and records of your  converstion about the theft.

It is important to file a police report and a report with the Federal Trade Commission, these reports help as proof for creditors that the theft did happen and also a report with FTC report helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigation. This can be done online at ftc.gov/idtheft, by phone, the numbers are 877-ID-THEFT or by mail at the following address: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, Washington DC 20580.

February 28, 2008 Posted by | Identity theft | 2 Comments

More on Identity Theft

I had an earlier blog on identity theft that pulled in a lot of traffic and here is something more… In the pre Internet era, illegal operations mainly centered around smuggling of a variety of substances across borders, money laundering, extortion, kidnapping for ransom etc. Now one of the most common and much easier way to conduct illegal operations and make easy money is by identity theft.

The Internet has a wealth of information that a devious minded person would need to pursue criminal activities at their finger tips and at the click of a button. In the case of identity theft the personal information of a targeted victim in the Internet is easily available from some online activity  that the victim entered into. There are tons of sites ranging from commerce sites like Amazon to online job hunting sites like Monster or Hot jobs where this personal information can be obtained. Here is an interesting article on how the authorities bust an identity theft ring. 

August 19, 2007 Posted by | Identity theft | 1 Comment

Identity Theft 2.0

I was reading just now in the July 30, 2007 edition on page 20 under the Newsfilter section of the Information Week magazine, by Tim Wilson site editor for www.darkreading.com about this next level in identity theft. All this while we were told to worry about properly disposing our trash, not reveal personal information over the web or over the telephone to unidentified persons etc. Now here is this innovative way of getting all your personal information including your social security number and also a copy of your passport.

Here is how it goes, a phony online recruiter has a phone interview with you, gets all your personal information, offers to fly you over for a personal interview and so gets you to fax/scan a copy of your passport to buy you a ticket and the next minute the recruiter has vanished and the company to which you are applying for the job says they have never heard of this recruiter.

Now with the copy of a passport you can go to an embassy and get a new passport.  Imagine all the possibilities of misuse if your passport falls in the wrong hands- someone could impersonate you, travel in your name, get access to your bank accounts, the list and possibilities are endless and to get it all back in order could take years and will be a nightmare 😦

July 31, 2007 Posted by | Identity theft, online fraud | Leave a comment