Identity Theft

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Steve CDN

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Traveling exposes us to situations where criminals can acquire information that can lead to identity theft.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information and poses as you. They may open credit card accounts, apply for loans, rent apartments and establish cell phone service ? all in your name. In many instances, they request address changes for you, so you never see the bills for their activity. These impersonators spend as much money as possible ? in a very short time. Most people never know this is happening until they apply for a loan or receive a call from a collection agency. Clearing up the effects of identity theft can be a nightmare, and it takes time. You can spend months or even years re-establishing your creditworthiness.

How is personal financial information stolen?

Over the phone ? by someone posing as your employer, bank or other service provider to confirm or update your information
From your mailbox ? stealing items in your mailbox (incoming and outgoing) such as credit card offers, account statements & bill payments
Your garbage can ? discarded bank statements, credit card offers, canceled checks
Internet sites ? entering personal information on a site that is not secure
Where you shop ? a clerk may copy personal information written on a check
Post Office ? someone may initiate a change of address on your behalf
Fake Charity Collectors -- People posing as collectors for charity get your name, address, phone number and even your social security number for the "fake receipt" they give you.
Fake Email-- Email from crooks who ask you to confirm account information for your bank, ISP or other seemingly legitimate source


How can I help prevent identity theft?

Regularly review your credit reports. The credit bureaus offer services, such as Equifax Credit Watch, that can help you monitor any inquiries against your credit file.
Don't give out financial information on the phone unless you initiated the call. This means your Social Security number, credit card or checking account numbers. Your bank will never call you and ask you to provide that information.
Store all personal and financial information in a safe place, especially if you have outside workers in your home.
Report any lost or stolen checks immediately. Ask your bank to stop payment on any missing checks.
Review your new checks when delivered to make sure none are missing.
Store new checks and canceled checks in a safe place. Be sure to tear up or shred any checks that you are discarding.
Don't share any of your passwords or PINs. Be sure you enter them discreetly so no one can see. Also, properly store or dispose of your ATM receipts.
Tear up any financial solicitations or documents before throwing away. We recommend using a shredder when possible.
Outgoing mail should be placed in a secure mailbox, instead of being left in your own mailbox.
Pick up your mail promptly. If you're going to be on vacation, ask someone you trust to collect your mail for you while you are away, or ask the Post Office to hold your mail until you return. You can get an Authorization to Hold Mail form at your local post office
Keep an eye on your monthly bills. If they don't arrive as expected, contact the company to investigate. Look for any suspicious charges and report them immediately.


What do I do if I'm a victim?

If you find you have become a victim of identity theft, you should take action by communicating with the credit bureaus and any companies that may be involved.


Credit and charge card fraud costs cardholders and banks hundreds of millions of dollars every year. The theft of your credit cards is a common way to commit fraud, but someone can use your account number fraudulently while your card sits safely in your wallet.

The following tips will help you reduce the chances that you will become a victim of credit card fraud:

Sign your cards immediately once they arrive in the mail.
Memorize your PIN and don't write it on anything, especially something in your wallet.
Don't enter your card online unless you're on a secure site. Don't send your credit card number in an email.
Keep a record of all your account numbers, expiration dates, and contact information for each issuer. This will come in handy if your wallet is lost or stolen.
Report a lost or stolen card right away. Quick action will minimize potential loss and liability.
Save your receipts to compare against your billing statement. When discarding receipts, tear them up or shred them.
Monitor your statements monthly, making sure you recognize all charges. If you see any suspicious transactions, contact your bank immediately.
Carefully review receipts for voided transactions and be sure they do not post to your account.
Destroy your carbons. Do not leave them behind without tearing them up.
Don't leave your purse, wallet, cards or receipts unattended. Always keep them secure or in your sight.
Only carry cards that you need, leaving others in a safe place at home.
Don't give out your account number unless you know and trust the company.
Don't give out your account number to someone calling you.  Call them back to ensure the company is legit

Precautions to consider when using an ATM:

Be sure ATM and parking lot are well lit when using at night. Avoid going alone.
Don't use an ATM if you notice any suspicious activity.Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Find another ATM, or come back at a safer time. Report any suspicious activity to the police.
Don't count your money at the ATM. Wait until you are in your car or, even better, are safely at home.
When using Drive-up ATMs, keep your doors locked, other windows rolled up and the car running.
Prepare yourself by filling out all deposit slips ahead of time.
Report your lost or stolen card immediately. 


When traveling, here are some security precautions to consider:

Carry limited cash. Use traveler's checks or withdraw money with your ATM card as you need it. Keep your traveler's check receipts in a safe place that is separate from your traveler's checks.
Keep a spare credit card in a safe place like your emergency escape bag at the entry of your RV. Only carry the cards that you'll need. If your wallet gets stolen or lost, or if your RV burns,  you'll have another credit card you can use.
Know where you're going. It's a good idea to find out where the less safe parts of town are so you can avoid them, especially at night. Use GPS in your coach or car when possible.
Make a photocopy of your passport. Keeping a photocopy of your passport will help if yours is lost or stolen. In the event of loss or theft of your passport, visit the closest embassy or consulate.


Don't let your mail accumulate while you're away. If you're going to be on vacation, ask someone you trust to collect your mail for you while you are away, or ask the Post Office to hold your mail until you return.

If you're a victim of fraud, here are some important actions you should take:

File a report with your police department. Make sure to keep a copy for your files.
Contact the fraud departments of all three credit bureaus and let them know you are a victim of identity theft. They can place a "fraud alert" on your file. This informs any credit grantors that they should be especially careful when authenticating anyone who is applying for credit in your name. You should also request copies of your credit report from each bureau. This request must be in writing and they should be free if you mention you have experienced fraud. For further information, contact each bureau at the numbers listed below.

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian: 1-888-397-3742
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289


Contact all lending institutions that issued a fraudulent account in your name. Close all the accounts immediately.

Report the incident to the Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338. This hotline is operated by the federal government and is a central point for reporting identity theft. You can also report the incident via their Web site at www.consumer.gov/idtheft or by mail at:

Identity Theft Clearing House
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20508

Contact your nearest postal inspection service if you believe your mail has been stolen. .
Close all your accounts that have had a fraudulent address change. When re-opening accounts, ask that a special password be required when making any changes to your account.

Contact the major check verification companies if you have had any checks stolen or used fraudulently. They can help you track your checks.
Equifax Check Systems: 1-800-437-5120
Cross Check: 1-707-586-0431
SCAN: 1-800-262-7771
TeleCheck: 1-800-710-9898

Contact your broker and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) if you suspect your investment accounts have been tampered with.

Have you been a victim of identity theft?  If so, how did you deal with it? 

What additional precautions can we take while traveling to protect ourselves?

Edit: Made the topic sticky - Tom.
 

Ron

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Good information Steve. Identity theft can happen to anybody whether thet travel or not.  Best answer is to take the precautions you mentioned.

 

Steve CDN

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While  at Wal Mart yesterday, the cashier asked my name when I handed her my credit card.  She said it was one way to detect a stolen credit card.  I commended her for taking that initiative, and she made one other suggestion for protecting one's credit card.

Using an indelible marker, write the letters CID on the signature strip.  This will prompt a sales person to ask for identification when presented with your credit card.

Not a bad idea I thought...at least for face to face transactions.

How can one protect fraudulent use of their credit card for online or telephone order purchases?
 

Ned

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We have written "Ask for photo id" on our credit cards for years.? Only once was I told I had to sign the card before they would honor it.? After a lengthy "discussion" with the clerk and the store manager, I walked out.? They lost a $200 sale.? They couldn't see the flaw in asking me to sign the card in front of them and then using that signature to verify the signature on the sale slip.

For online and telephone purchases, you are usually asked for the CVV/CVC code, a 3 or 4 digit code on the back of the card.  This proves that you have physical possession of the card.  See http://www.sti.nasa.gov/cvv.html for more information.
 

Steve CDN

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OK, I've been asked for the three digit number on the back of the card, but if the bad guy in a restaurant for example copies my credit card number, he would also want to copy the CW/CVC code as well. 

Are there some credit card companies promoting their cards to be safer on the internet?  Does it have something to do with an additional password or some added step in authentication?
 

Ned

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The CVV/CVC code won't protect you from anyone you let have your card, but that's always been the case.  I don't understand why people are so afraid of using a credit card on the internet yet will hand it over to a perfect stranger in a store or restaurant.  There is caution and then there is paranoia.  And some of these same people feel perfectly comfortable using a debit card that takes the money directly from their checking account.  Now that's scary ;)

Most, if not all, credit cards have available software to generate one time card numbers for internet purchases.  Discover calls it DeskShop and my AT&T (now Chase) Mastercard calls it Virtual Account Numbers.

The credit card companies are on your side.  In the event of fraud, you notify them of the fraudulent charges and they credit you while they ask the vendor to furnish proof of your purchase.  Goods purchased with a stolen credit card have to be shipped somewhere, and if it isn't to your address of record, it's pretty obvious what happened.  In the case of services, it's a little more complicated, but, again, the card companies will take your side in all but the most unusual situations.

I have used my credit cards for online purchases for many years and don't worry any more than using them in stores.
 

Ned

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Avoiding a phishing attack is very simple.  NEVER click on any links in the emails, go to the alleged web site via the normal URL and log into your account from there.  If there is any problem, you'll be notified at that time.  Most of the phishing emails will be for banks, etc. that you have no relationship with and those should be deleted without even opening.

It's really incredible how gullible so many people are.  If it doesn't look or sound right, it probably isn't.
 

Steve CDN

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It seems that some phishing emails appear to be legitimate even in the URL.  If the correct URL for the Bank of Florida is BOF.com, then the phishing email might be addressed to a URL like  ww.238563BOF8740.com  using some or all of the legitimate business's name to make itself appear real.

Your advice is well taken, Ned to never respond by using a link supplied in an email.  The problem occurs when late adopters to the internet are still naive and have not been schooled in the dangers that they might encounter.
 

Steve CDN

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The U.S Federal Trade Commission has an IDENTITY THEFT HOME PAGE which offers advice on detecting and dealing with identity theft.? Also available on this site is the procedure to file a report in the event you have been a victim of ID theft.
 

Ned

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Steve said:
Your advice is well taken, Ned to never respond by using a link supplied in an email.? The problem occurs when late adopters to the internet are still naive and have not been schooled in the dangers that they might encounter.

Sometimes I think that there should be manadatory training and a test passed before some people are allowed to operate a computer.  Just like driving a vehicle :)
 

Ned

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For an interesting view on the misnamed "identity theft" see http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/04/mitigating_iden.html  Schneier puts the blame right where it belongs, and it's not on us.
 

Len and Jo

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I really like our Costco American Express credit cards.  They have a colored photo of us on the back.  Jo's card has a picture of her and mine me.  Very easy to see that the person presenting the card matches the face on the back of the card.
 

Ned

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A card with the photo on it is not as secure as a separate photo ID.  Any card can be forged, photo included, but a separate photo ID with a signature to match against is much more secure.
 

Bob McNabb

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Our credit card was, in some way, copied and used in a 2 day spree of over $12,000 in local purchases. It had been out of our hands only 2 times in the week before the spree. In those instances, it was "out of sight" for annoying intervals. Simple restaurant for lunch, in one case....and a jewelry store in the other.

Our credit card company was very helpful and we didn't have a loss, but the inconvenience and time involved and the issuance of a new numbered credit card has made me extremely cautious. We've become aware that many, not just a few, of our friends have experienced various forms of identity theft.
 

Smoky

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I had a scare this week on my trip to Montana.  And I realized the potential for another way to get nailed.

I had a LOT of trouble getting Internet access.  When I got to Kalispell I found that I forgot my Samsung cell phone.  This was the perfect opportunity to upgrade, something I had planned to do in July when I got to MT.  I went ahead and upgraded to the LG VX6100.  Then found not a single store in Montana had the MOK.

So I figured I would use Compuserve dialup.

I discovered CS had no Kalispell numbers.

Then finally I learned that the hotel I was at provided free wireless service.  I jumped for joy and grabbed my Air2Data kit.  I had never heard of Air2Data, but my joy at getting on the Internet got in the way of checking things out.

It took several days to get the darn thing to work.  Really bizarre things went on with the laptop.  I had to deactivate Norton Internet Security to get things working.  I later discovered that Norton had been changed from my home setting to the away setting by Air2Data.  I found all kinds of other annoying changes.

When I got home and back on my Comcast broadband, I discovered i could not access either of my two banks, or any of my credit card sites nor my investment site.  But I could access any non financial site.  Really weird and now I was scared as I wanted to check balances in all my accounts.

It finally occurred to me I had exposed my laptop to a wireless network without knowing anything about the wireless company nor the independent hotel.  I will never make this mistake again.

As it turns out all my money is intact and it took me 4 hours of tinkering with settings to get my Comcast running again properly.  There is no doubt that Air2data wreaked havoc with my laptop.  But I do not believe I was hacked.  I could have been though, for all the checking I did.  Especially when I allowed my Norton firewall and my other securities to be deactivated, just to enjoy getting my mail.
 

Steve CDN

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Smoky,

Are you using any Spyware protection program?? The Microsoft Anti Spyware (Beta) alerts you to any settings that are attempted to be changed in real time.

More info in? This Thread
 

Tom

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Smoky

I always hover the cursor over the icons for NIS and NAV to make sure they are enabled every time I get online. Occasionally I'll find one or the other is not enabled and I'll enable it manually.
 

Smoky

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Yes Steve I do have the MSFT anti spy beta.  I also run ad aware, and spy bot once a week.  And I have Norton Internet security running all the time, even behind my router.  The gurus at CS keep telling everyone you don't need to run NIS if you are on dialup or behind a router.

That is pure bunk IMO.  NIS has picked up intrusions through the router, and if anyone hangs online on dialup, as I used to do, they are definitely susceptible to intrusion.  The only protection dialup gives are for those who only stay on line for a few minutes at a time.  I think a large part of the CS culture was embedded in this approach, using their OLNs.
 

Ron

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Steve said:
Smoky,

Are you using any Spyware protection program?? The Microsoft Anti Spyware (Beta) alerts you to any settings that are attempted to be changed in real time.

More info in? This Thread

I have just recently started using Spy Sweeper by Webroot.  I has removed a few things that AdAware, MS spyware and spybot Search and distroy has missed.
 

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