Identity theft is quickly becoming the Internets worst security
nightmare. What is an identity and how could it get stolen you may
ask? In the simplest terms, an identity is some method that verifies
that you are the person you say you are. Identity is the distinguishing
attributes that only you can provide to authenticate yourself. It
can be a set of numbers, such as a Social Security number or something
more complex like an encrypted key. This key or set of numbers associates
you with a certain set of attributes that contains information about
you. The information might be your email address, your name, PIN
number, your username, password or credit card number. If this information
is well protected, it can make your Internet experience easier by
identifying you to certain sites and services on the Internet.
The loss or theft of personal data such as credit card and Social Security numbers have soared to unprecedented levels, and the trend isn't expected to turn around anytime soon as hackers stay a step ahead of security and laptops disappear with sensitive information.
Now think about what could happen if somebody stole your identity.
Someone could open new charge accounts, order merchandise or borrow
money using your identity. Consumers targeted by identity thieves
usually do not know they have been victimized until collection agencies
pursue them to pay accounts they did not even know they had, or
they are denied credit because of unpaid debts run up by the criminals.
Nightmare isn't it. Here is a Typical Tax Time Phishing Scam.
Identity theft happens more often than you may think. According
to the National Association of the Attorneys General identity theft
is one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation with an estimated
700,000 victims each year. The average victim spent $808 to clear
up discrepancies related to identity theft in the year 2006 - imagine what it would cost now. On
average, a victim of identity theft spent 175 hours restoring their
reputation by notifying credit bureaus, canceling credit cards and
negotiating with creditors in the year 2006. In This year those
numbers have skyrocketed to $1,495 in out of pocket expenses and
an average of 609 hours to clean up their credit. Don't let this
happen to you. There are many ways to protect yourself from identity
theft. The following are a few best practice guidelines to follow.
1. Always protect your personal information.
Only share your credit card, social security number or other personal
information when making purchases from a company or financial institution
that you know and trust.
2. Never send personal information to email requests.
Beware of "Phishing" scams. Phishing is a term used to
describe what the scammers do to try to get your personal information
by sending you an official looking email asking for your personal
information. See an example here. We recently recieved another fraudulent email supposedly from the IRS. See that one here. You should never be asked for a password, credit card number or
social security number from a legitimate source via email. Beware
official-sounding notices that require you to "give up"
your personal information due to supposedly dire consequences.
3. Verify any transaction.
If a Web site address looks different from the name of the organization
that you're dealing with or if you have doubts about your transaction,
look for a phone number on the Web site and call the organization
to verify that the Web site is valid. Don't deal with any financial
organization that doesn't clearly state its name, physical address
and phone number on its Web site.
4. Catch identity theft early
Sometimes an ID thief can strike even if you have been very careful.
One of the best ways to catch identity theft is to check your credit
report. The FTC advises monitoring your Credit Report activity on
all three major credit bureaus. You can order your free 3-bureau
any time, day or night. It is advised that this is done each year
and make sure all of the information is correct. Also, follow up
with creditors if your bills do not arrive on time. A missing credit
card bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your credit
card account and changed the billing address to cover his tracks.
In this day of fast acting cyber criminals, stealing identities happens in seconds. The only way to prevent identity theft is to use a proactive solution stopping Identity Theft before it happens. LifeLock uses that approach for identity protection.
LifeLock does not wait for identity theft to happen; the service prevents it from happening in the first place. Once you have enrolled in the LifeLock service, they automatically start monitoring your personal information for threats to your identity. If an attempt is made to exploit your identity, LifeLock immediately contacts you to correct the situation before anything happens to your reputation and identity. LifeLock also scours the known malicious sites on the Internet for your personal information to see if it is being used for fraudulent activity and alerts you of any bad intentions. Find Discounts and See our review of the LifeLock Service.
Take the first step toward taking control of your credit!
Getting your Credit Report & Credit Score is the first step in knowing your credit. Monitoring your credit report allows you to stay on top of your credit on a daily basis. Credit bureau scores are often called “FICO scores” because most credit bureau scores used in the U.S. are produced from software developed by Fair Isaac and Company. FICO scores are provided to lenders by the major credit reporting agencies.
What to do if Identity Theft has already happened to you:
1. Call your local law enforcement agency and file a report. Get
a copy of the report for your records.
2. Get a copy of your credit report for your records.
3. The Identity Theft Resource
Center has made a very comprehensive Victim Guide that walks
you through the steps you need to take.
Identity Theft Victim Resources
Even if you take all of the necessary precautions you are still
at risk if your computer isn't properly protected. Hackers randomly
barrage Internet connected PCs with "pings" or "port
scans", probing to find unprotected PCs. Once found, a hacker
can compromise your PC with a dangerous Trojan horse or malicious
worm. They can also access all of your credit card numbers and passwords
that you have used or stored on your computer. They can take control
of your computer and delete system files so you have to reinstall
everything. Or they could just get curious and just look at all
of your personal stuff. They can even use a keystroke program and
see exactly what you are doing. In reality, any personal computer
connected to the Internet is a potential target without the proper
security measures in place.
But there is help. You need a security program to block potential hackers
from attacking your system and stealing your vital information.
Remember, the Internet is a dangerous
place. Hackers are constantly looking for ways to steal your passwords,
credit card info and your identity. And because your home PC is
exposed to hacker threats every time you connect to the Internet,
you are at risk. Scary isn't it?