You’d better shop around


Identity theft is a major problem and it’s not limited to the United States, it is a global phenomenon. The biggest contributor to identity theft is the accessibility of information. Information is at our fingertips, anyone can access your information in just a few moments. Freedom of Information acts means that others can legally access official information about you through public records. Anyone includes identity thieves.

We know identity theft cannot be stopped or prevented because our personal information is no longer private. Everywhere you go, everything you do, someone is collecting information on you. School records, background checks even that little customer loyalty card you’ve got from a store you shop at to get discounts is another method of collecting information about you. Even though you are doing everything recommended to prevent identity theft, these agencies and companies can expose or lose your information at any time placing you at risk. The only thing you can do is be prepared and be proactive.

Which brings up the issue of identity theft protection. All identity theft protection plans are not created equal and you need to know what to look for in a plan and why. Here are a few things that a good identity theft protection plan should provide.

Credit Monitoring

Early detection is the key to limiting your loss. Credit monitoring is very important. Experts recommend checking your credit report often, I recommend continuous monitoring. Many of the legal protections you have against identity theft and fraudulent charges are time sensitive. Continuous credit monitoring with immediate notification means you will discover this activity quickly allowing you to take full advantage of these protections.

Identity Restoration
A good plan should provide restoration services. Think of it this way. If the wiring in your house developed a short, are you going to try to fix it yourself or call an electrician? You call the electrician to fix it because you know it needs to be done right to prevent future troubles. You also know that the electrician knows how to safely deal with the power source, you don’t want to risk an electrical fire by making things worse so you let the expert do his job. The expert also knows how to check the wiring to locate all of the wiring problems in your home. That’s the job of the identity restoration investigator, to not only restore your identity but to track down trouble in other areas. What good is it to fix your credit because of those hot checks but not find the warrants that were created because of the hot checks? This brings us to the last area of coverage and perhaps the most important….

Address the Need for Legal Counsel

Your credit issues in the long run are minor. The Federal Government provides you with legal recourse for most credit issues resulting from identity theft provided you take advantage of them in the allotted time frame. Your legal issues will be the major part of your problem and an attorney could be critical. If there are warrants in your name due to identity theft you may find yourself arrested and thrown in jail, this happens on a regular basis. Criminal Identity Theft is second only to Financial Identity theft which accounts for 30% of the total reported cases. You will need a lawyer not only to help at the time of your arrest but most likely to represent you in a court of law. This is in addition to other legal issues you may be facing.

Also when looking at identity theft restoration plans, understand what they are actually offering, many plans are offering services you can do yourself for free or services that are not really protecting you such as a credit freeze. A credit freeze is great if you know you are risk to prevent NEW ACCOUNTS from being opening in your name but those existing accounts are not covered. Always read the disclaimers and make sure you understand them. If the “guarantee” is not providing you with reimbursement on your losses what good is it?

So are we safer on Facebook? Time will tell


Facebook has reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over its privacy policies.  That means we can all breathe a sigh of relief, right?  Well time will tell.

I would like to think that means my information will be protected just as Facebook says it is, but I can’t help but consider the fact that several of the points brought up in the settlement was the fact that the Facebook Privacy statement said one thing, and the reality was that Facebook was doing things totally differently.

While I can hope that things will be done correctly from now on, there is no guarantee.  Only as we move forward and see the independent third party evaluation can we hope to see if Facebook is following the terms of the settlement.  I hope that they do, but I will not take it as gospel.  I will continue to be aware of the fact that advertisers and third party application developers may very well have access to my personal information and act accordingly.

If it happens that things remain the same, I can take comfort in the fact that I have a LegalShield Membership and that I can depend on  Identity Theft Shield to fix it.

 

Old habits die hard


All of us have developed habits over the course of our lives and habits can be hard to break.  Some habits are beneficial. If it is your habit to take a walk every day that is beneficial, it contributes to your health and fitness.  Some habits are basically harmless, like tossing dirty clothes in a pile on the floor.  And other habits are dangerous like drinking and driving.

All of us are influenced by habits and often we don’t consider many habits dangerous unless they directly impact our health or lives.  In today’s information driven world many habits we consider harmless are more dangerous than we think.  These habits increase our risk of falling victim to identity theft.  By changing these habits we can lower our risk.  Take a look at these habits, everyone of them increases your risk.

Considering junk mail harmless

Junk mail shows up in our mailboxes on a daily basis and most people consider it nothing more than an annoyance.  The truth is junk mail can be a real danger.  How many pre-approved credit card offers do you get?  All it takes if for a thief to get theirs hands on one, change the address and open an account in your name.

Tossing documents in the trash without shredding them first

Look at a piece of junk mail laying around right now, does it have a bar code?  barcodes carry information, and yet most people simply throw junk mail in the trash.   When it comes to personal documents people are getting better but anything that contains a name and the following information should be treated as sensitive:

  • Social security or other identifying number
  • Account number
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Date of birth

Carrying unecessary identification cards

Many of us have multiple identification cards such as Social Security card, Military ID’s Insurance cards, Medicaid cards.  All of these cards give thieves the information that they need to steal your identity.  Only carry these cards with you when absolutely necessary.  If your wallet is lost or stolen, these cards will not be lost along with it.

Carrying too many credit/debit cards

Many of us may have multiple credit accounts or bank accounts and we have cards for each account.  Limit the number of cards you carry.  You don’t need to carry your JC Penney store credit card unless you are going shopping at JC Penney.

Giving our social security number as a matter of habit

Not everyone who asks for your social security needs or has a right to it.  Ask why it is needed.  Your employer has a need and a right to your Social Security number when you are an employee, a prospective employer does not.   Government agencies have a right to your social security number, a private company probably does not.  Also when giving your social security number verbally to someone  be aware of your surroundings, think about who may be listening in.

Leaving purses or wallets unattended

Never leave your purse or wallet inside your car.  If you must leave it in your vehicle lock it in the trunk.  A thief who breaks into your car has access to the entire passenger compartment and can search through it very quickly and efficiently.  Anything you leave in the passenger compartment is fair game.

Not checking our credit report regularly

When is the last time you checked your credit report?  When you bought your last car? When you bought your house? Never?  Checking your credit report regularly gives you the greatest chance of minimizing the damage an identity thief can do to you.  Also there are government protections in place for consumers who become victims and many of these protections are time sensitive requiring you to take action within a certain time frame.  For example fraudulent credit card charges must be disputed in writing within 60 days of when the fraudulent charge would first appear on the credit card bill.  If an identity thief changes the address and you don’t get the bill, the 60 day time limit still applies.

Evaluate your habits of dealing with your personal information.  If they are lax, work on changing those habits to lower your risk.  Remember that we can all lower our risk but we cannot eliminate it.  The more we develop good habits the less of a chance that a thief will get our information from us.  Have a plan when and if you do become a victim, LegalShield can help.

Your kids are targets too!


The family computer poses a risk not just to you, but to your kids too.  Identity theft, scams and God forbid, pedophiles are all risks that our children face every time they log on to a computer so it is important that we teach our kids online safety.

The Federal Trade Commission has been on the front lines of this fight with the Online-Onguard program for years now but it really wasn’t targeted toward kids safety.  There is a new program that the FTC has implemented in conjunction with Online-Onguard called NetCetera which focuses on educating our kids on online safety.

NetCetera is targeted toward adults to help them talk to the kids around them about Privacy, etiquette and safety  in an online world, not just computers but Cellphones.  It gives tips on explaining to kids what the risks are, how to identify them, how to avoid them and steps for kids to take when they think that they may be subjected to them.
Some of the topics covered:
Sexting
Cyberbullying
Privacy
Scams
NetCetera is available in a 56 page book including a glossary of internet terms and a listing of Resources to help parents teach kids about online safety.  If you are a parent or educator this is a must have tool in teaching our kids how to stay safe.  You can order NetCetera materials for free from the Federal Trade Commission.
But risks to our children are the same as risks to ourselves.  We can teach them to lower their risk but the risk never goes away.

Sorry! No Partridge in a pear tree here


Identity thieves are very generous during the holidays and they will give you all sorts of ‘gifts’ you really don’t want.  Identity theft will be rampant.  Are you protected?  I am with my LegalShield membership.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

  as performedby the Identity Thief Mass Choir

On the Twelfth day of Christmas an identity thief gave to me twelve felony convictions

On the Eleventh day of Christmas an identity thief billed to me, eleven cases of malt liquer,

On the Tenth day of Christmas an identity thief gave to me, ten STD’s,

On the Ninth day of Christmas an identity thief gave to me, nine illegitimate children,

On the Eighth day of Christmas an identity thief billed to me, eight tickets to New York,

On the Seventh day of Christmas an identity thief billed to me, seven seaside timeshares,

On the Sixth day of Christmas an identity thief gave to me, six speeding tickets,

On the Fifth day of Christmas an identity thief gave to me, five DUIs!

On the fourth day of Christmas an identity thief billed to me, four pairs of shoes,

On the third day of Christmas an identity thief billed to me, three video games,

On the second day of Christmas an identity thief billed to me two PS3s,

On the first day of Christmas an identity thief billed to me, a bottle of Dom Perignon!

Goodbye Black Friday, Hello Cyber Monday


So you made it through Black Friday, that madness is over for another year.  Now it’s time for the Cyber Monday madness.  Although you don’t have to worry about being in the middle of a beat down over a Barbie, Cyber Monday carries it’s own perils and pitfalls.

Cyber Monday has developed into the biggest online shopping day and scammers will be setting up traps for the unwary.  Online shoppers get caught every year in a multitude of scams from simple online Phishing schemes to flat out thefts.  So when you jump into the online shopping, be aware!  Some of the things to look out for:

 

Spoofing of retail websites

Spoofing is not new.  It has been around for a bit.  Have you ever gotten an e-mail from E-bay saying that you need to update your account?  That email probably had E-bay’s logo and may have even had an attached link that looked legitimate.  That is what spoofing is, imitating a reputable website.  When you go to this spoofed site and input your personal information, identity thieves now have everything that they need to steal your identity.

With online shopping it’s the same thing.  The thieves set up a site that looks like Sears and may even have Sears in the web address.  But it’s not Sears you are giving your information to, it’s an identity thief.

 

Sharing of unknown links

We all like to  share good deals right?  So it stands to reason that our friends would share great deals with us.  We also trust our friends so we don’t really think when we get that message on Facebook about the free computer our friend got as a part of a ‘Holiday promotion’.  Social networks get hacked.  That link that your friend shared with you is not from your friend at all.  It is from some scammer phishing for information.

 

The too good to be true deal

While Walmart may have been selling the next big thing dirt cheap and way under cost for a couple of hours on Black Friday,  they are making up their loss through all of the other sales that they are making.  You don’t walk into a store and see that as the regular price.  Finding items at unreasonably low prices should set off warning bells.  Yes you might just find a Rolex discounted 25% on a website.  But when it is being sold for a 10th of the price?  Can you say hot watch?

Things to be aware of

Like anything else staying safe while shopping online is mostly common sense.  Here are some tips to protect yourself.

  • Do not enter any of your information on unsecured websites.  Always check the address bar.  The page url should start with “HTTPS://”
  • Confirm website urls whenever possible.  If you plan to shop at a major retailer online, pick up the phone and call them to get the correct url.  Many scam sites will use the retailer domain name and then change the .com to .net or .org.
  • Be aware of the almost correct url.  Scammers will create a domain name close enough to seem legitimate.  For example if they want to spoof say Starbucks and Starbucks url is starbucks.com, the scammer may use starbuckscoffee.com
  • Before clicking on any link, hover your cursor over that link.  At the bottom of the screen it will show you the web address that you are actually going to.  If the link is cloaked, for example it shows http://www.shortlink.com/identifying code your safest bet is not to click it.   Legitimate retailers have no need or desire to hide themselves.

Be aware of Knockoffs

If it is a designer item or  hot brand name, the knockoffs are out there.  Everything from Sports Jerseys, to hand bags, to shoes to perfume have been copied.  So the odds are that cheap Louis Vuitton bag is nothing more than a cheap imitation.  Many companies sell admittedly fake imitations of the real things and they are marked as imitations or reproductions.

The only way you can be sure that you are actually ordering the real thing is to order it from and authorized retailer or the designer’s own website if they have one.  For example you can go to Louis Vuitton’s website look up the authorized retailer’s.  If that website is not an authorized retailer, they are not selling the real thing.

Be aware, use your common sense and research before you buy.  Protect your identity and avoid scams this holiday season.

 

Official fake ID’s? No it’s called counterfeiting


I got a message from a friend of mine this morning Dave Gilbert.  Dave is one of the founders of Kooiii Business Resources and very aware of scams since they do not allow them to be promoted on Kooii.  And when they say they don’t allow them they mean it, all identified scams are immediately removed and the scammers accounts are terminated.  This one popped up on the radar of the KBR Stay Safe Program which is their scam identification program.

Knowing that I am a Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist, he knew that I would love seeing this one and skyped me a message right away!

[5:19:57 AM] Dave Gilbert: We offer only original high-quality fake passports, driver’s licenses, identity cards, visas, birth certificates and other products for a number of countries like:

USA, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom, etc.

To get the additional information and place the order just visit our website: (url removed)

If in some technical reasons you are unable to visit our website we are always happy to answer your questions on email addresses mentioned below.  (e-mail addresses removed)

So I did take a peek at the site and it is not only a scam but quite illegal in what it is providing.

This is so obvious that I hope no one would fall for it.  The entire site is one huge red flag.  The site is designed to first steal your money and second steal your identity.  You can in the US ‘purchase fake documents, Passport, Driver’s license and ID card for $1,500 and they will have all of the security features of the documents you would get from the official government sources.  Well that happens to be a little crime called counterfeiting, so any document that you purchased from them would be illegal.

Oh and the only way to make a payment is by some form of wire transfer.  That is another crime.  By the sites own admission they cannot accept credit cards or paypal because it is ‘difficult’ to secure these services.

And if Point A and Point B weren’t reason enough to open your eyes, they intend to disappear on January 1, 2012 when they will take down their website.

This is obviously criminals harvesting information and whatever funds they can collect before disappearing into the Twilight Zone.  Don’t fall for this.  Never give out your information to anyone.  But more importantly understand that all anyone needs here personal information and a photo and it doesn’t have to be their own personal information.  Just send off a $1,500 Moneygram  with their photo and your information and they not only have your information but they have  ‘documentation’ to back up their fake claim.

This is why it is so important to have something to address identity theft.  Who might be sending your personal information to this company right now?  LegalShield is a good way to protect yourself now before it it happens.

Will you become a victim?


Thanksgiving is practically here and that means the busiest in store shopping day is here, Black Friday.  Most of us will be hitting the malls, shopping centers and department stores around the country.  We will not be alone, identity thieves and thieves in general will also be out there hitting the the same places that we hit.  Black Friday is a perfect time for low-tech gathering of personal  information.

Don’t become complacent thinking that Identity thieves need some complex convoluted scheme to steal your identity.  Low tech methods work quite well, and on Black Friday you need to be on alert for these low tech methods.

Pickpockets and purse snatchers

These are very old school methods of gaining your information (and whatever cash you have in your wallet), but it still works.  Especially in a large crowd.  A thief can snatch your wallet or purse and disappear into a crowd in a matter of seconds.  Ladies, we all have a very personal safe that goes with us where ever we go.   It’s called a bra and it’s perfect for stashing cash, credit cards and your ID.  Gentlemen, forget the back pocket.  A thief with a razor can slice your back pocket off and be gone with your wallet in the blink of an eye.  Put your wallet in your front pocket.

Shoulder Surfers

Shoulder surfers can have a field day in a crowd.  With people all jammed together in a limited space; it’s normal that people will be close, bump into you etc.  A shoulder surfer can memorize all they need to steal your identity in a matter of seconds.  If you are filling out a paper check or using a debit card with a PIN be aware of anyone who seems to be overly interested in you.

ATM Awareness

ATMs can be tampered with.  Before using any ATM give it a quick once over if anything at all looks out of place-use another ATM.   Identity thieves have several methods of tampering with ATMs from Attaching skimming machines that record the information on your card, to using X-ray film to steal your actual card.  Look for items around the ATM that do not belong.  These items may be concealed cameras placed there to record your PIN when you use your card.  With the information on the skimming machine and the information from the camera a thief can clone your card.  If you put your card in a machine and it does not work or respond, feel around the card slot, you might just find that a thin strip of X-ray film has been attached to the card slot.  Whatever you do, don’t accept the help of the ‘good’ Samaritan.  That person’s goal is to get your PIN number and once you leave thinking that the machine has ‘eaten’ your card, the helpful stranger will remove your card and use it.

General tips

Think safety and crime prevention.  Use common sense crime prevention tips.

  • Before you head off to the store, empty your purse or wallet of anything that you do not need.  Don’t carry all of your credit cards with you and definitely leave the Social Security card at home.
  • Make sure that you have nothing of interest visible inside your car, including those gifts you just purchased.  Lock them in the trunk if possible.
  • If you feel something is suspicious, report it to the store manager.
  • If you are the victim of a crime, report it to the police.

Understand that identity theft spikes during the holidays just like burglaries and other crimes.  Be aware that everyone is at high risk and have your response plan in place before it happens.  LegalShield can help.

Would you really fall for this?


It’s always Phishing Season, only the bait changes.  And Somewhere out there is a Phisher who has decided to change the bait.  I recently received an email that is a blatant phishing scheme. I received the following notice from of all places, ‘The United States Postal Service’.

Sorry scammer, I know better!

TO: 1 recipient
CC: You + 23 More
Hello!

Unfortunately we failed to deliver the postal package you have sent on the
12th of November in time because the recipient’s address is erroneous.

Please print out the shipment label attached and collect the package at our
office.

United States Postal Service

I’m wondering how anyone could fall for something this blatant, but then again These Phishing schemes would not be so prevalent if no one was falling for them.

This one is so obvious.  Let me explain why.  Not only did they send this to me, they carbon copied it to 19 other people and I now have all of their email addresses just as they all have mine.  Not something that the post office would do.  In addition:

*When is the last time you stuck a letter in the mail with your email address printed on the outside of the envelope?  I don’t think USPS has mine because I have never included my email address on any shipping label.

*I think that there was a return address included on everything that I have mailed or shipped.  There is a reason for the return address; when something is undeliverable the post office returns it to the original sender.  So if they could not deliver something, they send it back to me.

How is it that 26 different people all have the same ‘shipping label?  We don’t that is where the phish bites the hook.  Yes there is something attached to this email for me to download, and it is not a USPS Shipping label.  It is a virus or worm that will infect my computer or a link to software that will give them access to my computer even if I am not on it.

Never respond to these emails and never click on any links or attachments included with them.  Delete them.  I have gotten the “Cannot deliver your package” e-mail numerous times from every shipping company in the US and they are all the same.  A phishing scheme meant to gain information from you.  Answering these emails or responding to them in any way other than deleting it, increases your risk of becoming the next identity theft statistic.

Identity theft is a major concern for all of us and our information can be accessed from numerous sources.  LegalShield can help before, during and after you become a victim.

Why you will NEVER be safe from identity theft!


Unfortunately many people still believe that they can eliminate the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.  They think that they can totally erase the risk.  They believe it when some company says that they can prevent you becoming a victim.  If you hear that from anyone, don’t you believe it!

None of us can totally eliminate our risk.  That is because our personal information (very detailed and intrusive information) is readily available to anyone.  It’s called public records and you might be surprised exactly what information someone can get their hands on through public records searches.  You have much less privacy than you think.

Many companies have popped up that gather information on individuals and offer that information for sale to anyone with a credit card.  just type background checks online into Google.  I just did this as I am posting and got back 11 million hits.  11 million places you can go online to buy a back ground check on someone.

What information is available on you?

Personal Records:

Alias/Maiden Name Check
Address History
Phone Number(s)
Social Web Search
Date of Birth
*List of Relatives
Email Addresses
*Spouse/Roommates Locator

Criminal History:

State Criminal Records Check
Nationwide Criminal Records Check
Arrests and Warrants
Misdemeanors and Felonies
Convictions and Incarcerations
DUIs and Criminal Driving Violations

Court Records:

Civil Filings
Civil Actions
Bankruptcies
Liens and Judgments

Property Records:

Primary owner on title
Property Information
Phone Numbers and Details
Mortgage Records
House Purchase and Current Value
*Possible Neighbors

 

With all of this information available to anyone online with a credit card, how can any one of us possibly be safe?  And it is not just you that is at risk.  Someone pulling up a background check on you can easily find what he or she needs to pull the records of your family, friends and neighbors.  Just notice the items with an asterisk.

This is why we all need to have something in place to help us fix it when it happens.  No one can stop it, but LegalShield can help fix it.