Is Using Facebook a Risk to Your Identity?

Facebook has revolutionized the way individuals feel and communicate their ideas. Through status messages, photographs, links and other kinds of posts, individuals of all ages are now able to speak what’s on their mind and reach hundreds, if not thousands of people. Though this might be of some benefit, regrettably, this is a perfect way for criminals and identity thieves to gain access to private information and sensitive data. Identity theft on social media sites like Facebook is now uncontrolled and increasing annually

This information can be used by criminals to open credit lines in your name, because stealing of information occurs through such social-networking sites. They are able to commit these types of offenses: go on a shopping spree, take-out a mortgage, or purchase a car using credit cards in your name. I.D. theft can occur to you personally via your social networking websitea and induce issues for you months and possibly even years later on. Here are a few things you are able to do in order to counter these identity theft strikes.

Secure Your Private Information

FB frequently asks for your own personal information online including your name, address, phone, birth date, and in some rare cases, youSocial Security number and account numbers. Be skeptical of giving away that type of information on social media, since it’s possible that the information could be intercepted and used fraudulently. FB enables you to really set your security settings so you can manage who sees your profile.

Don’t Show Revealing Photographs

Additionally don’t actually put up a photograph of any sort of ID – student , driver’s licence and social security. There’s a single narrative of a man who, after seeing the grave of his own mother, posted a photograph of the tombstone on FB, providing would-be robbers the complete name of his own mother that’s frequently utilized as a protection measure by charge card businesses and lenders. This is really something you ought to never do- enabling felons to figure out your mom’s maiden name.

Use Strong Passwords

Passwords can be hard to recall particularly if you want to possess different passwords for each website that you simply go to. It’s significant to avoid ID Theft on social media websites to produce strong passwords. A strong password is a mix of specific characters, letters and figures, one that the thief might have a difficult time guessing. Among the passwords is really a mix of both lower and upper-class letters. Some specialists within the area advocate putting in numbers within the center of the password rather than in the start or in the end. Remember that in order to truly have a powerful password, the more it’s, the harder it’s for crooks to unearth. Lastly despite all these, use passwords which are simple to recall also – not just only your birth date or your daughter’s birth date, or an old address.

Review Your Credit File Often

It’s significant that you simply review your credit history regularly so that you simply will learn whether there are uncommon and funny activities in your credit file. You can track your credit file by ordering them in the three credit agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union). You may order these once yearly free of charge or better – subscribe to periodic reports or credit monitoring.

Have You Been A Victim of Spoofing?

Learning the language of identity theft can be a difficult prospect. We’ve talked about phishing, smishing, & vishing an and even oversharing in the past. We’ve examined how identity protection programs like Identity Guard can put you in an offensive position against most of these threats. Today, however, we’re going to be talking about what is known as “spoofing.” Sounds funny and relatively harmless right?  Spoofing is the alteration of an e-mail header so that it appears to have been sent from someone other than the person who sent the e-mail. Now there are legal forms of spoofing, such as disguising your identity for fear of retaliation. Spoofing anyone other than yourself, however, is quite illegal… and an easy way for identity thieves to fool you into thinking that you’ve got to do something that you don’t really need to do.

How is spoofing even possible? Because the STMP, or Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, doesn’t actually include any authentication mechanism. Although a security level can be negotiated by someone who is utilizing SMTP, this is often not done. When there is no security level in place, anyone with a computer, access to the internet, and just a little bit of knowledge can log into the e-mail server itself and send messages out as anyone on behalf of any corporation.

For the most part, we can recognize these ridiculous e-mails and simply delete them without falling victim to them. It’s pretty easy to do when you get an e-mail supposedly from Bank of America saying that you need to take action before your account is closed even though you’ve never done business with Bank of America. On the other hand, an e-mail that appears to be from someone like your supervisor or even your spouse asking for sensitive data to be sent for a legitimate sounding reason can be something that fools a lot of people.

E-mail spoofing is nothing new – identity thieves figured out this process back when e-mails first started getting sent around the internet, so it’s a two decades plus old problem… but that’s the issue – it’s still a problem today despite education and self-awareness programs. So what can you do to make sure that you don’t fall victim to a spoofing scam?

If you do get an e-mail that seems suspicious, contact your financial institution in person.

Forward the e-mail to your financial institution’s customer service and ask for an explanation.

Remember to never share sensitive information unless you can verify the website, you notice it is secure, and you’ve visited that exact login location before.

Contact others immediately if you feel that you may have been fooled by an exceptional spoofer.

When in doubt, just delete the e-mail and move on.

Protect Your Identity While Job Hunting

Gone are the days when it was enough to pick up the newspaper to find a job listing, pay a visit to the business owner, get a spot interview, and potentially be working the very next day. Some jobs have over 100 applicants for them, and more employers every day are relying on electronic application methods to streamline the hiring process. There are also a large number of job seeker websites available, like Monster.com, where applicants can upload a resume and then apply to multiple jobs with just a couple clicks of the mouse.

With all of that information available for literally millions of people, identity thieves are attracted to these sites like a shark is attracted to blood in the water. Besides signing up for identity theft protection services from a professional company like LifeLock or Identity Guard, what else can you do to protect your identity while trying to find a job?

You Should Never Have to Pay to Apply for a Job

We all crack jokes about those Nigerian scams that talk about how you’ve won millions of dollars in an e-mail lottery or some long lost relative as left a large estate in your name and you need to send money for legal fees to collect it. Yet when it comes to job seeking, identity thieves get the financial information from hundreds of victims every day because they tell them they need to spend a few hundred dollars on specific software or need to pay for background checks up front before they consider a resume.

You never need to pay for anything up front when it comes to a job application. If a company tells you that you must pay for a background check to be considered for employment, ask if that cost can be put onto your first paycheck instead – after all, you are unemployed and need money for food, right? Before paying for anything, even as an independent contractor, make sure you have a solid employment agreement in place before releasing any payment. Then, if you are sure of a cost that is something you need to front, make sure that you don’t give out your financial account numbers. Get receipts for everything. Verify, Verify, Verify

An employer has sent you an e-mail saying that they found your resume online, that you look like an awesome person, and they would like to have you start a job next week. Sounds like a dream come true, right? Then, when you hand over your Social Security number to get your new job started, you never hear from them again. You’ve just lost the key to your identity in this scenario.
If you’ve never heard of a company, verify them. Go to their place of business if possible. Visit their website to look for scam signals, such as:

  • fake contact information,
  • cut and paste content,
  • no customer service, or
  • generic information that tells you nothing about what they do.

Utilize the resources that are available to you as well, such as the Better Business Bureau, to determine their legitimacy. Always ask questions!

Limit the Personal Information on Your Resume

A prospective employer from an online bank of resumes needs to know your physical location, some sort of contact information to get a hold of you, and your name. That’s really all you need to get the ball rolling with an online resume – if an employer is interested in you, then they will contact you through your chosen method to get additional information. Many applicants, however, overshare their personal information, with many thinking this gives them an advantage because it lets an employer know a little more about them.

What it does, however, is give identity thieves all the information they need to steal your identity. A good rule of thumb is to use your name, state, and e-mail address as personal information for an online resume. A city may sometimes be helpful, but remember – the more information you freely share, the more likely you are to have your identity stolen. If someone needs more information because they’re interested in you, they’ll ask for it. Don’t just hand out more information – it really doesn’t make you more attractive to the right kind of employers.

You Lost Your Social Security Card…Now What?

I Lost My Social Security Card!  This is one phrase that will strike fear in just about anyone.

You’ve left the restau­rant, you’re hav­ing a good time with those you love, and when you get to the next place on the agenda for the evening you real­ize that you were hav­ing such a good time that you for­got your wal­let. This causes a slight heart pal­pi­ta­tion for a moment as you dash back to the restau­rant, bother the peo­ple who are sit­ting at your table now as you fran­ti­cally search for where you might have dropped it, and in the end, you get zero hope from the state­ment from the host­ess who says they’ll con­tact you if they ever find it. Los­ing a Social Secu­rity card hap­pens more often than you might think – if you’ve lost yours, then here’s what you’re going to need to do to get another one… along with the pro­tec­tive steps you’ll need to take if whomever has your card has some plans for it.

The First Thing To Do Is File for Your Replace­ment Card

Because of the time that it takes to get your card and the amount of mate­ri­als you may need to obtain that you don’t have, the first step you’ll need to take is to work on fil­ing for your replace­ment card. In order to get your replace­ment card, you must:Gather doc­u­ments prov­ing your:Iden­tity. This is done through your driver’s license, a state issued non-driver iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card, or your pass­port. If you don’t have one these or can­not get a replace­ment copy in 10 busi­ness days, then there is a sec­ondary list which the Social Secu­rity Admin­is­tra­tion can use. Non-citizens will need to pro­vide proof of their immi­gra­tion sta­tus through their I-551, I-94, or I-766 froms.U.S. cit­i­zen­ship. If you have not estab­lished your cit­i­zen­ship with the Social Secu­rity Admin­is­tra­tion, you will need to pro­vide an orig­i­nal copy or agency-issued cer­ti­fied copy of either your birth cer­tifi­cate, your pass­port, Cer­tifi­cate of Nat­u­ral­iza­tion, or Cer­tifi­cate of Cit­i­zen­ship with your appli­ca­tion materials.Immi­gra­tion sta­tus. If you are not a U.S. cit­i­zen, then you’ll need to pro­vide proof of your immi­gra­tion sta­tus through the iden­tity doc­u­ments listed above. In addi­tion, if you are a stu­dent or a J1 vis­i­tor, you may need to pro­vide addi­tional doc­u­men­ta­tion regard­ing your legal sta­tus in the country.

Once you have gath­ered the doc­u­ments that you need to prove that you really who you say you are, you will then need to com­plete an Appli­ca­tion for a Social Secu­rity Card. Be aware, how­ever, that you can only receive up to 3 replace­ment Social Secu­rity cards in a cal­en­dar year and that there is a cap of 10 max­i­mum replace­ments that can be issued to you.

Once you have filled out the appli­ca­tion, you sim­ply take it or mail it and your sup­port­ive doc­u­ments to either your local Social Secu­rity office or your local Social Secu­rity Card Cen­ter.

The Social Secu­rity Admin­is­tra­tion can­not take any nota­rized copies or unof­fi­cial doc­u­ments, such as a hos­pi­tal or city birth cer­tifi­cate. You won’t lose the doc­u­ments that you have to send in, how­ever – any­thing you mail in to the SSA will be returned to you along with a receipt. Just plan ahead if that means you need to mail in your driver’s license!

Then It’s Time To Pro­tect Your Identity!

Now that you’ve com­pleted the process to get your card replaced, you need to begin the process of mon­i­tor­ing your iden­tity to make sure that no one plans to com­pro­mise it. The eas­i­est method is to sim­ply sign up for a credit mon­i­tor­ing ser­vice. There are free ones that can take away most of the pres­sure of remem­ber­ing to take care of mon­i­tor­ing your iden­ti­fi­ca­tion items on your own and low cost ones that can mon­i­tor vir­tu­ally everything.

If you’re more the “hands on” type of per­son, then there are plenty of resources avail­able to you as well. The first thing you should do is request your free credit report from your pre­ferred credit report­ing agency. Though you can request one from each agency at the same time, you’re bet­ter off order­ing one report from one agency every 4 months because you’re lim­ited by Fed­eral law to 1 report per agency every 12 months. Some states also offer free reports, how­ever, so be sure to take advan­tage of all the free reports you can get because the more you can mon­i­tor, the more you can pre­vent some­thing bad from happening!

You’ll also want to con­sider putting on a fraud alert or a credit freeze. These can help you to be able to pre­vent an iden­tity thief from ruin­ing your credit because you’re alert­ing lenders that some­one has poten­tially com­pro­mised your iden­tity or even com­pletely lock­ing lenders and your­self out of your credit report.

Finally, you’ll also want to alert your finan­cial insti­tu­tions about what has hap­pened so that sus­pi­cious activ­i­ties, such as requests for new accounts or the clo­sure of any long stand­ing accounts, have another level of ver­i­fi­ca­tion beyond a fraud alert.

Los­ing your Social Secu­rity card can be scary, but the recov­ery process doesn’t have to be when you fol­low these step by step instructions! By tak­ing these steps, you can suc­cess­fully get your Social Secu­rity card replaced and elim­i­nate the threat of iden­tity theft. It only hap­pens, how­ever, when you take proac­tive steps to make sure these tasks happen.  There’s rarely a need for you to carry your social security card on your person, so lock it up in a safe place at home, in the event you happen to lose your wallet again in the future.

Smishing Can Smash Your Identity

Many folks are aware of the prob­lem of phish­ing, where you get a strange e-mail inform­ing you that you’ve won some e-mail lot­tery, or that your account has been locked and you need to ver­ify your infor­ma­tion to unlock it, or even that some­one you know is in trou­ble some­where and they need your mon­e­tary help to be able to get home. This causes you to will­ingly give your infor­ma­tion over to the iden­tity thieves in the hopes of get­ting a return on that infor­ma­tion in some way. Smish­ing is sim­i­lar to this prac­tice, but it involves attempt­ing to get your infor­ma­tion from a SMS text that you receive.

Smish­ing involves receiv­ing a very tempt­ing text that seems rather believ­able. It could say that you’ve won a $1,000 gift card to one of your favorite stores, that you’ve won a free vaca­tion, that you’ve been signed up for a web­site that will cost you $5/day if you don’t unsub­scribe, or even that your spouse has lost their phone and needs help at this new num­ber. The vari­ables are absolutely end­less, but there is one thing in com­mon with them all: that you don’t remem­ber enter­ing into a con­test, sign­ing up for any­thing, or that your loved ones wouldn’t text you in such a way if they were in trouble.

That doesn’t stop peo­ple from click­ing on that included link some­times from their smart­phone – you know, on the off-chance that it might be true and they might be able to pur­chase a new PS3 or some­thing. If you’re one of those folks who ends up click­ing those links sometimes, as one of my favorite authors would put it – don’t panic! Click­ing a link might trans­mit some data about your phone to the poten­tial iden­tity thieves and you might have some mal­ware installed, but noth­ing that is irrecov­er­able. The trou­ble comes when you start putting in your per­sonal details to sub­mit through the link where Smish­ing becomes an issue.

If you are curi­ous about a SMS link that you have received and you want to inves­ti­gate it, an easy way to get around some of the issues is to plug the link you receive into a web browser on your com­puter that has cur­rent anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-malware def­i­n­i­tions. This way, if the link isn’t a true prize, you will be pro­tected through your com­puter instead of hav­ing your smart­phone exposed that is likely run­ning no pro­tec­tions whatsoever.

Another easy way to deter­mine if a SMS text you have received is legit­i­mate is to sim­ply call the cus­tomer ser­vice depart­ment of the com­pany in ques­tion, like your bank, or to con­tact your loved ones on your own to ver­ify the story. If you have won some­thing or have been signed up for some­thing with­out your per­mis­sion, con­tact­ing a com­pany directly will give you the accu­rate infor­ma­tion you need. In the off chance that there are charges on your credit or debit account that aren’t sup­posed to be there, you can imme­di­ately con­test them.

Some other easy ways that you can help to pro­tect your­self from Smish­ing schemes are:

  • to not reply to the SMS text;
  • to teach our kids about Smish­ing so they don’t become vic­tims as well;
  • to for­ward a copy of the Smish­ing text to your cell phone provider to alert them to the scheme;
  • to place a fraud alert on your credit report if you believe you may have inad­ver­tently given sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion away; or
  • to sign up for a com­pre­hen­sive iden­tity theft pro­tec­tion plan from a pre­ferred provider.

If you believe that you have been a vic­tim of a Smish­ing scam, you should also file a com­plaint at https://www.ftc.gov, and then be sure to visit the remain­der of this site so that you can learn what you can do to help pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing to you again in the future. Protecting your iden­tity is becom­ing more and more crit­i­cal with every pass­ing day. Know­ing what Smish­ing is and not falling into its trap is just another way that you can fight the evils of iden­tity theft and not let the crim­i­nals win.

Understanding Your Credit Score

Most people these days realize that their entire financial history is chronicled in a detailed credit report. Almost 70% of people, however, don’t realize that the information that those detailed credit reports contain is then calculated into a three digit credit score. You can have a pretty good repayment history on a lot of items, but it doesn’t take too many negative reports on your credit report to make your credit score drop like a heavy rock thrown into a pond. In fact, some negative events can take up to 160 points off of your credit score. That’s definitely something that you don’t want to have happen to you without your knowledge… right? But that can happen to you if you don’t realize the importance of your credit score.

Why is Knowing Your Credit Score Important?

There are two important reasons why it is important to know what your credit score is at minimum on a month-to-month basis:

because lenders will generally grant new lines of credit based off of your credit score & not off of your credit report; and

knowing what your baseline score is will help you be able to determine if an identity thief is prowling around.

Your credit score, which is a number that falls between 300 – 850, is a gauge on the overall health of your financial decision-making. A higher credit score will bring you better interest rates, friendlier repayment terms, and the ability to borrow more money. A lower credit score can result in higher interest rates, rigid repayment terms, and potentially a lack of ability to borrow any money whatsoever.

What is a Good Credit Score?

So what is a good credit score? Anything over 650, as for a vast majority of lenders, this is the number where better rates and terms come into play. Yet remember – a perfect score is 850, so there is 200 points of improvement to be made. The good news is that the average credit score in the United States is 720, so you’ve likely got good credit and you don’t even know it.

When an identity thief strikes by opening up new lines of credit, maximizing those credit lines, and then failing to pay anything on them, your credit score will go down. If an identity thief gets a mortgage in your name that is then foreclosed upon, your credit score could go down as much as 160 points. A false bankruptcy in your name because of an identity thief could result in a credit score reduction of 100 points. That’s why detecting any fluctuation early, even if only a point or two, is so critical to preventing the damage that an identity thief can do.

What Makes Up a Credit Score?

Knowing what makes up your credit score helps you to be able to know how you can improve it… and know where identity thieves might be chipping away at you if your score is dropping unexpectedly.

35% Payment History: Having a history making of payments on time and not having any missed payments on all of your credit lines is one of the most important items lenders look at on everyone’s credit history.

30% Amount Owed: This looks at the amounts you owe in relation to the total amount of credit that is available to you. People who are closer to maxing out all their credit limits are deemed to have a higher risk of making late payments in the future, and this can lower their credit score. Not having any credit activity on open credit lines for a lengthy period of time can have the same effect.

15% Length of Credit History: A credit report containing a list of accounts opened for a long time will always help your credit score. Having a lot of new accounts opened in the last few months will not.

10% New Credit: Opening several new lines of credit in a short period of time can lower your credit score twice. Multiple credit report inquiries can represent a greater risk because it appears that you may be attempting to obtain new credit, but this does NOT include any requests made by you, an employer, or by a lender who does so when sending you an unsolicited, “pre-approved” credit offer.  Also, to compensate for rate shopping, the credit score counts multiple inquiries in any 14-day period as just one inquiry instead of multiple inquiries.

10% Types of Credit in Use: Is all of your credit in credit cards? Or do you have a mortgage, a vehicle loan, a department card, & a couple credit cards? More variety will equate to a higher credit score.

How Can You Monitor Your Credit Score?

There are two very easy ways to monitor your credit score. You can:

sign up for an identity theft protection service plan that includes credit score monitoring; or you can pay one of the three major credit bureaus to access your credit score and your credit report.

Now some states do offer their residents the ability to access their credit score for free, in addition to the free credit reports that you are entitled to under Federal and State laws. Be sure to check your local resources to determine what kind of products are available in your area and what you may need to do to be able to access them.

By monitoring your credit at least monthly, you’ll be able to tell if your credit score is doing something that it shouldn’t be doing, and knowing what makes up your credit score can help you to boost it higher. Identity thieves are counting on the fact that you don’t know this information… but they do.