Identity Theft & Identity Fraud

What Are Identity Fraud & Identity Theft ?
Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.

Identity Theft affects everybody, and there is very little you can do to prevent it and, I think, worst of all—you can't detect it until it's probably too late and is the fastest growing crime across the country right now.



The Impersonator steals thousands of dollars in the victim's name without the victim even knowing about it for months or even years. Recently criminals have been using the victim's identity to commit crimes ranging form traffic infractions to felonies.



How does the imposter take your identity?

It is easy. All that is needed is your social security number, your birth date and other identifying information such as your address and phone number and whatever else they can find out about you. With this information, and a false driver's license with their own picture, they can begin the crime. They apply in person for instant credit, or through the mail by posing as you. They often provide an address of their own, claiming to have moved. Negligent credit grantors in their rush to issue credit do not verify information or addresses. So once the imposter opens the first account, they use this new account along with the other identifiers to add to their credibility. This facilitates the proliferation of the fraud. Now the thief is well on his/her way to getting rich and ruining your credit and good name.

Recovering from Identity Theft
Is someone using your personal information to open accounts, file taxes, or make purchases?

Visit IdentityTheft.gov, the federal government's one-stop resource to help you report and recover from identity theft.

Precautions against identity theft

  • Install security software and stay current with the latest patches.
  • Always be suspicious of unsolicited e-mail.
  • Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer;
  • Download Anti Virus and Anti Spyware Software
  • If you live in one of the 20 states where it's possible, place a freeze on credit reports. This stops any credit activity in your name unless you specifically initiate it.
  • Keep an eye out for "skimmers" lurking in places where you use cards.
  • Monitor the volume and origin of pop-up ads. A change may signal something sinister.
  • Enable encryption on wireless routers immediately upon setting up a home network.
  • Shop only on secure Web sites (look for the padlock or "https" in the address bar); use credit, not debit, cards; don't store your financial info in an "account" on the Web site.


In the Real World

  • Shred documents and paperwork which contain personal information before you discard them.
  • Don't give out personal information unless you know who you are dealing with.
  • Don't use obvious passwords like your birth date or your mother's maiden name
  • Keep your personal information in a secure place at home
  • Use debit cards like credit cards, i.e., with a signature, not a PIN code.
  • Be alert for discrepancies in your financial bills and statements and query them immediately
  • Report fraud as soon as you detect it
  • Collect delivered postal mail as soon as possible.
  • Use reliable ATMs at reputable sites only.
  • Look for any suspicious attachments to an ATM and if in doubt, do not use the ATM but report the problem.
  • Be aware of your surrounding when using an ATM. Hide what you type on a keypad from others.
  • Limit the amount of personal information you publish on the web.
  • When shopping online, make sure the company is reputable, displays an approved security symbol and uses an encrypted page to take payment details.
  • When handing over your credit card, do not let it out of your sight.
  • If you are traveling, tell the post office to hold your mail until your return or have someone you trust collect it.
  • Protect your Social Security number (SSN). Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
  • Don't order checks pre-printed with your driver's license or social security number.
  • Don't carry your social security card unless absolutely needed. In states where your driver's license number is your social security number, be equally careful about who sees your license.
  • Freeze your credit, if available in your state so that no one can open any form of credit in your name.
  • Request your own credit report each year and check the reports for inaccuracies and new lines of credit issued that you did not request.


What is Phishing ?

Identity Thieves send out bogus e-mails in hopes of scaring, enticing or just tricking the naive into giving up personal information at fake websites that resemble those of legitimate financial institutions and other commercial outfits. The volume of phishing e-mail has reached astounding levels. The software company Symantec (of Norton fame) pegged traffic last year at 1.5 billion messages a day; less than half were blocked before reaching their destinations.

Be Safe and never click on a link in emails to access your bank account or log into ebay

Most Commonly Used Internet ID Tricks


Pharming
Legitimate websites are hit with malicious computer code that steers those visiting them to lookalike sites. Data can then be harvested without a key being struck. In a twist, there's crimeware that instead attacks browsers (Internet Explorer, for one) and does its pharming from there...... more information ....... Pharming

Keystroke-logging
Software planted on a computer (perhaps via a virus) records everything a user types and passes it back to an identity thief.

Screen Scrapers
They can snatch and send images of what's on-screen.

Spyware
Spyware is another big problem. At its most innocuous, it's just an annoyance, spawning unwanted advertising, like pop-ups. In its more nefarious form, it can arrive as a "Trojan downloader," a program that lies dormant on a computer, only to perk up later to retrieve and install destructive code under a hacker's direction.

Most Common Ways To Commit Identity Theft Or Fraud?

Many people do not realize how easily criminals can obtain our personal data without having to break into our homes. In public places, for example, criminals may engage in "shoulder surfing" ­ watching you from a nearby location as you punch in your telephone calling card number or credit card number ­ or listen in on your conversation if you give your credit-card number over the telephone to a hotel or rental car company.

Even the area near your home or office may not be secure. Some criminals engage in "dumpster diving" ­ going through your garbage cans or a communal dumpster or trash bin -- to obtain copies of your checks, credit card or bank statements, or other records that typically bear your name, address, and even your telephone number. These types of records make it easier for criminals to get control over accounts in your name and assume your identity.

If you receive applications for "preapproved" credit cards in the mail, but discard them without tearing up the enclosed materials, criminals may retrieve them and try to activate the cards for their use without your knowledge. (Some credit card companies, when sending credit cards, have adopted security measures that allow a card recipient to activate the card only from his or her home telephone number but this is not yet a universal practice.) Also, if your mail is delivered to a place where others have ready access to it, criminals may simply intercept and redirect your mail to another location.

In recent years, the Internet has become an appealing place for criminals to obtain identifying data, such as passwords or even banking information. In their haste to explore the exciting features of the Internet, many people respond to "spam" ­ unsolicited E-mail ­ that promises them some benefit but requests identifying data, without realizing that in many cases, the requester has no intention of keeping his promise. In some cases, criminals reportedly have used computer technology to obtain large amounts of personal data.

With enough identifying information about an individual, a criminal can take over that individual's identity to conduct a wide range of crimes: for example, false applications for loans and credit cards, fraudulent withdrawals from bank accounts, fraudulent use of telephone calling cards, or obtaining other goods or privileges which the criminal might be denied if he were to use his real name. If the criminal takes steps to ensure that bills for the falsely obtained credit cards, or bank statements showing the unauthorized withdrawals, are sent to an address other than the victim's, the victim may not become aware of what is happing until the criminal has already inflicted substantial damage on the victim's assets, credit, and reputation.

How can you stop the fraud?

As soon as you are made aware of the fraud (usually a creditor will contact you or you will be denied credit, or you will see charges that are not yours on bills) you must immediately contact the three major credit reporting agencies by phone and letter to put a fraud alert on your credit profile. Get copies of the reports so that you will know which are the fraud accounts, and call the police in the county where the fraud occurs.


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