How the New Credit Card Microchips Protect You

Even if you don’t have one yet, you’ve probably seen the new credit cards that have a microchip on the front. These chips, officially called EMV Smart Chips (The EMV means “Europay, MasterCard and Visa”), provide users with a better layer of security than traditional credit card magnetic strips. They’re more secure because the chip and credit card reader talk to each other using encrypted data – old cards simply gave the data without protection. This makes chipped cards far more difficult for fraudsters to clone and they’re certainly a welcome technology for anyone looking to protect their identity and financial information.

It’s time to retire your swiping motion and get caught up on the insert – the credit card microchip EMV conversion mandate is upon us come Thursday, September 30.

If you do your banking with a major financial institution like Bank of America, Wells Fargo or Chase, there is a pretty good chance that you already have a microchip on your credit or debit card. Not only that, but you may have used the technology already while shopping at a major retail chain (Wal-Mart is where I first encountered one). Continue Reading at About Bill Pay

But unlike a simple magnetic strip, the chip interacts with the machine that is reading it, in order to encrypt the data and authenticate it more securely. In effect, the credit card and its reader have an encrypted conversation in order to ensure the credit card is valid, while a simple (that is, “dumb”) magnetic stripe merely recites your credit card number and expiration date to any machine that can read it. Continue Reading at Credit.com

Avoiding Credit Card Chip Scams

Ironically, the new credit card security chips, which are supposed to keep your information even more secure from hackers and data breaches, has driven scammers to come up with new (& old) angles to steal your personal information.  While we all may be just a little safer using our cards at retail stores, criminals are using phishing emails which appear to be from legitimate banks.  The company logos, addresses and information all appear to be real.  The messages read to the effect, “Your card is on the way, but you need to update some information before you can start using it”.

They then ask you for your account numbers, passwords and other sensitive information that you definitely do not want to give out.  Don’t go for it!

Do not reply to the email.

Do not click on any links within the email

Your bank or credit card company will never ask you for this kind of information via email.  Keep your account numbers and online passwords secure and never give them to anyone you can’t 100% verify their identity.

This type of scam has been going on since the beginning of the internet, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still an effective tool for identity thieves.  Stay aware.  Report any suspicious emails like this to your financial institutions immediately.  If you believe you’ve been a victim of one of these scams, immediately check your credit report and monitor your credit to ensure you haven’t had more information stolen than just your account numbers.

 

Don’t Let Your Home Purchase Make You An Identity Theft Victim

Turning from a renter to a home owner is such an exciting moment in life. However, it could also be stressful at the same time. Aside from looking for the right neighborhood for your new home, your finances should be in near perfect condition for you to be able to take out a home loan. What doesn’t often cross the mind of home buyers, though is there’s a large risk of becoming an identity theft victim.

In most cases, the victim of identity theft doesn’t have any idea about it until the originator of the mortgage pulls his or her credit score to prepare for a home loan noted Paul Wylie, who was the former owner and founder of the Metrocities Mortgage. He said that he had seen potential borrowers get turned away from buying their dream homes or receiving a significantly higher interest rate. This interest rate increase happens because the borrowers usually aren’t able to take fast enough action to remedy damage cause by identity theft. Thus, they failed to secure a reasonable home loan, and that’s if they were able to qualify for one at all. This is reason is enough for you to make sure that you’re not and won’t be an identity theft victim before you even start looking for a new home.

Before you even purchase your home, you should first check out your credit report and review it closely. Look for suspicious items that might indicate someone is using your identity without your consent. In particular, look for unauthorized new credit requests. You should also spend your money wisely by investing on services  to protect your identity which will monitor your personal information while you search for your new home.

Once you are sure that you’re eligible to take out a home loan, then the next step would be to protect your identity while going through the buying process. Here are the few tips regarding the matter:

  • Ensure that the mortgage and real estate professionals you are transacting with make use of a secure system while communicating all of your sensitive information. In case you still doubt their network security or want to take caution, it would be best to hand over the documents personally.
  • Ask your lenders about how they protect information given to them and what happens to it once the process of acquiring the loan is done.
  • Make use of referrals in contacting realtors and mortgage professionals. Check if they have up-to-date licenses. Even then, you should trust your instincts on this one.
  • Continue using the services mentioned before to ensure you know what’s happening to your data. Credit monitoring is also capable of alerting you with suspicious activity on your credit. That way, you would be able to take action to it fast.
  • Evaluate if the offers seems to be too good to be true. It would be best to ensure that the offers are legitimate and you should never provide them with a down payment if you have not met him or her in person or without even seeing the home they are offering you.
  • Be wary of loan providers and make sure that they are not con artists. Meet them personally, do your own research about the company they are working for and check out if they have a good reputation. As much as possible, do not apply for loans online if you are unsure about the validity of the website.

Purchasing a home is not an easy thing to do. However, the complicated process isn’t an excuse to stop doing everything you can to protect your identity.

How to Protect Yourself from ATM Identity Theft

Most of us feel comfortable in using ATMs and that is why some us don’t even realize our financial information is rather vulnerable. Not all thieves are present online and not all of them involve hacking or data mining over the internet. In fact, there are thieves who target individuals at ATMs.

We can’t deny the fact that ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) have been a great blessing to us. They are extremely convenient considering, whenever you are in need of money, you can find one pretty much everywhere. Moreover, these ATMs are available 24/7 and are really easy to use. Although ATMs may have seemed impossible decades ago, life today seems like it would be particularly difficult without them.

Even though we might consider them as a blessing, certain issues still can’t be avoided just like other things have. When you are in need money and have decided to either drive to the nearest ATM or just walk to the one across the street, it is important to take precautionary measures to ensure that you are not making yourself vulnerable to identity theft.

Here are a few tips for you to keep in mind:

 

  • Beware of skimming

Skimming is one of the most common methods that thieves use in order to collect data from an ATM. In this one, the thief attaches a certain device on the ATM. This device then allows thieves to acquire certain data like PINs, credit card numbers and cardholder’s name. Fairfax County Police’s Detective Tom Polhemus located in Virginia said that the devices that these criminals use are subtle and small. Therefore, it would be difficult to notice them. Moreover, the device is capable of functioning for 2-4 hours, which could potentially mean dozens or hundreds of cards’ details depending on how busy the area might be.

After they are done skimming a few cards, the thieves remove the device and head off to their next target ATM. These devices are usually attached using a tape or glue. Tom said that ATM users should beware of using machines with card receivers that are bulky, poorly attached to the machine or out of place. Machines with scratches, cracks and tapes should be avoided at all cost.

  • Check if there are cameras installed

With the continuously evolving technology, companies have been releasing smaller cameras each time. The thieves makes use of this technology by installing them near the ATM. Obviously, they are much smaller than the security cameras usually attached to an ATM. Even though it might be hard to discover the camera, you could check all sides of the ATM to check whether it has small holes where mini cameras might be installed. If you feel like something is unusual or out of place with the ATM, then it would be best to locate and use a different one and inform the bank (if it’s open) of the problem.

  • Check the ATM’s keypad

There are thieves that make use of keypads if skimming or placing a camera did not work out well for their criminal activity. These keypads are placed over the actual keypad of the ATM and these are really hard to detect. However, just like the tips mentioned for the cameras, look for another machine if there is something odd with the current machine you are planning to use.

Aside from the tips mentioned above, it would be better and safer to choose an ATM near a bank instead of one located on a random street corner. Moreover, always remember to cover with your hand the numbers that you press for your PIN. Always ask for receipts and keep them until you have compared it with your bank statement. No matter what precautionary measures you you choose to go with at the ATM, it’s be a good idea to use credit monitoring services as well.

Learn How To Protect Your Social Security Number

ssnprotectiontips

The most sensitive piece of personally identifiable information is without a doubt your social security number.  This is one piece of information you don’t want anybody else getting their hands on. An identity thief can do unthinkable amounts of damage with your social security number and very little other information.   So what do you need to do in order to keep your SSN as secure as possible?

A typical yet effective strategy on preventing Social Security Number (SSN) theft is on the way, finally. This change will hopefully make it more difficult for identity thieves to easily access your SSN and use it for identity theft purposes.  Your SSN will eventually be excluded by Medicare as part of their benefit cards. Over the years, these numbers have been among the primary basis for medical identification.  This was just a problem waiting to happen.  And guess what, it did happen.  In the form of countless cases of identity theft.

Recently, President Obama signed a bill intending to stop using SSNs when transacting with Medicare. This law was accepted by the State’s major political parties. The primary objective of this law is to modify doctors’ fees when it comes to giving medical services to patients covered by Medicare, however there is a specific section of the law that emphasizes that never should SSNs be reflected, typed, or included on the Medicare ID.

According to Texas Representative Sam Johnson (Republican), the main ingredient to making identity theft possible is the SSNs and that the criminals use the Medicare cards of the seniors as a tool.

“Carry your card with you when you are away from home. Let your hospital or doctor see your card when you require hospital, medical or health services under Medicare.” These statements serve as aid to prevent identity theft. This defies the rule that mandates not a single person should ever bring their personal SSN on their behalf. The good news is that the law just solved identity theft by addressing the source.

While this is true however, there are still other ways by which culprits will be able to get your SSN and use it to their schemes. Take note of the following ways where your social security number is most vulnerable and protect yourself in the future.  If you do become a victim of a stolen social security number, here are some steps to follow immediately.

1. Tax Documents

These days, filing taxes through mail is a common practice. If you are among the people who do this, there is a possibility that unauthorized people/entities may have access to your documents containing sensitive, personal information like your SSN. Identity thieves can simply take mail from your mail box during tax season.  They know exactly what they’re looking for and within seconds, they can have your social security number, and possibly even drivers license numbers, phone numbers and your entire identity. In addition to, SSN thieves also execute their crime through phone scams. Fraudsters pretend to be IRS representatives contacting people and convincing them to provide specific information such as the SSN and other documents. Keep in mind that the IRS only communicates through mail. Solution:  Don’t file your taxes via mail.  Ask your tax preparer to e-file or if you do your own taxes, you have this option as well.  Keep the sensitive paperwork out of the mail and the hands of id thieves.

2. Data Sharing

When you stop and think about it, it seems like every agency requires SSN today – from government agencies, real estate companies, insurance firms, and even telephone plan provider. Unfortunately, providing your SSN is something that most people nowadays do not worry about anymore. It is true that a lot of institutions need SSN for their processes. However, it does not necessarily mean that everyone should lawfully have it. For your information, the law states that it is the IRS, healthcare providers, police, banks, and employers which are allowed to require Social Security Numbers and information from you. A few companies, however, may also be permitted but the process must be upon strict compliance with the law. Whenever you notice that there is an option that does not require you to share your SNN information, choose not to share it. This limits the possibility for your SSN details to be obtained by fraudsters.

3. Bank transactions

Clearly, the law allows banking institutions to ask for your SSN information. However, they are mandated to observe and abide by the “Know Your Customer” guidelines. This stops criminals to use the banks for their fraudulent schemes. As a customer, you have the privilege to learn about the measures that the bank adopts in order to secure your SSN details as well as be oriented about their solutions in case a breach happens.

When you know about the typical sources of SSN ID theft, you will be able to protect yourself from it. Safeguard your SSN at all times by keeping your SS card in your safety deposit box or in a safe at home.  Never carry your social security card on your person.  It is not necessary. Furthermore, don’t feel that you are required to share your social security number with anyone.  You can always refuse to provide it if you don’t feel comfortable with the person asking for it.  As always, monitor your credit for signs of fraud or unauthorized use.

Here’s 4 More Tips You Can Use To Keep Your SSN Private

IdentityForce Review

Identity Force Effectively Protects Your Entire Identity

Identity Force is an industry leader in providing full-circle, proactive identity theft protection for individuals, businesses, and government agencies. Their solution to identity theft is simple, easy-to-use, and guaranteed to work.

Identity Force was launched in 2005 as a response to the dramatic increase in identity theft crimes in the United States. They are a division of Bearak Reports, Inc., who are themselves industry leaders in background screening and asset search services since 1992. Identity Force is effective because they draw on the extensive expertise found in the 20 years of information verification services in order to provide a complete and proven approach to identity theft protection.

A consistent leader in identity protection issues, Identity Force was the first in the United States to issue an Identity Theft Bill of Rights. This Bill of Rights outlines the responsibilities businesses and organizations ought to undertake when they discover that their data has been breached, thereby putting both employees and customers at risk of identity theft.

Identity Force Monitors the Right Information

You deserve the best, and that’s what Identity Force strives to provide you. From credit monitoring to internet monitoring to database deletion, the proactive services that Identity Force provides you with their theft protection plans are the cornerstone of keeping identities safe.
Payday loans, public records, and other potential sources of identity theft are also monitored on a daily basis from the online dashboard. If suspicious activities are detected, then you are sent an immediate alert so that you can take action to prevent theft from happening, and you can see this directly on your front page. Identity Force will also work to eliminate your identification information from being on common databases that many identity thieves attempt to utilize.

The Identity Force Red Alert™ System

Identity Force is continuously monitoring your credit reports, your wireless accounts, retail activities, your utilities, your other public records, and even your automobile loan and mortgage for fraudulent activity. If anything suspicious is detected through the monitoring being done, Identity Force will send you what is called a Red Alert™ if they discover any potential fraudulent use of your personal information. This gives you the advantage when it comes to preventing identity theft because you get immediate monitoring results. You can see all of your Red Alerts on your Identity Health Score & Report page.

Restoration Is Easy with Identity Force

Identity Force gives you all the tools that you need in order to restore your identity back to normal should you become the victim of identity theft. You get immediate access to common contact numbers you may need, emergency numbers so that you can report the theft of your identity to potential stakeholders immediately, sample letters that will help you contact your accounts and dispute charges easily, and access to trained credit professionals that can help you take off false information quickly. You also get a $1,000,000 insurance policy that can help reimburse you for out-of-pocket expenses that may occur from your recovery efforts.

Identity Force Makes Protecting Your Identity Easy

Identity Force members just click a button on their dashboard to get their complete identity theft recovery solution. Members never leave the Identity Force website and don’t need to register or login to any other service. There is just one login that happens, securely and instantly, all in the background. This gives you easy access to all of the information that you need at one click convenience when checking up on the status of your identity at any given moment.

What Else Does Identity Force Offer?

Lost Wallet Protection

This type of protection helps you to be able to prevent your bank and credit accounts, as well as your identification, from being utilized if you lose your wallet or purse – or have it stolen. With one call to Identity Force, you can authorize them to contact all of your open accounts to have them stopped, closed, or notified of the loss of materials related to the account so that specific measures can be taken to prevent loss. This is important because many financial institutions that aren’t related to credit cards have specific time limits in place regarding the length of time it takes to report a lost item that correlate with how much of any loss for which you may be responsible.

Database Monitoring & Deletion

At Identity Force, it has been realized that several identity theft attempts occur because your identification information is readily available on several databases. Identity thieves realize this as well, and it does not take much effort on their part to learn this information. An identity theft protection plan with Identity Force includes monitoring these databases for your information and requests to have that information deleted.

Pricing & Value

Identity Force offers services to businesses and government agencies, as well as to individuals. The individual plan starts at $17.95 per month, but if you act today using this special discount to sign up for your two week free trial, you can get identity theft protection plans that start at just $14.95 per month. If you are not satisfied with Identity Force, just cancel within the two week trial period and you won’t owe anything!

Protect All Parts of Your Identity Today!

Identity Force is the government’s preference when it comes to identity theft protection solutions for a reason. They effectively monitor your credit, identity, and even public records to make sure that your identity has not fallen into the wrong hands. They have an effective resolution department that you can contact whenever you suspect identity theft. They can help you fill out your paperwork should identity thieves strike, gives you samples to do it on your own, and have $1,000,000 in insurance protections. Act today to save on your Identity Force protection plan and you’ll see for yourself just how good of a job Identity Force does in protecting all aspects of your identity.

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.

Freezing Your Child’s Credit Can Prevent Identity Theft

I’ve talked a bit in the past about using credit freezes as a means of preventing identity theft.  Essentially, a credit freeze puts a lock down on access to your credit reports when you enable it with all 3 credit bureaus.  No new lines of credit can be opened because potential creditors can’t run your credit.  Pretty simple concept right?  Unfortunately, most people don’t consider placing a credit freeze until after they have had their identity stolen.  At this point, it’s likely the damage has been done, and the credit freeze is nothing more than a band aid.  Same goes for your child’s credit.

Until recently, most states haven’t allowed parents to proactively freeze their child’s credit to protect against identity theft damage.  This is changing however, as now more than 20 states will allow parents or guardians to freeze the credit of children under the age of 18 before they become victims of identity theft.  If you have young children, there is absolutely no reason NOT to lock down their credit reports.  If they’re under 18 years old they cannot legally apply for a credit card, mortgage or other lines of credit, so there’s no reason to have their credit reports accessible and left vulnerable to identity theft.  Washington state is the most recent to allow proactive credit freezes for minors.

A recent study by identity theft protection company, All Clear ID, shows roughly one in 10 children become the victims of identity theft, making them roughly 35 times more likely than adults to be victimized. A child’s credit is attractive to thieves because it’s often rarely checked, allowing the fraud to continue for an extended period of time, and, unlike adults, a child’s credit is often a clean slate.  Read the full story here

states allowing child credit freezes
The light colored states will allow parents/guardians to freeze or flag their children’s credit files.  (Washington state not updated on this map)

Most people are also unaware that they can enroll their children, as well as themselves in a credit monitoring plan that will send alerts if anyone is trying to use their social security number to open any new lines of credit.  This is another important proactive step that can mitigate potential identity theft damage.  Several of the major credit monitoring services that I recommend, including IdentityGuard & Lifelock, have monitoring plans that allow parents to include their children’s social security numbers for monitoring.

If you live in one of the light colored states on the map above, consider freezing your child’s credit soon, and get a credit monitoring plan in place for the entire family as a second layer of protection.

Online Shopping and Cyber Security

online shoppingWith online shopping as popular as ever the importance of cyber security becomes essential to everyone. Shopping, even in the real world, involves money and where there is money, there are criminals. Criminals follow the money trail targeting online shoppers all the a way to their computers, mobile devices, credit cards and bank accounts.

Online shopping became fashionable when people discovered one is free from stress and fatigue caused by crowds and traffic. There is also the convenience of searching whatever it is you want from your home, at your most convenient time, and paying for it without waiting in line. All of these with just a few click of a mouse.

However, the internet is also a convenient place for cyber criminals. They target the online shoppers, fraudulently obtaining information they can use for their own financial gains. These criminals use three common ways in attacking the online shoppers.

Unprotected computers

Unprotected computers are easy targets for viruses and other malicious codes used by cyber criminals to gain access to personal and financial information. On the other end, online vendors have to protect their computers, too, against attackers who may access their customer databases.  We have all seen how that has worked out lately. More and more big-box retailers have been hacked. It’s all over the news everyday.

Fake sites and email messages

In the virtual online world, a site (or an online store) can be faked by cyber criminals, with no one the wiser. These fake sites mimic the legitimate ones and capture the business, at least until they are caught or noticed.

Charities have also been misrepresented, especially during natural disasters or holiday seasons where people pour in donation money and aid. Most often, though, these attackers collect information for their own illegal use.

Cyber safety measures

Maintaining an up-to-date anti-virus program, a firewall and anti-spyware is an essential three-pronged first line of defense in cyber security. They protect you against viruses and Trojan horses that may steal or modify your data and make your computer vulnerable. Spyware may also give the attackers access to your data.

Updated browser

Browsers are the gateway between your computer and the internet. Enable the option of automatic updates to your computer so that the operating programs and utilities are up to date.

It is likewise important to check the default settings of your computer and apply the highest level of security. This applies primarily to browsers, email clients, etc. because these are the connectors to the Internet.

Reputable vendors

This is where care should be taken because cyber criminals are very good at mimicking the sites of legitimate vendors to make it appear genuine. You need to verify their legitimacy before supplying any information. Keep the phone numbers and the physical addresses of these vendors which you can use in case of problems.

Security features and private policies

As always, passwords and other security features add protection, if correctly used. Check the site’s privacy policy before giving out personal or financial information. You have to understand how your information is stored and used.

Encrypted information

Make sure the information you give out is encrypted. To check if it is, see if it includes a URL that begins with “https:” instead of “http:” and has a padlock icon. If the padlock is closed, the information is encrypted. Know where the padlock icon is located in your favorite browser since some attackers use fake padlock icons to trick users.  There is special keyboard encryption software available now that you should have on every device you use.

Use your credit card

Credit card charges have laws that limit your liability in case of fraud. This may not be the case for your debit card. Because debit cards draw money directly from your bank account, unauthorized withdrawals could leave you penniless. Needless to say, a record of your purchases should be kept aside. Report immediately any discrepancy.

Shopping online is truly a time-saving, hassle-free, and fun way of buying whatever you want on the internet. The presence of the ubiquitous cyber criminals stalking at every cyber corner necessitates the need of cyber security.  Make sure you are protected with credit monitoring.

Your cyber-health is your responsibility.

How Do Identity Theft Protection Services Work  

In this day and age, even the major retailers are the target of hackers and security flaws on the net. Without a doubt, identity theft has now become a major threat for both big and small business operations. This is the reason why there are now more and more providers of identity theft protection services on the rise.

But are these services worth it? And how to these work in the first place? Will identity theft protection services really give the protection that you need?

In reality, identity theft protection services don’t completely prevent your identity from being stolen. Simply put, these services are not entirely proactive in safeguarding your identity. However, some of the better services do have proactive measures such as daily web scanning to find any potential cases of data breach, where your personal information may be available for public view. Companies such as IdentityGuard.com provide deep web scanning, which monitors areas of the web where credit cards, social security numbers and full identity profiles are sold & traded.  With this in mind, choosing to subscribe to a daily identity protection plan is just one more piece of the puzzle that you should employ to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.

Your Information Is a Target For Theft

There are several primary reasons why the identity thieves are targeting your personal information:

  • To use your credit card illegally
  • To open new lines of credit in your name
  • To take a loan with the use of your identity
  • To access your bank accounts and steal money directly

The identity theft services are going to ensure that possible changes in your account are going to be clearly reflected in your credit report. The protective services are going to instantly alert you once they detected suspicious activities for you to take the necessary action right away.

Regular Monitoring of Your Finances

Through the proper supervision of your credit report, the identity protecting services are going to alert you of unusual activities. But, it is not always that easy to catch the fraudulent activities only through the monitoring of your credit report. This is why there are a lot of protecting services offering to monitor some of the other financial activities that include your card purchases and bank accounts. Also, they search for any loan or credit applications that are taken under your name.

Monitoring of Personal Information

Supervising your personal financial activities is amazing to start with. However, the most dependable identity theft protection services also need to supervise all your personal information including your social security number. It is to make sure that your social security number will not be used without your consent. Take note that the best provider of identity theft service is going to offer supervision of as many things possible for you. There are also those that will supervise even the medical record, the public records and unauthorized use of driver’s license or change in address.  Essentially credit monitoring services keep track of your full identity and personal information, so you don’t have to.

Anti-Virus & Keystroke Encryption

The best providers should also guard you against any cases of hacking, a method commonly used by the identity thieves to snatch your personal information. The id protection companies should give you security software for safeguarding your personal computer against cases of hacking. Security software might also come with encrypted logins for anti-key logging applications, safe banking, anti-malware & shareware protection.

Trusted Identity Protection Companies

The majority of reliable service providers offer the basic monitoring services that include those items mentioned above, such as financial monitoring, credit report monitoring, monitoring of social security numbers and public records. There are also companies that go well beyond to protect you from falling prey to identity theft.

Having said this, I rank the following 3 identity theft protection services as the best choices you can go with for comprehensive identity monitoring.  I’ve thrown in a 4th, free option as well, but I will always recommend going with a quality paid service over the freebie id protections services.

Identity Guard

identity guard privacy bannerIdentity Guard is another wonderful alternative if you would like your name and personal information monitor against all forms of identity theft. The service’s highlight is the exclusive lost wallet protection. It can be very beneficial for the regular travelers or for those who are always on the move most of the time. Identity Guard is also offering an insurance coverage against fraudulent activities. The customers will also get security suite which can be installed in both personal computers and mobile devices. Thanks to its all around protection capabilities, the company holds an outstanding customer satisfaction record and untarnished reputation.


 

LifeLock

lifelock identity protectionFor people who are keen when it comes to building credit scores and tracking their progress, LifeLock is the best choice. LifeLock is among the few services that allow monthly updates of the credit score. Aside from its basic identity theft protection services, the company monitors various other information that include the unauthorized use of driver’s license and address change. The service can also automatically unsubscribe the users from all the junk emails. The users can also get a trial for 30 days so that they can choose to opt out any time they do not like the services.


 

IdentityForce

identity force bannerIdentityForce is also a good choice if you are searching for an affordable and comprehensive identity theft program for both your family and your home. This also comes with an additional Child Watch features. A great deal for those who have big households, the service provider will check the user’s financial accounts, social security number and financial information. There is also a 14-day trial period and you can also test their service before committing to it.


 

Credit Sesame

credit sesameFor those who are reluctant in revealing the details of your credit card, Credit Sesame is a good choice. In the field of identity theft protection, it is unusual for service providers to offer 100% free protection services but Credit Sesame can do this all for you. The company will update the credit scores every month, and changes are transparent and evident to the user. They also actively check for any suspicious activities. While Credit Sesame does not provide everything that the other companies do, it will be best to look for a free and simple identity theft protector.

There are many identity theft protection services available.  Make sure you choose one that meets your needs as well as fits your monthly budget.

Real World Identity Theft Protection Methods

Identity theft happens so frequently that FBI considered it as the fastest growing crime issue in America. Thieves fraudulently use and steal the addresses, names, SSNs, credit card numbers, bank account information, and some personal information of millions of individuals every year. To avoid identity theft, learning how those thieves get your personal information is the very first step you should take to protect yourself.

When it comes to corporate world, thieves make headlines by breaking into huge consumer databases and get numerous names in the form of data breaches. It may also occur from the inside as there are insiders who might use an access of an employer to credit reporting information to obtain personal data or acquire information directly from the trash or files of the employer. Employees can be also bribed or conned by outsiders to steal information.

identity theft protectionIn terms of personal level, identity theft is a bit less publicized once it occurs to an individual, yet the number of ways that identity theft may occur on this level is distressing. The simplest way involves stealing your wallet or digging your trash. Identity theft may also be as easy and simple as peering over anyone’s shoulder as they utilize an ATM machine. Other sophisticated methods include targeting information of the deceased by using obituaries, diverting or stealing your mail, as well as getting bank account or credit card information through skimming, which is a high-tech theft who uses a particular electronic device when stealing information from your bank account or credit card.

Generally, skimming happens once your credit card is used when making a purchase and the one who processes your card may use a skimmer to get personalized access information. Skimmers are also found on ATMs. Aside from skimming, phishing is also one of the widely publicized methods of personal ID theft. Phishers steal information by creating a website that appears to be very similar to a reliable enterprise’s site and send emails out to lure anyone to enter their contact information. Then, thieves will use the information in any way they want.

What Happens Once Your Identity Was Stolen?

When identity thieves steal your personal information, they become you through assuming your financial identity. Criminals who are less sophisticated consider spending spree using your credit cards and sometimes open new credit cards in your name, establishing cell phone accounts, and writing checks.

Thieves who are experienced and more sophisticated will do more than spending your money by using your name or full identity to do anything they need or want. They will get personal identification including a driver’s license and utilize it when taking out car loans, opening bank accounts or filing for bankruptcy to avoid eviction from an apartment or a house. They can also use your personal date to make payments. So, what’s the best defense you can do to avoid it?

Tip: Identity theft protection services monitor thousands of data points to spot any possible signs of identity theft or fraud.  Consider signing up for a plan and letting them keep tabs on your credit.  It will save you time and give you peace of mind.

Avoiding Identity Theft

Though high-profile hackings of corporate databases may suggest that no one is safe from identity theft, there are several precautions that can reduce the odds of being victimized. One of these is to protect your SSN or Social Security Number, which is a critical part of personal information. Never print it on any kind of personal identification. Don’t print it on your checks and only use it when needed. Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet and avoid utilizing your SSN as your personal identifier if possible. Even if medical clinics, colleges, employers, and some entities often require your SSN, better think twice before you give it. You never know who will access to your information.

Another way of protecting yourself from identity theft is by protecting your mail. You can do this by reducing the amount of unsolicited offers. When you are on a vacation, cancel mail delivery. If you don’t, your mails can be a tempting target of thieves. Outgoing mails also need protection. When writing a mail and a check to your credit card company, never include information that’s complete enough for someone to utilize. You may only write your account number’s last 4 digits and your credit card company will be the one to identify you.

The Bottom Line

Being an identity theft victim can be devastating not only because your money will be stolen, but also your name can be used in crimes. Identity thieves are skilled when searching for targets. Because of this, it is always wise to be knowledgeable and more alert when protecting yourself.

Your Passwords Stink – These Tips Will Help Keep Your Accounts Safe

You don’t have to be a software expert to understand that passwords are among the key elements in making sure your personal or guarded information won’t be revealed to ID thieves, hackers or anyone else with malicious intent. Running parallel to the way that the internet has been learned about and embraced by society as a whole, cyber criminals have been honing their skills. As tech gets more advanced, hackers keep finding new ways to get leverage over pretty much anyone. For this reason, people are encouraged to create secure passwords that’ll be difficult for identity thieves to unlock. You may not be able to stop these criminals from doing what they want to do, but you can always adopt security measures to give better protection to your documents. The following suggestions are a great place to get started:

Regular modification of passwords

If you plan on using a single password for most or all of your online accounts for the rest of your life, you’re putting yourself at high risks for identity theft. You can avoid a lot this risk by frequently changing your passwords every three to six months. This way, hackers will have a hard time breaking in to your often-changing entry point, even if you only change a character or two at a time.

Use passwords with an array of characters

Using passwords that contain your name, birthdate, or a combination of you and your spouse’s names is not a good idea. Hackers can easily obtain that kind of information from social media and people around you. They will then link all the details together and figure out what password you might be using. To make it as difficult as possible for these criminals, make sure that your passwords are composed of numbers, upper and lower case letters and symbols. This will make your password far more difficult to figure out and will take a substantial amount of time to get around it. Before hackers finally discover your previous password, you may have already changed it to a new one.

Avoid using the same password for different accounts

A lot of people are using a similar password for their bank accounts other activities. Cleveland.com revealed that around 20% of people are using this risky practice. Always remember that different accounts mean different security systems. Your social network account may have weaker anti-identity theft measure compared to your bank account. Once hackers are able to break in to the account that has a weaker security system, they will eventually infiltrate your other more important accounts by plugging in the same passwords.

Say “No” to password-sharing

Experian, one of the giants in the credit industry in the United States, conducted a survey covering matters on identity protection. The company found out that nearly 50% of people (under 30 years old) feel secure when somebody knows about their passwords. However, this is never encouraged, even if the person by whom the password will be shared with is a loved one. After all, it is all about your identity’s protection, so it is best to always keep your password by yourself. Even if you share a bank account, most financial organizations will allow you and your partner to each create unique logins.

Avoid using public computers

In case you don’t know, cyber criminals are clever enough to integrate custom software on public computers that will record every keystroke of your user names and passwords. Using library computers, internet cafes and other devices available to the public to log into your financial accounts is highly discouraged. Moreover, avoid using public Wi-Fi at all if you plan on accessing your bank account.  

Use scrambled words

As mentioned earlier, a lot of people are fond of names of people close to them (or their own name) as passwords. If you are one of these people, you need to quit that practice immediately. Those kinds of passwords are easy for hackers to figure out. In fact, it can only be a matter of guessing game. To prevent this, use acronyms and scramble your set of characters so that it becomes a unique and hard-to-hack password. For truly strong passwords, chain together three or four random words and replace some of the letters with numbers and symbols. Something like “Ilovedogs1!” is super easy to figure out compared to a password like “Do6sEnv3lopeSKY”.

Sequential numbers or letters is a no-no

Are you so forgetful that you would really want to assign ABCDE or 12345 as your password? If you said ‘yes’ you might as well just post all of your login information on Twitter or Facebook for the world to see. Avoid these kinds of passwords like the plague. Password guessing software can figure them out super fast. For example, you wouldn’t use 1234 as your ATM pin code… would you?

Avoid writing down your passwords

Some people become victims of their own passwords. They tend to forget what they came up with in the moment and find that writing them down and carrying them about is an acceptable solution. Well, it might help you remember your password, but it’s really easy to leave behind those small pieces of paper (especially if you’re forgetful in the first place). Other people might just outright steal your valuables, which would then give the criminals immediate and easy access to everything in your life. If you really need something to remind you of your password, writing down a hint (not the exact password) is a far superior alternative.

Create a long password

The idea is simple – longer passwords are more difficult to hack or guess. How long should you passwords have to be? Most websites make it so they must be 8 characters or more. We would recommend aiming for 12-16 to really make it strong.

You don’t want to be a victim of identity theft, do you? If not, your first and one of the best lines of defense against identity thieves and hackers is to follow the tips above and make a password that’s impossible to crack.