What is Child Identity Theft and How Can It Be Prevented

Did you know that children are even more vulnerable than adults when it comes to identity theft? Thirty five times more likely in fact. This year alone, 1 in 10 children under the age of 18 will have their identity stolen, yet most parents rarely consider this potential threat.  The unblemished credit report of a child is a perfect target for identity thieves who can do an unlimited amount of damage with a new, fresh credit history.  This is why parents need to be more diligent about protecting the credit of their young children now.

Thieves take over the identity of a child early on, nurture it until they get a solid credit score. They then proceed to abuse and discard it. If this fraud is not discovered by the parents in a timely manner, the fraudulent use of the child’s identity could mean the future loss of educational funding, denial of home and auto loans, as well as lost job opportunities. They will be left with no choice but to start off their adulthood at a serious financial disadvantage, because their credit had been destroyed years before they even needed it.

Child identity theft is not a new phenomenon, even in the technologically advanced world we live in today.  It’s been going on for decades actually. As parents, it is your sole responsibility to protect the integrity of your kids credit rating. Here are some things that you can do to protect your child and keep their identities secure until they are old enough to manage it themselves.

Social Security Number Protection

Paperwork, whether at school, the doctor’s office or for the extracurricular activities will often ask for social security number. Before you give the number of your child, confirm if it is really necessary. If not, do not give it. It’s a rare occasion that anyone will truly need their SSN.  Question their reason for asking before just handing over the number. Refrain from carrying around the Social Security number or card of your child and destroy documents containing the number.

Educate Your Kids

Make sure that you also educate your kids regarding the importance of keeping their number as a secret and see to it that they know that they should not share their social security number, phone number or address on any social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter etc.  Oversharing of sensitive information is one of the easiest ways for identity thieves to get enough information to begin causing real credit damage . It doesn’t take long and it can be difficult to detect the initial fraud, because most parents generally don’t check their young child’s credit report often…if ever.

Look for Warning Signs

Does your child suddenly receive unusual mail, like credit card applications? This is a solid sign that there is something wrong with your child’s credit. When you notice something out of the ordinary like this it’s time to do some investigating.. If it turns out that your child is a victim of identity theft, take the necessary steps right away to help limit and stop the fraud from continuing.

Consider Freezing Their Credit

Not all states allow parents to proactively freeze their children’s credit before an identity theft incident has occurred.  However more states are beginning to allow this practice.  By freezing their credit, you prevent any creditor from accessing their credit report with TransUnion, Equifax or Experian.  Not will this prevent lines of credit being opened in the child’s name, but it won’t even let a credit inquiry be placed on their credit report.  You can check with each of the 3 credit bureaus about placing an extended credit freeze in your state.

Equifax 1-800-525-6285
Experian 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion [email protected]

Monitor the Credit of Your Child

To closely monitor your child’s credit, a credit report is not really needed. In fact, your child may not even have a credit report at all. What you should do instead is to inquire at the three major credit bureaus and see if a report exists on your child. If there is an existing credit report, it is a sign that the identity of your child has been stolen and you need to contact the authorities right away. See to it that you do not order the credit report of your child because this will unnecessarily open the credit report on them.

Here at SIF, we are big proponents of credit monitoring services.  Not because they help prevent identity theft, because they in fact don’t. Nothing can prevent it entirely. However, a quality credit monitoring plan will alert you if if your identity has been stolen.  Being alerted that fraud is taking place gives you the opportunity to investigate and stop it from becoming an even larger problem.  The best part is that companies like LifeLock and IdentityGuard have features that allow you to monitor your child’s social security number, along with yours. The monthly subscription generally cost less than $25.00, so they are worth looking into.

Never Advertise the Name of Your Child

A lot of people have those cute family decals placed on the back of their cars showing the number of the people in the family, their genders and at times, even their names. When you do this, parents unsuspectingly give the criminals some valuable information. There are even some families that put up signs in the yards that congratulate their child for the high school graduation. Not only will criminals know the name of their child but at the same time, they will know his or her place of residence. It can also put the child at risk for more of serious crimes than just identity theft

Final Words

Protecting the identity of your child should be your number one responsibility as a parent. Once their identity has been stolen, there’s no going back.  There’s a good chance that their credit is going to be ruined way before they are old enough to need it. And this can be a very difficult obstacle to overcome as young adult. Start taking your child’s identity as seriously as you would your own.  They’ll thank you for it later.

Fact and Fiction about Posting your Resume Online

As national unemployment figures continue to remain high, you can find cybercriminals cashing in on the wave of applicants posting resumes to a range of job banks and other employment websites.  Both Monster.com and USAJobs.gov were hit with a monster-size breach in the past that allowed thieves to confiscate personal information such as IDs and passwords, email addresses, phone numbers, DOBs, and more.  Earlier this year, the Cyber Investigation Unit of the FBI reported an uptick in the number of employment schemes from mystery/secret shoppers to envelope stuffing to courier services scams, all involving victims that had relinquished their bank account data, social security numbers and other personal identifying information online.

In this current economic climate it’s never been more important to circulate a resume, and cybertheives have never been more interested in finding your resume to make a profit rather than finding you employment. The key to attracting legitimate employers is to recognize when and where to post your resume, and what job offers to respond to and which ones to ignore.  Minimize your risks online by discouraging fraudulent businesses from approaching you.

Fact or Fiction – It’s OK to post your resume to a job site that does not have a privacy policy.

This is pure fiction. If the job bank or job site does not have a privacy policy, you may have no recourse if you run into problems.  Without it, employment websites can legally archive your information for years.  A privacy policy explains how the business plans to handle your personal data.  As you review the policy, look for how the company plans to store, use or share your information and find specific statements about registration and the length of time they keep your resume on file.  If the job site does not offer you the option to delete your resume, look elsewhere.  Your resume and personal information belong to you and not the site.  Most reputable employment sites have deletion instructions posted on their site.  In fact, employment sites do share resumes.  Job seekers have found that after posting to one site their resume mysteriously shows up at other job sites without the benefit of registration. So when in doubt always ask or consult a job site’s policy information.

Fact or Fiction – Posting your resume as “private” will hinder your chances employers.

Some applicants feel that by making employers take additional steps to obtain their resume, the company will quickly lose interest.  But the fact is your legal name, address, phone number, work history and even your references, when posted publicly, can potentially fall into the hands of identity thieves.  Most employment websites do offer a privacy feature that allows applicants to hide private information.  If you should decide to post to an employment site that does not offer this option, use a disposable email address and purchase a P.O. Box at your local post office.  Replace your current contact information with the disposable email and PO Box on your resume.  You’ll be avoiding possible risks should the online job site have a data breach.

Fact or Fiction – Including your references when posting your resume will increase your chances of getting the job.

While it may or may not increase your chances with potential employers, the fact remains that you need to consider that your reference’s contact information is available to everyone that views or downloads your resume.  You’re placing their private information at risk, which is not the best way to handle references should you need them in the future.Fact or Fiction – Always disclose your education information.

This statement falls somewhere between fact and fiction.  As far as resume formats go, it’s an absolute necessity.  However, you do need to consider that anyone can call your school and request your personal information without your consent.  If you’re currently in college, request a FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) form from your school’s office.  Once they have it on file, only legitimate institutions and businesses can have access to your information.  Students under 18 will need their parents to sign the form.  For more information about FERPA forms, see the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

Fact or Fiction – Every job offer is legitimate.

The fact is online job sites have sped up the hiring process considerably, but that fact alone doesn’t necessarily make them legitimate.  Most businesses continue to move through the hiring process methodically, requiring one, two and sometimes three interviews before having potential employees complete a formal written application asking for personal information, work history and references.   If you feel rushed to supply the employer with your SSN or drivers’ license, then consider it a big warning to walk away.  Legitimate employers do not conduct background checks until the interview process is completed. Consider the following as signs or warnings that you may be looking at a fraudulent job offer.

The employer requests your bank account numbers

The position requires you to transfer money

The position requires you to open accounts with e-Bay, Pay Pal or Western Union.

Now some of this information may seem obvious, but the cybercriminal’s key to success is to rush you through the entire process before you’re even aware that you’ve been an identity theft victim. Before you give any personal identifying information, learn how to recognize the signs of identity theft.

Here are some other tips that may cause you to reconsider that too-fabulous-to-be-true, dream position:

You receive an email about a job offer but the email address does not contain the domain name of the company.

The fax or phone number does not have the same area code as the corporate phone number.

Before giving any information whether through email or the phone, play Magnum PI and conduct an online search of the company making the job offer or the person who has contacted you.  If you’re still not satisfied, contact BBBonline.com or the State Attorney General’s office where the company is located.

Call the company’s HR department and verify that the person who’s contacted you on the company’s behalf is legitimate.

Fact or Fiction – A vague email job offer is often a valid offer.

Unfortunately, this is more fiction than fact for many job seekers.  The rule to remember here is, if a job offer emailed to you seems very “general” or has a “vague” job description; it may not be a job offer at all.  The email might contain a link that redirects you to yet another job site inviting you to post your resume, or it might be an email marketing campaign for an employment conference, seminar or class attempting to solicit money from you.  Either way, it pays to think twice before replying to these responses.

Some of the more common emails may include:

Invitation to post to another job site and the invitee doesn’t bother to tell you they get a small referral fee when you do.

Promises of a “dream job”, only after you paid their fee.

Claims they have a great opportunity for you, only the recruiter can’t seem to remember the company or the job title to this spectacular position.

Invitations to self-help seminars, promising a job only after you’ve purchased their seminar.

Some email job offers are actually valid.  In a recent World Privacy Forum job search study, the best job offers come within the first month of a resume being posted.  If responses seem scarce, you may want to take down your resume and start over.

3 Ways To Have Your Social Security Number Stolen

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.

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.

7 Celebrities Who Have Been Victims of Identity Theft

The problem with identity theft is that it doesn’t discriminate against one demographic or socioeconomic status. In many cases, the theft is not due to carelessness on the part of the victim. Celebrities have to deal with the annoyance of identity theft as well, and they have plenty of money to steal, so they are prime targets. Here’s a list of 7 well-known celebrities that have been victims of identity theft related crimes

steven speilbertSteven Spielberg was the victim of identity theft, however he had nothing stolen besides his privacy. In the 1990s, Spielberg had his personal information used to allow an inmate in a Tennessee prison view on Spielberg’s American Express credit card purchases. The man later claimed he did it to supply the celebrity’s information to a Hollywood studio. Apparently this genius thought he could make money by getting a movie made about his small time id theft caper.  Are people just that stupid?

liv tylerLiv Tyler had a bout with an identity thief in 2011. Her hairstylist used her credit card number to help herself to plenty of merchandise and services around town. When caught, it seems the stylist didn’t use Tyler’s card alone. She used Anne Hathaway, Penelope Cruz and Melanie Griffith’s card information as well. Tips and payment aren’t enough?

 

ricky gervaisRicky Gervais was on the receiving end of a fraud in 2009. Using an insider at the bank to obtain Gervais’ information, the group of thieves transferred 200,000 pounds from his bank account. The cash was to be used to secure gold bullion. While the scheme seems fairly clever, the identification they used was a passport, with a cutout photograph of Gervais. The pic was taken off the DVD box of The Office. They needed the identification to pick up the gold they had purchased.

 

paris hiltonParis Hilton had her name used in setting up a website. The site was dubbed Paris.org. Being registered as a trademark, she informed the thieves that she wanted payment for the use of her name. Later, her run-in with a teen in Minnesota resulted in her information being posted online. Apparently the teen had hacked in to Ms. Hilton’s phone.

 
A busboy was not using his head when he stole Ms. Oprah Winfrey’s social security number, birth dates of friends and relatives and even addresses of Oprah and 200 of the Richest People in America list published in Forbes. With the use of cell phones, a library computer and people imitating couriers, the thief snagged all of this info from credit protection services and reporting through Equifax.  If you’re going to steal someone’s identity (or bank info) you might as well swing for the fences and steal Oprah’s right?

Tiger WoodsKnown criminal, Anthony Lemar Taylor, picked a good one. He obtained Tiger Woods’ information after finding his information was not that secure. Taylor purchased $50,000 in merchandise. To top it all off, Taylor procured a fake license to drive, social security card and a military I.D, all in Tiger’s name. This bright guy even misspelled Tiger’s middle name wrong on the document’s but managed to still fill a storage unit to the hilt with stolen goods.

 

Image result for Will SmithWill Smith found several fake accounts were used to grab $33,000 under his real name, William C. Smith. The 2009 incident wasn’t the first time for the thief. He had been arrested before for stealing the former Atlanta Hawks basketball player, Steve Smith’s name. He was still on parole for the prior arrest. Some folks never learn.

So what’s the moral of the story here?  That anyone can be a victim of identity theft.  You, me, Kim Kardashian or the mail man.  Identity thieves don’t discriminate.  If you haven’t started making decisions to better protect your identity, then you are just a statistic waiting to happen.  Learn how to protect yourself on a daily basis and discover what credit monitoring can do as an proactive tool to help limit the damage should be ever be a victim of identity theft.

These Common Phishing Scams Can Do Major Damage

Criminals have been using phishing scams for years to try and steal sensitive information for the purpose of identity theft It is an act of gaining access to sensitive information like username, credit card details and passwords by the means of disguising as a trusted online company or business. These criminals don’t hack into your computer to steal your information.  They ask you for it right out in the open…and you give it to them.

Although many people have no clue about phishing, this scam is not a new one. In fact, it has been around since 1995, back when the AOL was the source of everything internet. The scammers, or phishers would send messages disguising as the employee of AOL. These so called “employees” requests the users of the company to confirm their billing information as well as verify their accounts with them. The term phishing was then coined in 1996 when many people have fallen for the fake emails.

Since then, phishing has changed a lot. It became more sophisticated. However, one thing about it did not change and that is they are still using the same concept of deceiving people in order for them to hand over their sensitive information. One good piece of news is that fewer people fall for scams such as this one. Based on the Verizon’s 2015 report on Data Breach Investigations, there are only 23% of individuals opening phishing emails and 11% are clicking on the attachments. Although this is the case, it is unfortunate enough to know that it is very easy, simple and fast to hand over these information. There has also been a report stating that 67% of data breaches started out from phishing emails.

Through the years, the methods that these scammers used have improved, which allows them to send emails to many people all at the same time. As it has been easier to acquire these information, one of the things you need to do to protect yourself from it is to be aware of the methods the criminals employ. Here are some of the things that phishers use in attracting their victims:

Amazing Deals

Lots of people receive emails that just seem too good to be true like gift certificates, great discounts and giveaways that are just too fantastic. These are just some of the deals they are using to lure their victims. Once you have clicked the link sent to you, you would be asked to fill out a form asking you to enter personal information and even credit card numbers. Trust your instinct and if you think these great offers seem a little fishy, put your credit card away and report the phishing incident to the US-CERT here.

Job Advertisements

The best target of Phishers are those individuals that are the most likely to click on the link that has been sent to them. People looking for a job are a great target for phishing scams.  They are extremely likely to open an email of a (fake) prospective employer.  Therefore, they need to be aware that the scammers nowadays also makes use of logos from a company as well as language that makes them seem like a professional. In most cases, the link leads to some form requiring personal information to be entered and then the job seekers would be told to wait for an interview. While most job applications will require some personal information, you should be would be wary of those requesting SSNs upfront.  Most legitimate employers would will not ask you for this information unless they have decided to employ you.

Bank Emails

Banks will never ask you for credentials online, especially through email. Therefore, if you receive a legitimate looking email from what appears to be your bank, asking you for usernames, passwords etc.  Delete the email and report it right away.   Contact your bank and let them know that you received an phishing attempt using their name.

Keeping a watchful eye is one way of protecting yourself from phishing scams. Therefore, if an email is suspicious, never click any link. Moreover, using unique passwords would make a difference.

I always recommend everyone sign up for a credit monitoring plan that will alert you if you happen to be the victim of a phishing scam.  It’s a cheap way to keep

 

Preventing Senior Citizen Identity Theft

Internet fraud and identity thieves are as numerous today as they have ever been and are regularly taking advantage of the most cutting edge technology in order to steal law-abiding citizens’ money. Many of the people who get caught up in these schemes and thefts are senior citizens, and they are often even sought out and specifically targeted by experienced fraudsters. They exploit these seniors’ decline in mental quickness and their trust by befriending them and then later turning around to scam them through the use of false investment opportunities, sweepstakes, or by using numerous other tactics.

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is by understanding how these criminals operate and the methods they employ in order to get the job done. Luckily, there are many specific things to look out for that can indicate that someone is attempting to commit identity theft or fraud. If you are a friend or family member of a senior citizen, read over the following red flags to look out for in order to help protect them against fraud:

  • Large increases in debit or credit card usage.
  • Large withdrawals from savings, particularly if it’s an inactive account.
  • Overdraft fees or bounced checks.
  • New debit or credit cards that come in the mail.
  • Forged signatures.
  • Check numbers that are out of sync.
  • The senior is confused about their account balance.
  • Caregivers receiving too much pay.
  • Increases in monthly expenditures.
  • The senior speaks about a lottery or sweepstakes they’ve won.
  • The senior states they’ve provided personal info through email or over the phone.
  • While the above are some good tells that may well indicate scams or fraud being committed, it’s also important to understand the nature of the attacks themselves and take a proactive approach to guarding yourself or your loved ones against such attacks. Let’s take a closer look and see what types of scams are most common and what ways are best to guard against them.

Phishing Tactics

Phishing attacks are generally sent out in the form of an urgent message to a ton of different people at the same time. This is where the “fishing” term comes from, as even if the majority of the people who get these messages ignore them, anyone who does fall for the “lure” can net the scammer a huge profit. They’ll often be messages that will tell the receiver that there’s something wrong with their account and will ask for personal information in order to reconcile the issue. They’ll often come through email and can look very convincing. Many times they’ll use spoofed websites of banks, payment companies, or financial institutions. For example, your bank might have the website address “www.mainstreetbank.com” but a phisher might use something that looks like “www.ma1nstreetbank.com.”

Emails aren’t the only methods, as there are also scams that revolve around phone calls or even text messages. In order to avoid phishing attempts, review the following steps:

  • Be critical of any email asking for personal financial information, particularly if it says it’s an urgent matter.
  • Avoid filling out forms through the email itself. Instead, always try to put your financial information into secure sites or over the phone after calling them directly.
  • Don’t follow any links that you receive through text message or email.
  • If you’re entering any private financial data, always make sure it’s a secure site.
  • Log into each of your online accounts at least once per month.
  • Review your credit card and bank statement regularly.
  • Keep your internet browser up to date.

Common Scams

Not all identities are stolen over the internet. Some are stolen in person. If you find yourself in a situation that seems almost too good to be true, it probably is. Let’s take a look at some common scams that senior citizens and other people regularly fall for:

Charity

The victims of these scams are told to be the middleman for a donation drive. They’ll be asked to deposit large checks into their account, keep a small cut for themselves for the trouble, and then forward the rest of the money into the fraudsters account. The money they’re “depositing” into their account doesn’t actually exist or sometimes even belongs to other victims.

Working from Home

A victim sees an advertisement promising them big bucks for working an easy job from the comfort of their own home. They’ll have checks deposited into their bank account and are told to wire 90% of it back to the fraudster and keep the remaining portion for themselves. Like with the above example, this money often doesn’t even exist, so the actual money that gets sent belongs to the victim.

Dating

The victim gets involved with an online boyfriend or girlfriend who tells them to deposit a check or money order into their account and then wire them the money. These checks are bogus so the boyfriend/girlfriend ends up getting money from the victim’s own pocket.

Protecting Yourself

While the above are common examples, there are endless scenarios that a fraudster can use to steal a senior citizen’s money. It’s best to proactively protect yourself from them rather than hoping to do damage control after your identity is already stolen. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to go about doing this:

  • Regularly review your bank accounts and financial statements.
  • Sign up for security alerts through your mobile or on your email account.
  • Monitor your credit score to check it for unauthorized activity.
  • Keep private information private – use direct deposits and keep all financial records secure under lock and key.
  • If you are a victim of fraud, contact your financial services company immediately and notify them of the problem.

Senior identity theft is a very real thing that does affect countless individuals every single year. By taking a proactive approach in protecting yourself or someone you know, you will be able to minimize your risk. The most important thing is to be skeptical of strangers promising you money for little or no effort or of messages urging you to send them your personal information.

What You Should Know About Online Dating & Identity Theft

Did you know that online dating just might cost you more than dinner & a movie?  Dating sites are frequently becoming the hunting grounds for identity thieves, and they want to take your personal information out on the town. For example, Jennifer had been single for about 15 years before she met the man she had always dreamed of. She met him on a dating site and they continued communicating for several weeks. Moreover, the more they talked to each other, the more she got to like him.

The man of her dreams appeared to be a wealthy businessman who was working overseas. He would send her photos from time to time showing his affection for her. What is unique about their relationship is that they had not even met each other. Every time that she suggested visiting him, various excuses were given like he was in the middle of working on a project, he has a flight out of the country or he just didn’t have the time to meet up. However, he still showed his passionate and kind side to her regarding the things they both liked. He even told her that being a team as well as having someone he could always count on is very important for him. He then proposed to her. Jennifer was so delighted and said that it seems like a dream come true. She felt as if they were really meant for each other.

After that, problems started arising. When he was working on a big project in a foreign country, a part of the machines were damaged. He needed funds but since he was abroad, he could not liquidate his money. Therefore, Jennifer helped him by giving him her life savings amounting to $50,000. She did not even hesitate about it and thought that it would be returned to her soon. She later found out that both her money and her man were gone.

Amherst Police Department’s Det. John Stendardi located in New York said that people who have a good intention often become the victims of these sweetheart scams. Moreover, the culprit could be anyone from a foreign country to a neighbor next door. Just like what Jennifer went through, the culprit steals their money and in some cases, their entire identity.   Being attentive while dating online can help you fight these scams.

Here are some tips that can help you reduce your risk of becoming a victim of these scams:

Protect your information

Although dating websites may be a convenient way to meet people, some people might take advantage of the personal information you have given them. That is why it is necessary to keep your personal information and other data to yourself, especially if you have not met them in person.

Always be on guard

When things get fishy and you feel that something is off, especially if your relationship has been moving along very fast, you should always be on guard for the other person might be wanting to manipulate your emotions for them.  This is when identity theft is most likely to occur.

Never give away large amounts of money

This certainly applies to the people you have met online. Moreover, you should never give them information about your bank account or finances, as they might use it to steal even more money from you.

Learn to walk away

If it seems like its too good to be true, then you should learn how to walk away. You need to be realistic about online dating, especially if your relationship seems to be like that of a fairytale.

These scammers and thieves will do everything they can to get what they want from you. Therefore, it is recommended that you look out for possible warning signs and be careful all the time. It would be best to do everything that you can to avoid these kind of people before its too late.  If you have an identity theft protection subscription, you are definitely more protected than those who do not.

Is The Punishment For Identity Theft Harsh Enough?

One of the real problems with many of the types of crimes addressed on this website is that the punishment does not seem to be harsh enough from authorities.

By this, we mean that the punishment for credit card fraud and other forms of identity theft are almost certainly not severe enough to put others off trying their luck. One aspect that falls very clearly in favour of the criminal (if caught and if the case goes to court) is that to many it is a ‘victimless’ crime. Clearly, there are victims. But because most victims will recover the majority of their losses from banking and financial institutions, there is a perception that nobody was hurt.

As discussed elsewhere on this site, clearing up the damage to a reputation and financial position can take up to 2 years. That does not seem ‘victimless’ to us.

For the police, if the ‘value’ of the crime is small, there is often little incentive to chase the trail and try and make a conviction. The media will often round on local police officers that chase small and often petty crimes hard, when there are murderers out on the streets. Because of this, there is a real sense that small cases waste police time. If that is the situation, then clearly adequate punishment for credit card fraud is still a long way away.

Are You Worried About Your Personal Data?

In researching this subject for this site, your author has read that many areas of the United States have semi-official numbers in place to determine whether they investigate a financial crime or not. It seems that offences much below US$100,000 will be unlikely to receive much – if any – attention. There is no doubt that a sound economic reasoning and logic underpins this number. The value of police time, court time and the cost of sentencing and imprisonment make small crimes unworthy of attention.

However, should you have been on the receiving end of this, and now be ‘short’ (lets say) US$80,000, it would seem very serious. It may be that much of this money would eventually be returned by the credit card company, but it would still be a very stressful situation.

At this point, it might be worth pointing out that if the cost of a crime is reimbursed to a victim, then that cost will be passed on to all customers in some way. This might be in the form of higher charges, less ‘free’ benefits and gifts or higher insurance premiums, but somehow we will all pay. This seems just as unfair as the cost being met by one victim, but this is the way of the world.

In contrast to all these costs, the criminal – if caught and prosecuted – is often looking at light levels of punishment. Why? No actual physical harm was likely to have been caused to the victim. These crimes rarely involve an assault or attack. There will probably not be any damage to property either. In addition, it might be that a substantial amount of the crime cannot be proven to have been taken by this criminal. That means that while they might have obtained tens of thousands, they may have only been caught in the act with a few hundred or thousand. The courts can only convict and punish for what they see and know to be true.

Does Wearable Technology Increase The Risk of Identity Theft

The use of wearable technology in aiding the processes of collecting, delivering and using information has become incredibly popular. People nowadays make use of smart watches, fitness bands and other various wearable gadgets. It is great that we have become more connected using technology, however, one should still be concerned about their security and privacy while they are using those devices.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York has garnered attention regarding the issues related to privacy protection that are connected with these wearables when he asked the Federal Trade Commission to start regulating the collected data by devices that tracks one’s activity just like what the fitness bands do. He said that the data collected by these devices should be personal. Moreover, the data collected could lead into a privacy nightmare once they have been sold to third parties without even the user’s consent.  There’s an interesting article about wearable data collection privacy on Politico.com, which believes that more regulation is not necessarily the way to go.

Technology giants poised to reap billions from selling “wearables” and other personal health technology are furiously lobbying Capitol Hill with a strong message: Don’t regulate our Fitbits. Read more here:

While some of these companies like the FitBit have tried addressing concerns regarding their security, there is no wonder why many people are still worried about it. After all, these wearables collect all sorts of personal information about the user. Moreover, some of these devices attract identity thieves by acquiring the user’s sensitive data without their consent or by being vulnerable to hacking.

Therefore, you need to know how to decrease you risk of becoming a victim of identity theft while you are wearing this technology by taking these precautions:

Read the company’s privacy policy

The privacy policy was created to tell you about everything you need to know about how these devices are collecting and using your information. You should always remember that these policies might be updated from time to time. Therefore, once you have been notified about it, you should read and review them carefully. You should find out what information they collect, how it is stored and whether they share it to a third party. You should also remember that these policies are not regulated federally. Therefore, it may vary from business to business. Moreover, no laws have been mandating the things needed to be protected. Therefore, there are cases where the company providing these devices do not have any privacy policy.

Only use secure networks

You should use a secure Wi-Fi network as much as possible. By doing so, you are decreasing your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. In addition, you should never send any kind of information through a public network for it could be quite risky.

Opt out

If tracking your location and information is not needed for use of the device, find out if the service allows you to opt out. There are cases where it could be as simple as just turning off the Bluetooth feature of the device or requesting that you be removed from the company directly.

Go for strong passwords.

Most of these devices ask the users to create an account where they need to choose their username and password. Therefore, you need to carefully create your passwords. You should mix up letters and numbers with symbols and cases. If you have multiple accounts, it is not advised to use the same passwords for all of them.

Wearable technology is quickly becoming a major trend that is unlikely to go away any time soon. Therefore, we all need to make sure that our safety and identity should not be compromised while using them.

Related Article: The Best Credit Monitoring Services for 2017

 

Little-Known Tricks Hackers Use to Steal Identities

If identity thieves used use their ingenuity to help the world rather than commit crimes, they would probably be regarded as some of the world’s most constructive geniuses. Over the years, many different complex and “unbeatable” security systems have been created. Identity thieves still end up finding a way to break in, especially if there’s easy money to steal available. No matter how effective we thought security systems were, fraudsters always figure out an entry point and make it possible for them and their colleagues to steal personal information to their hearts’ content. Expert software engineers come up with new anti-identity theft software; ingenuous thieves easily come up with a better solution – it’s a constant ebb and flow that feels like has no end in sight.

Just as you think that there is no stopping this cycle, a new method says that there might just be a way to ultimately put an end to identity theft. The best way to deal with these crimes right now is to protect what we currently have and continue improving current security system. With this being said, you should be knowledgeable about different ways identity thieves execute their fraudulent acts. There are many identity-stealing methods you might not be aware of, and there are practically limitless additional ways that aren’t discussed below. Still, here are some of the more “popular” ID theft scams and backdoors to look out for.

  • Frequent flier promotions

One thing is clear. These criminals are mainly up to stealing and they won’t take anything that has no value. For an identity thief, your dog’s photos might not be of much use. They would consider something that you use often, though, including essential details about you and the assets that you own. In case you don’t know, even your use of frequent flier miles promotions can be a keyhole for them.

Near the end of 2014, for example, the Associated Press revealed that both American and United Airlines accounts were infiltrated by hackers. Authorities found out that there have been multiple instances where the thieves were able to get free flights as well as seat upgrades. They did this by stealing the clients’ login information and manipulating their accounts. Because of actions like this, we strongly advise that you always see to it that the privacy and safety measures of your online credentials are updated regularly and follow good password best practices. Also, you will have to modify your passwords often. Bear in mind that hackers will have a hard time hacking your accounts if your passwords are suitably complex.

  • Health Insurance

Did you know identity thieves will even tap into your healthcare insurance, since they consider practically everything inside it as an asset? Owing money might seem like something they wouldn’t want to hijack, but since medical bills for uninsured people is so expensive, fraudsters see stealing a member’s insurance plan as a lucrative endeavor. Although these thieves will consume the benefits you have available for medical services, the worst thing they do is trick people who owe medical bills into sending money to the criminal instead. Account owners won’t even know someone is using their insurance plans until they suddenly receive communication saying they haven’t been paying their medical costs. To stay on-guard against this, you should vigilantly check your insurance accounts on a regular basis.

  • Company communication tools

In this day and age, most companies are already using their own inter-office communication system – Slack, Skype and HipChat are prime examples. Several months before, these and other company communication tools have been targets for data breaches. Hackers are capable of stealing usernames, passwords, email addresses, contact information, login IDs and more. Needless to say, this can be very risky not only for the person who’s details are stolen but also to the company as a whole. To safeguard against this, you and your coworkers should be changing passwords often.

  • Ransomware

If you can no longer access your account and you don’t know why, there is a large possibility that it has been infiltrated by a type of program called “Ransomware”. These are viruses that enable hackers to access your device and encrypt files so you can’t use them anymore. These criminals then hold the device’s system ransom. Owners won’t be able to regain access until they pay for them in the form of money or important information. Remember that once such viruses have already penetrated your device, it will be very difficult to find solutions, though very savvy technicians can remove the blocks.

Still, you should pay close attention to preventive measures. You can do this by keeping your software security updated and securing a backup for your files. If there is any unknown or suspicious links that appear in your browser, it’s best just to not click them. Likewise, opening emails from unknown people is greatly discouraged, as well as following links that seem out of character for your contacts to send.

Identity thieves will always be there waiting for an opportunity to attack. Keep an eye on anything they could use to make their fraudulent schemes happen. The best identity theft protection is proactive and helps prevent theft before it occurs. Only through diligence can we begin to counter these criminals.