Global Payment Inc-Update


Global Payment has officially confirmed the breach of information although they are saying that it is contained and that no names or Social security number were lost.  The estimate is that 1.5 million cardholders were affected.  They have also confirmed that VISA has dropped them from their registry of provider that meet security standards.

http://www.timesunion.com/business/article/Visa-discontinues-Global-Payments-3454033.php

 

Please do not misunderstand what it means by VISA ‘dropped’ them.  Global is indeed still processing payments for VISA.  Global expects to be reinstated.  What this means is that if you have a VISA card you can still be affected by this security breach.

It is also possible that this information is being used right now.  You need to be alert and be aware.  Steps that you can take:

  • Just because names and SSNs were not lost does not mean that anyone is safe.  Thieves can still access information about you online.  Update your passwords to your accounts.
  • Make sure that your browser, antispyware, and antivirus protection is up to date.
  • Do not overlook a missing credit card statement, it could be an indication that your account has been stolen and the thief turned in a change of address, redirecting that statement to them.
  • Check your credit card statement closely for fraudulent charges no matter how small.  Thieves often test cards by submitting charges for as little as five cents.
  • Put identity theft protection in place now before you become a victim.

Identity Theft Shield will not only help you with getting the credit side fixed by working on your behalf with creditors, investigators will look for non-financial issues and help fix those too.

 

 

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The IRS and Identity Theft


As time goes on we become more aware of the fact that identity theft is not just about stealing credit.  But there is still a long ways to go in completely dispelling that myth.  By focusing so much attention on credit cards and bank accounts, we may be completely ignoring other areas of risk, like our social security number.

It’s tax season right now and a requirement on all tax returns is your social security number.  Your employer reports your income to the IRS using your social security number, but what if another employer you don’t work for is reporting income attached to your social security number?

It happens according to 2008 FTC statistics, the top states for employment related identity theft are:

  1. Arizona 33%
  2. Texas 27%
  3. New Mexico 23%
  4. Colorado 22%
  5. California 20%

*percentage of  reported identity theft cases*

The consequences for employment identity theft can include Tax Audits, loss of Tax return funds and charges for additional taxes owed.

There are so many suggestions on how to combat this trend but the most simple one has been overlooked, stop giving your social security number to everyone who asks for it!   Everyone who asks does not have a right or need to have it.

 

Taking stock and taking charge


Back in 2007, the Federal Trade Commission published a booklet called “Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business” that gave five tips for protecting personal information.

The booklet concentrates on five key things that we can also do as individuals to better protect our information.

Take stock

What personal or sensitive information do you have?  Any form of identification should be considered personal and/or sensitive.  Whether it identifies you or accounts you hold, property etc.  You need to know that you have it and get it all together in one place.

Scale down

Honestly evaluate your situation do you really need 15 credit cards?  Do you really need a credit card from every retailer you shop at.  If you have a Visa that is accepted at Sears, JC Penney, Macy’s etc do you really need a separate credit card from each retailer?

Another big and unnecessary risk we take is with all those retailer loyalty cards.  How many do you have hanging from your keychain right now?  Every one of those little keychain cards represents a different database that you are now listed in.  Do you really shop at that retailer often enough for it to be worth the risk?  If not, opt out of the program.

Lock it

Separate your information into what is necessary and what is not.  Secure your personal information.  A home safe or strongbox can serve this purpose.  Any documents you are not using should be locked away in a safe place.

Pitch it

Now how about that pile of unnecessary documents and cards?  First things first.  If you are planning to scale back on credit cards, contact these creditors and close those accounts! Identity thieves love dormant accounts.  Properly shred all of the documents and cards that you have deemed unnecessary.

Plan ahead

There is an old adage, “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”  That is exactly what you need to do, prepare for the worst.  There is no way to completely eliminate your risk of becoming an identity theft victim, so you need to be prepared when and if it happens to you.

Photocopy the contents of your wallet and lock it up with the rest of your important information.  If it is ever lost or stolen, you will know exactly who to contact to close the accounts.  It also will be easier to list what was stolen or lost on the police report that you file.

Make a list of all the loyalty rewards programs you are enrolled in so that you can easily contact them.

Have something in place to help you fix it!  Restoring an identity is not as simple as many think.  According to Wiley Rein Publications, it can take an average of 600 hours and an average cost of $1,400 to restore an identity.  This is where Identity Theft Shield from LegalShield can help.

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.

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.

On the road again


Most of us have traveled at some point in our lives.  No matter where we go or how we get there, traveling is an opportunity for identity thieves to get your information.  With the holidays many people will hit the road, so I’m sharing some common sense tips to help you keep your personally identifying information safe.

 

Planes Trains and Automobiles

How do people get from place to place?  You use some form of transportation.  From hopping a plane to driving yourself, you need to take steps to keep your personal information safe

Leave it at home-Don’t take any personal information that you don’t need.  Don’t take your social security card or too many credit cards.  Lock these items up safely at home.

Keep your information on your person-Don’t pack personal documents in luggage you will check through.   Put it in your purse or carry on bag.

Never ever leave your carry on luggage unattended-Take it with you even if you are only going to ask a question at the ticket counter 10 feet away.  Airports, Bus terminals and train depots are high-traffic busy places and it only takes a second for someone to steal it.

Remember out of your sight or even out of reach is out of your control.  And you may have had a great conversation with that person your were sitting next to on the first leg of your journey but you don’t know them.  Don’t ask them to ‘Watch your bag for a second.”

If you are driving yourself, you still need to take precautions.  Lock your car whenever you are out of it and arm the alarm even if you just stop for gas.  If possible lock all luggage in the trunk.  Don’t leave anything in view inside your vehicle.

What a nice room

Some of us travel and stay with relatives or friends, if you are staying with family or friends remember that they may not be as security conscious as your are.  Keep your information safe!

If you are staying in a hotel, be very aware of the fact that strangers will be coming and going in and out of your room.  Hotel staff that you don’t know and  never see, will be coming in to clean and service the room.   Most hotel chains now offer in room safes-use it.  Keep all of your valuables and personal papers like your passport locked up!

Also be aware of your information when checking in or out.  If you must wait for your room to be prepared, the hotel will often hold your luggage until your room is ready.  Invest in a good luggage lock and keep your luggage locked.  If you must allow the hotel to store luggage, remove your sensitive documents before storing.

While you are away

Don’t forget about the security of your information at home while you are away.  Take common sense steps to safeguard your home while your are gone.

Stop delivery of newspapers, mail and anything you may have regularly shipped to your home.

Secure all personal information in your home before you leave.  Do not leave  sensitive mail or personal information laying around.  Put it in a safe or strongbox before you leave.

Use timers to turn lights, televisions and radios on and off while you are gone.

Let a trusted neighbor know that you will be gone.  Have them keep an eye on the place for you.  While you are stopping regularly scheduled deliveries, unexpected deliveries could still arrive.  This way packages do not sit at your door for days letting people know that you are not home.

Contact your local police department or sheriff’s office and see if they have a ‘House Watch’ program.  A house watch program is when officers regularly check your home.  In most cases the officer will get out of his vehicle and walk around your property to check that it is secured and there is no evidence of break ins.  If you sign up for a house watch program make sure that you have a local emergency contact that the police can contact if something is wrong.  Make sure that your emergency contact knows how to contact you.

Most of these tips are simply common sense crime prevention tips.  Remember that your information is the easiest thing in the world to steal and you may not even know it was stolen.  The only tools a thief needs is pen and paper to record your information, then they simply can walk away leaving your information right where you left it.

One more small tip that can be of major importance.  Make photocopies of everything in your wallet or purse.  This will help if your wallet or purse gets stolen.  You will know exactly what was in it and can give this information to the police when you file a report.

Remember that there is not way to completely eliminate your risk of identity theft, but you can do your part by lowering your risk and being prepared if you ever fall victim.  LegalShield can help you be prepared.

There are no borders with identity theft


Identity theft is a crime without borders.  If you see me mention that it is a ‘global phenomenon, I’m not talking about the fact that there are victims in practically every country on Earth, I’m talking about the fact that the victim can be in one country, the thief in another and the information used in yet another.

Simon Bunce is a good example.  Simon is a citizen of the United Kingdom, but His information surfaced as a purchaser of Child Pornography during a US Investigation.   Then the nightmare began for Simon.

Deep in the heart of Texas

It all started in the state of Texas.  US investigators were hard at work cracking down on Child Pornography on the internet.  During the investigation thousands of British credit card numbers were discovered, all used to purchase child pornography on the internet.

Now we all know that Great Britain and the US had a little spat a few years ago called the Revolutionary war.  No hard feelings neither side is holding a grude.  We get along famously.  So famously in fact that our American investigators took the helpful step of forwarding this information to British authorities.

Enter Simon Bunce et al

Across the pond, Authorities are just as determined to wipe out child pornography.  They immediately identified and went after those on the list, some 7000 people including Mr. Bunce.  This is when the nightmare began.  Police arrested Mr Bunce on ‘suspicion of possessing child pornography’ and seized his computer.  If only it had stopped there.

Mr Bunce was now suspected of being a pedophile.  Goodbye cushy high paying job, goodbye family; hello to a nightmare.  Mr Bunce’s wife did stand by him.  Mr Bunce took it upon himself to investigate just how his credit card number ended up on a list of suspected pedophiles.

Indonesia? But I was having Dinner in London

Mr Bunce followed the trail to Jakarta Indonesia.  Someone in Indonesia had used his credit card to make the infamous purchase while he had been busy enjoying a nice dinner (which he paid for using the card in question).  A very neat trick.  David Copperfield and Cris Angel could take lessons from Mr Bunce in the magic department, I mean being in two places that distant at the same time is a neat trick.

Eventually the Police agreed and cleared him of the charges but at a high cost for Simon Bunce.  He was arrested, lost his job and his family and probably had to deal with suspicion and scorn from his neighbors and friends.  How would you treat a pedophile?

Mr Bunce had done nothing to deserve the nightmare he had to live through.  Identity thieves ruin lives.  It is not a victimless crime.  Perhaps credit monitoring could have helped in this situation.  One of the benefits of Identity Theft Shield is continuous credit monitoring and immediate notification of suspicious activity.

Opt out to protect your information


Junk Mail.   How much junk mail do you receive every day?  Probably a lot.  and junk mail is not the innocent little annoyance you think it is.  You probably just think it is something that you must live with, but in many cases it is not.  You can opt out of receiving quite a lot of junk mail.

Much of the junk mail you receive may come from businesses sharing your information with others.  You can stop much of this junk mail by opting out.  Some junk mail is easy to opt out of like pre-approved credit card offers.  Simply dial 1-888-567-8688 in the US.  This will keep credit bureaus from selling your information to lenders and insurers.

All financial institutions are required to provide you with a privacy policy that tells you how they share your information with others.   You may be able to opt out of much of this sharing process but not all of it.  There are instances which you cannot opt out of but you can opt out of some of it.

It is also never to late to opt out.  It will take a little effort on your part because you will need to contact each institution that holds an account in your name to find out what their procedure is for opting out.

Why should I opt out?

Allowing your information to be freely shared is a big identity theft risk.  The more businesses that have your information, the bigger the risk that your information will be lost.   The better control you have over who holds your information, the lower your risk of it being lost.

For more information on opting out, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s page on Privacy Choices you can download a PDF version of this publication that will help you understand what opting out is and how you can opt out.

For more information on Identity Theft please visit  LegalShield  learn how we can help with Identity theft issues.

 

Here’s a new hit song for identity thieves!


This song is blowing up the Top Ten on the Identity Identity Theft Hit Parade!  Da Dumpster Dive!  These guys may be diving in for old Kool Aid and Bagels, but Identity thieves dive in for a different reason.

By now most of us are understanding the need to shred our old personal documents.  An in home shredder is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity.  And we know that it needs to be DOD Approved and not a ribbon shredder.  Ribbon shredders just create jigsaw puzzles for identity thieves, strips can be pieced back together to harvest information.  With individual getting more savvy about the destruction of information, your home trash is much less attractive to identity thieves than this item.

Why are dumpsters so attractive to identity thieves?  Well you always find dumpsters near businesses.  Businesses gather all sorts of personal information from their clients and customers.   Names, addresses, phone numbers, account numbers and the list goes on.  And businesses do not always follow the law when it comes to disposal on this information.

It is a fairly common event to turn on your local news to see a report about files dumped in dumpsters.   Honest people come across these files and report it to news reporters, police or others and it ends up on your evening news.  For every honest person that reports the situation, how many dishonest people are taking the information for nefarious purposes.

Personal information found in dumpsters is a gold mine.  The thief does not have to use you information personally.  There is a huge black market out there for personal information and the thieves know this.  They can make a fortune selling what they find in these dumpsters.

If a business you have dealt with improperly disposes of your personal information in a dumpster, and a thief gets his hands on it; well that information can be sold as many times as the thief wants.  Multiple people can buy and use your information.  This is why it is important to have a plan, to be able to react quickly and at any time to respond to identity theft issues.

It’s the little things that matter


When you see this in your yard, how much attention do you pay to it?

I’ll bet you don’t pay any attention at all do you?  It’s  just a little ant and beneath your notice.

But what if you saw this on your front lawn?I’ll just bet that would make you sit up and take notice wouldn’t it?

So what do ants and elephants have to do with anything?  It a good visual example of how easy it is for an identity thief to commit financial fraud.  If you think that the identity thief is looking for the ‘big score’, think again.

Identity thieves are most effective in making multiple little purchases, not major ones.  We would notice the major purchase while the smaller one gets over looked.

Think about it for a moment, when you pick up your credit card bill and give that cursory once over that most people do which of the following two purchases would jump up slap you in the face and say “Hey I’m fraudulent!”?

The $5000 charge for a home theater system or the $30 charge for gas at Exxon?  Of course you would notice the $5000 charge because that is the elephant.  It is obvious that you don’t have a new home theater system, but you probably did buy gas at some point.

This is why saving your receipts for credit card charges is so important.  If you have multiple cards, you need to note on that receipt which card you used.  When you get your bill, compare it to the receipt and immediately dispute fraudulent charges with your credit card company.  It may be only nickels and dimes, but nickels and dimes add up to dollars!