ID Theft In-Depth

Sensei Post in Identity Theft

Identity theft is a real problem today and despite all of the information out there on how to protect yourself and all the new laws people still fall prey to these crimes. This is one crime that is difficult to protect against. But there are things you should be aware of to limit your exposure. One thing to watch out for are unexpected or unsolicited phone calls or emails. Now we all get sales calls but you shouldn’t get a cluster of them on the same topic. For example let say you suddenly start getting calls from lenders when you have made no inquiry about a new loan. This should raise a red flag! When get these calls pay attention, see if they reference a recent inquiry or use your name or someone else’s. If they do start asking “innocent” questions, don’t interrogate the caller as you want information from them and they may hang up on you. Feel free to share your concerns about their call they will probably cooperate with you. If the source of the inquiry seems fraudulent then report it to the caller, get a number for their fraud department and report it to the source of their lead, follow through. The second thing you should do if this occurs is to check your credit report. A credit report will not only tell you what credit you have but who has checked your credit recently. Follow up on any unknown of new credit (debts) that appear on your credit report with the company listed AND the credit bureau.
Another at risk area are ways we may not realize we are exposing our own information. Some identity thieves literally dig for our information by going through our garbage! Using common sense you can mitigate most of this exposure, shred anything like a statement and remove your name and mailing address from catalogs before getting rid of them. Why worry about the catalogs? Because next to your name and address is a code which may be valuable (depending on the company) as a way of learning more about you. If the company has your credit card data stored then the ID thief could potentially finesse the sales person to put the sale on that card. So remove the name and address off the back cover and don’t forget it is on the order form inside too.
Mail is becoming another vulnerable point as some ID Thieves will go to your mailbox before you do and take some or all of your mail. This seems to happen more in rural areas but is something you should still be aware of.
Shopping is the most dangerous because we have a sense of security when we shop. We gladly give our credit card to strangers and trust it is safe. Now normally this is safe but there are a few things you need to watch for. Card skimmers, this is a device that is attached to the normal card reader that makes a copy of your card while your charge is processed. When you get gas make sure the card reader looks normal. The good news is that as long as you are physically in possession of your card you are not responsible for fraudulent charges. But make sure you look over your statement every month. The last thing to be aware of when shopping is that some restaurants put personal info on receipts. By law, businesses are supposed to truncate credit card numbers on the customer’s copy of the receipt. But recently many businesses from retailers to restaurants have been found to not be following this rule. Effective in December, Congress banned companies from putting complete credit card numbers or expiration dates on the customer’s copy of the receipt. Most receipts should only list the last four card numbers. Yet, more and more companies are being hauled into court, accused of not complying with the law. Some of these businesses include businesses like Bose, Max & Erma’s, Texas Roadhouse (my favorite) and others. Some of this fault lies with the banks/clearing houses that provide the businesses with their register equipment. The important thing is to look for these types of identifying information and take appropriate steps to protect your identity.
Now some people want to make everyone paranoid and afraid of this problem, that is not my stance. My stance is the same stance I suggest for your physical safety, be aware and think. The bad guys tend to prey on those who are NOT aware and who do not think or think it will never happen to them. To be clear though like all crime your risk is fairly low of falling victim to this crime due to any of your own actions, so relax, go shopping, grab a bite to eat, then get to the Dojo and work it off!!
Stay aware, stay safe.

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