In his celebrated military treatise “The Art of War,” Sun-Tzu wrote about how understanding your enemy and yourself would ensure success in almost any scenario. And while he might happen to be talking to an audience worried about winning and waging wars, it is a principle that holds true in a number of other aspects of existence as well — perhaps not the least which is identity theft. The initial step in knowing the best way to guard your identity from offenders and fraud is understanding how and why you are susceptible in the first place, as well as the way in which thieves find their prey.
Among the greatest risk factors for discovering yourself in the sights of an id thief is your age. While years alone do not establish your susceptibility to idtheft — a a study by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) identified no more than a-1 percent variation in fraud charges filed by 20-year olds, 30-year olds, 40-year olds and 50-year olds — environmentally friendly and life-style variables that accompany each decade of your life can get you at a higher-risk for fraud.
Here are three demographics which are especially exposed to id thieves:
University students: In your teens and 20s, whilst in school, you have stepped right into an entirely new world of duty and independence. Sadly, many university students do not understand the extent of that duty until it is not too early. School-aged Americans are four-times more probably than another demographic to get their identities stolen because they’ve usually clean credit histories but no expertise with understanding that they are presumed to assess them or assessing them. University students do not help themselves both by sharing personally-identifying information about themselves freely on media platforms or leaving out private files in dorm rooms that are readily reachable.
Service members: There is a greater danger of the information falling into the incorrect hands and being used to perpetrate identity fraud since the armed forces uses private data like Social Security numbers to determine their servicemen as well as girls. In addition, research conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research identified that military personnel typically do not set Active Duty Alarms on their credit documents after they are deployed. Thus, their credit info is susceptible to fraud and abuse by pals and family members.
Senior Citizens: Their incidence of fraud is substantially higher, although less seniors fall victim to identity theft than other demographics. A lot more troubling is the fact that ID theft victims over the age of 55 are less probably than these younger than 55 to realize that their identities were stolen in any way! Telephone scams, phishing, tax frauds and health-related id fraud are one of the most common identity theft strategies employed against seniors.
But while these three people could be particularly at risk for id fraud, it is critical that proactive measures are taken by Americans of ages and occupations from the likelihood of larceny. While there is no bonded type of identity theft protection, there really are several common sense steps you could quickly adopt to mitigate your likelihood of becoming the most recent casualty.
One clever way of keeping ahead of identity thieves would be to join a credit monitoring service. This type of service send you alerts when specific action is discovered that could signal possible identity theft and will track your credit files.
Placing a freeze on your credit report is one of the initial steps you should take if you discover you are the victim of identity theft. This temporary freeze prevents the information in your credit file from being reported to companies, credit grantors etc. The short version is that nobody can run a credit inquiry and see your credit report. This prevents further fraudulent accounts from being opened with your social security number and personal identifiable information.
Only the individual who’s social security number is attached to that credit file can request a temporary credit freeze or a temporary lift of the credit freeze. Keep in mind that you will not be able to apply for new lines of credit, loans or mortgages while the freeze is in place, so you will need to plan ahead if you know that a creditor may need to pull your credit report in the near future.
When submitting for a credit report freeze, you must do so with ALL 3 CREDIT BUREAUS. Equifax, Experian & TransUnion. Additionally, if you wish to temporarily remove the freeze, you must again request the lift with all 3 bureaus. After you freeze your credit files, it will be necessary to monitor your credit reports over the next several weeks & months, to ensure no new fraudulent accounts were reported before you set the security freeze.
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 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 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 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 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?
Known 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.
Will 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.
There remain ways where we continually leave ourselves susceptible, even as we learn more about the importance of identity theft protection. Most people only realize that medical identity theft is a crime after they have become a victim of it.
Based on Ponemon Institute’s 2015 Fifth-Annual Research on Medical Identity-Theft the quantity of medical identity theft episodes increased by 21.7% between 2013 and 2014. The Medical Identity Fraud Alliance identified that 2.3 million Americans were the victims of medical identity theft in 2014, with damages totaling more than $20 billion. 20 percent of sufferers found while a third lost their health insurance that their credit scores endured because of the larceny. The findings of Ponemon indicate that around 65% of identity theft victims that are medical pay a mean of $13,500 merely to solve the offense.
Medical identity theft is a dangerous offense, although not merely as it may cost victims fiscally. In addition, it places lives at risk, in many different manners. Anndorie Sachs discovered out this first hand, when she received a telephone call. Her newborn infant have been tested positive for prohibited substances as well as the Utah Division of Child and Family Solutions was prepared to set through paper work to consider guardianship of Sachs’ kids. Authorities were at her doorway, the following day.
Sachs, nevertheless, hadn’t had a child lately. Her youngest was two years of age. But a couple of miles away Dorothy Bell Moran, another girl, had given birth to a newborn infant using Sachs’ identification. She’d walked from the hospital right after having a baby, therefore down utilizing the I D she’d supplied the hospital tried to track her, and then be led to Anndorie Sachs rather.
Moran left a $10,000 bill and a lengthy battle to establish to Sachs that she was harmless., and had employed a stolen driver’s license in the hospital
Such situations are not all that casualties of identity theft that is medical have to worry about. Based on fraud specialist Chris Dorn, medical ID theft frequently leads to health records being changed, with criminals so care can be received by them altering advice.
“Unintentionally, your blood-type may be altered, your medicines that you are on may be altered, your underlying health conditions could be altered,” he advised CBS.
As Sachs wondered, after her ordeal, “Am I going to possess some crisis some day and I am likely to appear in the hospital plus they’re likely to give me the incorrect blood type simply because they nevertheless have her blood-type in the documents? I simply do not feel secure anymore.”
The good thing is, you will find precautions people can take to reduce their danger of becoming casualties of identity theft that is medical:
Shield health care records with the maximum amount of vigilance as you’d your credit card or bank info. Shred files which are not desired or out of date.
Read your explanation-of-gains statements from health care suppliers line-by line to be sure all the info is exact.
Demand that hospitals and practices whether or not they share your details with some other organizations and they use your advice, what protections have been in place to maintain data safe.
Eventually, be sure to test your credit history often. Enrolling in a credit monitoring service might help also. These providers notify you when particular action happens on your own credit files that may indicate fraud.
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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Most people realize that identity theft is a growing concern. And as with the majority of issues in life, we naturally suppose that identity theft ceases being a concern after we die. Sadly, offenders do not quit stealing identities simply because their intended victim has passed away. Friends and families can be haunted by these crimes, long after their loved one has passed, leaving the weight of solving the thievery and coping with their own grief.
Ralph Lee Guttormsen resided for several years in Monterey, Ca, with his room mate, Robert Sterling. From medical issues, Sterling passed away in 2002 and Guttormsen chose to assume his id. Along with his friend’s driver licence, he took cash from the bank accounts of Sterling, utilized credit cards and cashed checks. The scam went on for four years, largely because Guttormsen was cautious about never opening new accounts in Guttormsen’s name, which may have alerted the police to his crimes.
That isn’t the only kind of identity theft that can affect the dead. Many burglars scan paper obituaries for the names of people who have recently passed, which they subsequently link to the Social Security numbers (SSN) of other persons, living or lifeless. The newer identity is hard to monitor since it pulls information from a lot of non related sources
What exactly are you able to do to guard the identification of a recently departed friend or relative? Here are several suggestions:
Death certificates: Request several duplicates of the death certificate. When working with authorities, this file will most likely be needed.
Documenting: Instantly begin a log of accounts and financing. Otherwise the responsibility falls to the executor of the estate. For those how have hired a lawyer, they are able handle this for you. Ensure personal items and all files are arranged and accounted for. Specialists indicate that physical records should be stored safely, and only accessible by specific people, to ensure the information does not fall into the wrong hands.
Credit reviews: Request copies of credit history from all the three credit reporting agencies. The requirements to get this file subsequent to the account holder’s death differ from agency to bureau. For instance, Equifax requests a letter of testamentary in the probate court a duplicate of the death certificate along with a duplicate of picture identification of the person receiving the credit history.
Notify lenders: Promptly tell all lenders of the departure, utilizing a death certificate to confirm the man’s passing. The listing of lenders are available on the credit history.
Social Security benefits: Call the Social Security Administration and petition a benefits declaration to examine. This record will allow you to will find out if some one is utilizing SSN or your beloved’s name file or to perform taxation.
Prevent over-sharing: There is no need to propagate the word-of the passing too much. Media, because burglars and prevent obituaries will probably be searching for any chance to collect info.
No one wants the additional weight of coping with identity theft after the passing of someone you care about. Be sure to take these measures to help make sure that your dearly departed will not fall victim to identity theft.
Buying a wallet used to be a relatively simple decision. You had your choice of a bifold, trifold, credit card sleeve or maybe just a money clip. Now if you flip through tech or gadget magazine, you’ll find a whole new genre of wallets that are designed with RFID blocking protection. Like this one from Common Fibers and Billetus RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) blocking wallets are, in theory, made to shield your smart cards from identity thieves who use a cheap, handheld RFID scanners to “skim” your card information from a distance. Once they’ve downloaded your card information, they create a new card with your card number and details. That’s when the real damage starts, because the new cards read just like a legitimate credit card and credit card scanners can’t tell the difference. The criminals can do all of this from several feet away, without you even knowing it’s happening.
With frightening reality in mind, do you really need an RFID blocking wallet? Do they even work as advertised? To some extent they may offer a level of protection, however not all of these wallets work as well as others. Testing by Consumer Reports and others have shown that some of the RFID blocking wallets on the market work about as well as wrapping your credit cards in a layer of aluminum foil..but others may have some merit.
It’s also not certain whether the threat of RFID skimming is occurring often enough to truly be a concern for most people. There have been very few reported cases of RFID skimming crimes and for good reason. There are simpler and more effective ways of stealing peoples personal information and money.
RFID technology has improved significantly since it’s inception. Early versions would transmit sensitive information unencrypted, including credit card numbers. However, according to the major credit card companies, the latest RFID payment systems are extremely secure and now use full data encryption. Nevertheless, RFID technology may be dying a slow death as card companies begin the transition to cards with EMV chip and PIN technology, which are considerably less susceptible to remote skimming. EMV cards do not transmit a radio frequency signal, so an RFID wallet isn’t going to do much good with these new cards.
Even if you make the switch to all EMV based credit cards, you may still be transmitting an RFID signal from your drivers license or passport. Luckily, the only information anyone is likely to steal is your name and physical address. Even if compromised, this basic information isn’t likely to make you a fraud or identity theft victim. If you fancy yourself as a wannabe James Bond or you’re just a little on the paranoid side, an RFID wallet may be a wise purchase. However, chances are you’ll be ok without one.
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.
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.
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
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.