More people cautious about sharing info online

April 25, 2012 – 12:05 pm

More and more consumers are leery of sharing personal information online, mostly due to the growth of online fraud. Eighty-five percent of consumers think online fraud is a growing concern, according to a recent survey.

So many people are concerned about this that they often omit information or give incorrect answers when creating a new account on a website that requires registration in order to visit the site. Many people simply leave the site, rather than give up their personal information.

An alternative to full-on registration would be the capability to enter the site as a guest. Many respondents to a recent survey said they would prefer this.

For people who surf the Web using their smartphones, a word of caution is needed. People who use smartphones experience a higher rate of identity theft than the general public. This is mostly because these users don’t do all they can to protect themselves.

One in three smartphone users don’t update their phones software when offered, and they save their login information on their phone. Two out of three don’t use a password to access their phones.

Be smart about what you do online, whether it’s on a computer, tablet or smartphone. You can’t afford not to be cautious.

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Business owners: There are things you can do to prevent data breaches

April 23, 2012 – 1:41 pm

A recent study by the Fellowes on workplace data security found that 81 percent of full-time business employees have access to paper documents that contain sensitive workplace information. Yet only 62 percent say their companies have any type of data security policy and offer employee training on that policy.

It is some of those untrained employees that could be leaving their companies at risk for data breaches, since so many employees leave sensitive paper documents on top of their desks – the survey found that nearly a quarter of employees do this.

It doesn’t matter whether this material is actual paper or if it is electronic documents; this confidential material is a treasure trove for identity thieves.

But business owners and employees can take steps to help prevent sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands. Here are a few tips.

First of all, lock your office when you leave for the day if your desk or files contain sensitive documents. This will prevent, or at the least, make it more difficult for an unauthorized person to gain access.

Make sure you have locked your computer with a secure password, which includes letters, numbers and symbols, to make it more difficult to crack. Check with your IT department to be sure your firewall is secure and up to date.

Don’t leave sensitive paper documents lying on your desk or in common areas, and makes sure such documents are filed in a locked filing cabinet.

For those documents that you don’t need to keep on file that are sensitive, shred them before you dispose of them.

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FCC steps up to protect after cell phone theft

April 20, 2012 – 11:56 am

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Child identity theft: Scary but it can be overcome

April 18, 2012 – 12:13 pm

Child identity theft is a terrifying thing for parents, particularly because it can go undetected for years. Most parents have no clue their child has been victimized, and it only becomes apparent when the child comes of age and is applying for credit for the first time.

In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission reported more than 19,000 child identity theft complaints. Child identity theft is basically when a thief obtains the Social Security number of a child and uses it to apply for loans, credit cards, bank accounts, driver’s licenses, government benefits, and even jobs. It can happen to a child not even out of diapers.

How do children’s Social Security numbers get stolen? Sometimes it’s when you’ve signed your child up for school or a sport. Or maybe it happens after a trip to the dentist or doctor’s office. Sometimes the information is stolen by hacking into a computer.

However it happens, child identity theft can be difficult to overcome. It takes time, and it can be expensive. But recovery is possible.

In the meantime, it is important to become educated. Know what your children are doing online, and who has their personal information, as well as why. Guard your children’s Social Security information, and urge them to do the same.

If you begin to receive pre-approved credit offers in your child’s name, or to get calls from debt collectors, contact the credit bureaus and get your child’s credit report. Contact the creditors and report the theft.

Consider signing up for an identity theft protection service. There are services available that will protect your entire family. The peace of mind is worth the small amount you’ll pay each month.

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Statistics about identity theft are alarming

April 16, 2012 – 12:29 pm

Identity theft is a growing problem, and most consumers are aware of it – but not all are taking it seriously and doing all they can to protect themselves. Here are some of the latest statistics on identity theft.

• Sixty-four percent of Americans are extremely concerned about falling victim to identity theft.

• In 2003, 10.1 million people fell victim to identity theft. By 2009, that number had risen to 11.1 million.

• One in every 10 Americans has been a victim of identity theft.

• More than 1.5 million households have reported their bank accounts and/or debit cards have been compromised.

• The average amount of money stolen from an identity theft victim is $4,841.

• The out of pocket expense, on average, per victim to resolve the theft is between $851 and $1,378.

• Almost half of identity theft victims learn about the theft within three months, while about 15 percent don’t know about it for four or more years.

• The most common methods of identity theft include skimming, stolen mail, computer hacking, shoulder surfing and dumpster diving.

• It takes, on average, 330 hours to repair the damage done by identity theft.

• More than 25 million people now have some form of identity theft protection or insurance.

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New ATM card theft on the rise

April 13, 2012 – 1:28 pm

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Tips to prevent credit card fraud

April 11, 2012 – 1:39 pm

Here are some helpful tips to help keep credit card fraud from ever happening to you.

• Keep your card, PIN and account information in a secure location. Don’t write down and carry your PIN around with you, and for heaven’s sake, don’t write your PIN down on your ATM card. You should write down your credit card account number, expiration date, security code and the toll-free customer service number, then place it in a secured location, for easy access in case anything does happen to your card.

• It is important to check your credit card statement regularly. This way, you’ll know what’s right about it, and what’s wrong with it.

• When you make a purchase, don’t leave the receipt behind. Thieves will go through the trash behind retail stores looking for credit card information.

• Don’t give your credit card number to anyone via an unsolicited phone call or e-mail, even if the contact appears to be from a legitimate source like your bank or credit card issuer. Verify before you supply any information.

• Many credit card companies are now offering alerts that you can sign up for. These alerts, though some may come at a price, can notify you if there is an issue with your account or if someone tries to use it illegally.

• Be sure to shred your receipts and other credit card-related documentation before you throw them out.

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What do I do if a data breach happens to me?

April 9, 2012 – 12:52 pm

A recent data breach at Global Payments Inc. may have compromised more than 10 million people who have Visa and MasterCard credit cards. The company has issued a statement that fewer than 1.5 million card numbers are believed to have been stolen.

Since this breach made headlines, many consumers are once again feeling the itch regarding their own personal safety – and asking themselves, “What would I do if this happened to me?”

When it comes to credit card charges that are fraudulent, the Fair Credit Billing Act limits the liability of consumers to $50. If the card number is stolen, and not the actual card, the cardholder isn’t responsible for any fraudulent charges.

If your card was a part of a breach, you will receive notification by your bank or credit card issuer, and you will be issued a new card with a new number. This will help to thwart the thief’s attempt to spend as much as possible on the card. You should, however, continue to watch your card statement for any questionable activity.

To protect yourself, regularly check your credit and bank statements. Don’t share too much information online. This is particularly true when it comes to social media. It’s all too easy to share information on these sites, and identity thieves constantly mine them for whatever you’re willing to share.

It is also a good idea to regularly check your credit report. You can get a copy free once a year, and you should review it carefully, to be sure there is no fraudulent or questionable activity. If you find any such activity, report it immediately.

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Facebook ‘hole’ could cost you

April 6, 2012 – 10:52 am

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Attorneys ask Congress to ease up on letting tax fraud victims see fake docs

April 4, 2012 – 10:34 am

A group of tax attorneys have advocated in Congress for victims of tax fraud. A submitted letter states that taxpayers who fall victim to this crime should be allowed to see the fraudulent tax returns bearing their names and other personal information.

The attorneys, with the American Bar Association’s Tax Section, asked Congress in a letter to allow victims access to the documents. Currently, victims face tight restrictions of federal tax filings – which means no access.

A pilot program is being considered for testing in Tampa, Fla. by the IRS, which would allow fraudulent tax documents to be shared with law enforcement officials. The city is being considered because there has been an upswing in the number of tax refund fraud cases in the area in the past year.

One of the most common ways thieves obtain information to commit tax fraud is phishing. This is where a potential victim receives an e-mail that appears to be from the IRS, asking for verification on personal or financial data. To avoid falling victim to this scam, should you receive such an e-mail, the easiest thing to do is to simply delete the e-mail; do not respond to it and do not click on any embedded links it may contain.

You should also beware of claims for refunds or rebates based on false statements of entitlements to tax credits, homemade flyers implying credits or refunds are available, promises of refunds for low income individuals, claims for the expired Economic Recovery Credit Program or for economic stimulus payments.

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Debit card use climbing – And thieves are happy about it

April 2, 2012 – 11:52 am

According to recent statistical reports, Americans made $1.15 trillion in purchases on their debit cards last year. It’s expected that more than 67 percent of all purchases will be made using debit cards by next year.

Debit cards are incredibly convenient. Everyone takes them, and you can avoid accumulating credit card debit by using them. The problem is that debit cards are direct links to bank accounts – and thieves know this. This is why they employ the use of skimmers, just one of a variety of ways they can steal your information.

When you make a purchase with your debit card, it comes straight out of your checking account. If someone steals your debit card, or even just the information it holds, you could be held responsible for some or all of his or her charges.

If a consumer’s credit card is not lost or stolen, and unauthorized charges appear on a subsequent bank statement, the consumer is protected if he reports the charges within 60 days of when he received the statement. If the card is actually lost or stolen, you have two days after discovering this to notify the card issuer. If you do so, you limit your loss to $50 – wait longer and you could lose up to $500.

To help protect yourself, review your bank statements often, and check your account online at least a couple of times a week. Don’t give your PIN to anyone, and don’t use your PIN at the gas pump; choose the credit card option instead. This could offer you some protection if your information is stolen.

Keep an eye on your debit card, protect it at all costs. A little bit of caution can go a long way to prevent theft.

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Protect your child from identity theft

March 30, 2012 – 10:42 am

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Don’t equip an identity thief by what you post online

March 28, 2012 – 12:56 pm

Social media sites are a popular way to share information with your friends and family, and even with people you don’t know very well. But if you share too much information with the wrong people, it could mean trouble – in the form of identity theft.

Once an identity thief finds your social media profile, he can mine it for all the details he needs to impersonate you in the real world, and open bank accounts, get credit cards, obtain loans and even get a new job. He can also impersonate you in social media sites, and use those sites to lure your friends and family into sending him money. He can even damage your good name by bashing you online.

Protect yourself, first of all, by not sharing too much of your personal information online. Don’t post your birth date, address, or phone number. Make sure your passwords are complex, and difficult to figure out. You should have a different password for each social media site you use.

Make sure you set your privacy settings as strong as possible, and don’t rely on the default settings, which aren’t enough to get the job done. While it is true that low privacy settings can make it easier to find and connect with people, it leaves you incredibly vulnerable to identity theft. It’s just not worth the risk.

Make sure your computer is secure by installing anti-virus and anti-spyware software on you computer, as well as a firewall. Make sure your computer is protected by a password on you screensaver, that enacts after a few minutes of inactivity.That way, even if you forget to turn it off, you’re protected.

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Don’t get hacked when e-filing this tax season

March 26, 2012 – 11:26 am

Now that the tax deadline is less than a month away, many people are beginning to jump online to use online tax tools to make the process easier and more convenient. But you should be cautious in order to protect yourself from identity theft, particularly if you e-file.

If your computer is hacked, any or your personal, financial or tax information is there for the taking by the thief. When you file by paper, you can just shred any documents that bear your personal, financial or tax information that you no longer need. You can do the same thing with your electronic documents.

If you are using a Mac, you can open the trash can, then go to the Finder menu and choose “Secure Empty Trash,” which is basically a virtual way to shred your trash. This will overwrite your data and make recovery of it by a would-be thief next to impossible.

For PC users, you have to take a step beyond simply deleting the document and then emptying your recycle bin. You’d need to ad a document shredding software such as Erasure or File Shredder, which will overwrite data just like the Mac feature.

If you need to protect your electronic documents, you can do so on a password-protected USB drive or external hard drive. These should be stored afterward in a secure place. You can just leave them on your desktop as password-protected PDF files.

And remember, when you discard your computer for a new one, make sure the hard drive is properly wiped clean.

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High prices may not be the only pain at the pump in the coming months

March 23, 2012 – 10:34 am

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