Types of ID Theft

ID Theft Protection is necessary in today's society due to the fact that the various types of id theft has increased with the use of the internet. The increase in Internet users for banking, shopping and surfing has made it easier for criminals to steal your identity. It takes many people months and sometimes up to a year to realize they are a victim of identity theft. Learning to prevent id theft is crucial.

Your identity is one of your most valuable assets. Don't wait until it is too late to protect your identity...learn how to prevent id theft.

The types of id theft are separated into two different categories:high-tech and low-tech types. Criminals often use low-tech methods, high-tech methods or a combination of both to steal your identity.

Types of ID Theft

Low-tech methods

Telephone scams

You pick up the phone and are surprised to hear that you are a winner! All you have to do is pay a small shipping fee with your credit card for all your wonderful new presents. It sounds too good to be true, and it usually is. This is one of many methods criminals use to try and obtain your personal and credit card information.

Solution:
Never, ever, ever give credit card or personal information out over the phone. If you really are a winner then you shouldn't have to pay any fees!

Add your phone number to the 'National Do Not Call Registry' (1-888-382-1222).

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Job related

This type of id theft is often overlooked by many people.

A co-worker may steal your records from their employer or someone may bribe an employee who has access to customer or employee records.

Criminals may hack into your company's system and they are often able to gain access using social engineering methods. Social engineering is when someone tricks or convinces an employee to give them their password. One example would be a person calling your company and claiming to be tech-support with a network problem and ask an employee for their password.

Solution:
Obviously, you should never give your password out, especially over the phone, but it is amazing how many people will gladly tell a stranger their password when they think they are helping their company or a fellow employee.

Always use complex passwords that are a combination of numbers and letters. Make sure you password is at least 10 characters long.

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Home related

You try to make things convenient for yourself and save yourself time by having your license number printed on your checks. By having your license number printed on your checks you are giving out additional information that will make it easier for a criminal to assume your identity.

Carrying multiple credit cards and your Social Security card with you can allow this information to fall in the hands of criminals if your wallet or purse is stolen.

Solution:
The less information you include printed on your checks the better. Don't give out any more information than you absolutely have to.

Only carry one credit card with you, and leave your SSN card at home. Most of use have had our SSN numbers for years and can remember the number anyway. Never give out your SSN number to anyone unless you are sure you are giving the information to a reliable source.

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Stealing mail

Criminals may steal your mail right out of your mailbox to obtain your personal information. They may also take your pre-approved credit card applications to open accounts in your name.

If you throw out your pre-approved credit card applications without shredding or ripping them up first, someone may also take these applications from your trash to open accounts in your name.

Then it is only a matter of filling out a change of address for the criminal to have the account information sent to a new address to prevent you from ever becoming aware of the account.

Solution:
Always keep track of your credit report to be aware of all the accounts you have listed in your name.

Shred documents that contain even basic information about you before throwing them away in the trash.

Opt out of pre-approved credit card offers to minimize the chance that one could be stolen out of your trash or mailbox and used to open an account without your knowledge. Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT or visit OptOutPrescreen.

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Dumpster diving

It is late the night before trash pick-up. You are tired, thinking of all the things you have to do the next day and you scramble to get your trash out to the curb, drop your load and then forget about it. You may have forgotten your 'useless' trash, but others haven't.

Many criminals will go through your forgotten garbage alone on the curb or dumpsters at your place of business to find copies of your bank statements, checks, credit cards or other records that list your name, address and telephone number.

Solution:
Always shred documents that contain even basic information about you. If you don't have a shredder at work, then take the documents home with you to shred, or better yet, ask your company to purchase a shredder.

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Shoulder surfing

Criminals can obtain your personal information in everyday public places as you go about your daily routine. Criminals will often shoulder surf by standing close enough to watch you to see what number you punch in for a calling card or to try and see your credit card number. They may also listen to you on the phone to hear you give out your credit card number to a business.

And of course there are many places, such as restaurants, where we willingly hand over our credit cards to employees to pay for our check when we have no idea of the character of the person taking our information. We then sign the credit card receipt, giving employees a document that contains our credit card number and our signature.

Solution:

Always be aware of your surroundings and the people near you as you use sensitive information in public.

Speak quietly on the phone in public if you have to give out your credit card information.

Try not to hand over your credit card for extended periods of time at businesses. Instead, take your credit card directly to the cashier to pay for your bill, or use another form of payment if you don't feel comfortable using your credit card. Always get a receipt when paying by credit card, and of course, always keep track of charges to your credit card. Otherwise, a criminal can have your credit card maxed out before you even receive your next billing statement.

High-tech methods

Hacking

The increase of technology has allowed criminals to obtain your personal information without having to leave the comfort of their favorite lazy-boy when using this type of id theft.

  • Your information can be obtain for free or purchased through online databases.

    • Solution: Be very selective in giving out any sensitive personal information over the internet.

  • Hackers can obtain your information by gaining access to a merchant's database.

    • Solution: Only deal with reputable online merchants. Used the same credit card for all your online purchases.

  • Someone may put up a 'mirrored' web site that looks exactly like a popular merchant's web site and get your credit card information when you try to place an order.

    • Solution: Always make sure you are at the 'real' web site by typing the URL address manually into the address bar of your browser window.

  • Placing an order at an unsecured web site sends your information across the internet without encryption where it can easily be captured.

    • Solution: Use the latest updated browser and make sure the site you are placing your order at uses SSL encryption (secure socket layer). They will have a posting on their site stating that they use SSL and you will be able to verify that they use SSL by viewing the https://www.somesite.com in the address bar, instead of http://www.somesite.com (the 's' stands for secure).

  • New vulnerabilities are discovered everyday for operating systems and other software that can leave your system open to vulnerabilities.

    • Solution: Always make sure you have the latest software upgrades and operating system updates and patches.

  • The absence of a firewall on your computer system can allow hackers to gain access to your system.

    • Solution: Always use a firewall, make sure you have the latest version and test your computer for vulnerabilities. Get a firewall...

  • By default, most network kits (and operating systems) come 'easy to set up', which means most of the security features are turned off. Using an out-of-the-box network installation can leave your network vulnerable to hackers.

    • Solution: Be sure to read all the manuals that come with your network hardware and software and set all the security features that are available to you. Use complex passwords. Regularly scan your network to identify vulnerabilities.

  • Hackers can gain access to your wireless network if not properly secured. There are web sites that list unsecured wireless networks, called 'hotspots', with maps to the network location. There are hackers called war-drivers who (surprise) drive around with laptops testing and looking for unsecured wireless networks.

    • Solution: Once again, be sure to read all the manuals that come with your wireless network hardware and software and set all the security features that are available to you. Use complex SSIDs and passwords and change them on a regular basis. Regularly scan your wireless network to identify vulnerabilities. Check sites to see if your wireless network is listed as a 'hotspot'.

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Spyware

Marketers spend millions of dollars every year to try and identify the spending habits of consumers. Your online surfing and purchasing habits are a wealth of information for businesses. By installing Spyware on your system, usually in exchange for free software or a free service, your surfing and purchasing habits can be identified and analyzed by marketers and businesses.

Usually you are warned when giving up your privacy by agreeing to install Spyware, but sometimes you are not. Spyware usually loads when you start your system and having multiple Spyware applications installed can slow your system to an agonizing crawl.

Spyware can change your internet settings by installing their own drivers and dialers and will sometimes prevent you from connecting to the internet with all the changes they make.

Spyware, once installed, can be very difficult to remove and can be just plain nasty to deal with.

Solution:
Don't ever willingly install programs that contain Spyware on your system. If you just have to have that 'free' program, make sure you do not give personal information.

Run a task manager program (or press Ctrl-Alt-Delete on your keyboard to bring up Task Manager in Windows) to end the process of the offending Spyware application. Then run a Spyware removal program to remove the application. (You have to shut down the Spyware program before running a Spyware removal tool, otherwise the Spyware removal tool will not be able to delete the Spyware application if it is running).

Running multiple spyware removal tools consecutively is advised since some Spyware removal programs are better at detecting certain Spyware applications. It is also advisable to run multiple Spyware removal programs on a regular basis.

Get a Spyware Detector program...

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Phishing

E-mail is a favorite method of communication for many people. You can send or receive messages at any time of the day or night, you don't have to answer the person right away like you do on the phone, instead you can take your time and think about your reply. But like all great advances in technology, there comes a darker side and phishing is one of those darker sides of e-mail communication.

Phishing occurs when you receive an e-mail that looks like it is from an online merchant, bank or similar organization. The e-mail will contain the same graphics and style of the impersonated merchant and will contain links to the site that look real but are actually disguised.

The e-mail can make various requests, some include requesting that you log into your account to update your information, that your account has been compromised and you need to create a new one, that your account will be cancelled if you don't perform some action...you get the idea.

When you click the link provided in the e-mail, you are taken to a page that looks similar to the page of the merchant or organization that the e-mail is suppose to be coming from, but you have really been re-directed to a false page that is ready to happily receive your personal information.

Solution:
Never, ever, ever, click a link in an e-mail message. Instead, manually type the URL address into your web browser and log into your account as you normally would. If there is a problem with your account, or an action required by you, it will be listed in your account when you log in. If you do not have any messages listed in your account and you are still uncertain, call the merchant on the phone to inquire about the e-mail.

Just remember this rule - 'If in doubt, throw the e-mail out!'

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Trojans

Trojans find many sneaky ways to gain access to your computer such as e-mail attachments, peer-to-peer file sharing programs, infected disks and CDs. Once a Trojan is on your system, the hacker can use it to open a 'back door' in your system to allow them to gain access to all your personal files.

Trojans can also be used to log keystrokes that you type on your computer in hopes of obtaining your account numbers and/or passwords. Once a Trojan is installed on your computer, your system is virtually at the mercy of the hackers whim.

Most of the time the hacker will not make any obvious actions while in your system, but will quietly use your system for their purposes and obtain the information they are seeking, all the while you are totally oblivious to their presence in your system.

Solution:
Never open e-mail attachments, use p2p file sharing programs, or run copied disks and CDs.

Many antivirus programs also detect Trojans (I hope you are using an updated antivirus program), but the havoc a Trojan can make in your life warrants installing and running a specific Trojan scanning program created specifically to find Trojans.

A virus may cause you to lose your information, but a Trojan can cause you to lose your information into the wrong hands.

Get a Trojan Scanner...

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Synthetic Identity Theft

Synthetic Identity Theft is a type of id theft that is an interesting concept. It consists of a decoding process and has been gaining popularity recently.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh claim to have discovered this decoding process.

Basically, an identity thief decodes the first part of a social security number (SSN) and then takes a guess at the last four digits of the SSN and puts a fake name to it. The problem arises when it is your SSN number that the identity thief guesses.

The problem started in the 1980's when the Social Security Administration (SSA) decided to get organized. They decided to assign social security numbers to people based on where and when they were born.

  • The first three number of the SSN are assigned based on where a person was born
  • The next two numbers in the SSN are assigned according to when a person was born
  • The last four numbers are up to anyone's guess, but can be estimated using advanced statistical techniques.

Using this method, researchers were able to decode the first five digits of a SSN 44% of the time.

So what does this have to do with you? Well if an identity thief manages to decode your SSN he or she can match up your SSN with a new name and create a new identity. While you wouldn't think a thief could get too far with using the wrong name matched to your SSN, just the opposite is true.

Your credit report contains your main file that is associated with your real name. This is the file that creditors will be viewing the majority of the time and most of the time it won't show up any alternate names connected to your SSN.

But along with your main credit file there are also subfiles that contain information about other debts associated with your SSN and other names. These files normally won't be seen unless specifically asked for. Most people aren't even aware they exist. The identity thief can be using your SSN with another name and be having a high ole time without you ever knowing about it.

Even if you don't know about any subfiles that may be associate with your SSN, you can still be tracked down by debt collectors who are searching for a person associated with that SSN, regardless of the name.

Collection agencies often perform "Social Searches" on social security numbers to find current addresses for delinquent accounts. These searches will turn up any combination of name, address. That means even if your name isn't connected to the debt, your SSN might be and the collection agency will be looking to you to repay the debt racked up under your social security number.

Solution:
How can you be sure your SSN isn't associated with another name? By doing an exlusive credit check using only your SSN.

Many antivirus programs also detect Trojans (I hope you are using an updated antivirus program), but the havoc a Trojan can make in your life warrants installing and running a specific Trojan scanning program created specifically to find Trojans.

A virus may cause you to lose your information, but a Trojan can cause you to lose your information into the wrong hands.
Get a Trojan Scanner...

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Final Note

Many methods are used by criminals to obtain your personal information to steal your money, or commit criminal acts that can land you in jail.

The constant advances in technology make keeping up with new scams seem like a never-ending battle that can't be won.

While following the solutions outlined above will minimize your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft, keeping up with scams that are created daily can be overwhelming for most of us.

Solution:
Identity theft insurance can give you the peace of mind you need to safeguard you and your family from all different types of id theft and prevent years worth of financial and emotional losses.

Most of us don't have the time or energy to keep up with every new technological advance or scam that is created every day. Our lives are stressful enough just trying to get through each day!

Having an experienced team of professionals on your side ready to fight with you every step of the way will give you the peace of mind you deserve.

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