Identity Theft – Online Impersonation
What is identity theft? Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
Millions worldwide have their identities stolen each year. The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may obtain a credit card, purchase a car or buy goods and services in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you are contacted by a debt collector.
Identity theft is a serious crime. It can easily cost hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to your good name and credit record. Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.
Avoiding Credit Card Fraud
During the last few years there has been a massive increase in global online fraud. Scammers around the world trawl the Internet for credit card and financial information to use for fraudulent purposes and reap high rewards at the expense of both the target and the online retailer.Read More
How do thieves steal an identity?
Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personally identifying information such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. For identity thieves, this information is as good as gold. Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including:
- Dumpster Diving. They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
- Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
- Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
- Changing Your Address. They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
- Old-Fashioned Stealing. They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.
- Pretexting. They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources. For more information about pretexting, click here.
What to do After your ID is Stolen
Assuming you’ve given out information about your bank or your credit card has been compromised or you just plain lost your wallet – What do you do now?
- Notify your local Law Enforcement after checking your wallet is not down the back of the sofa, or that transaction you don’t recognize is just a gas bill you forgot about.
- Call your bank, CC companies, and have them iplace holds on the old cards and issue new cards with new numbers. Depending on the organization, they may do it for free.
- Watch your accounts closely for fraudulent charges. You will have to sign affidavits stating what purchases were legit and what were fraudulent.
- Fraudulent transactions may not show up for 3-6 months afterwards. Often fraudsters will bundle credit card details and sell them off to those who then try to duplicate cards, or start trying to make purchases online.
- If you believe your SSN# is involved, you can have the 3 credit reporting agencies put a ‘stop’ on your SSN to prevent anyone acquiring new credit in your name. This will be a pain for you next time you want to buy a car, or get a CC, but it keeps someone else from doing the same on your behalf. They may do this for free but watch out for upselling of their ‘credit monitoring’ services they offer.
LifeLock fraud protection services help keep people’s identities safe
What can I do to help prevent becoming a victim of Identity Theft?
1. Educate Yourself
If you live in the US, the FTC has a website with valuable free materials that can help educate you to lessen the chances of becoming a victim. It is important to educate yourself and your family of the simple measures you can take to prevent ID theft. This can be as simple as using a shredder on all your bank statements, utility bills and credit card offers.
A no-nonsense guide, prepared by the Nolo press
Identity Theft Protection Services
Identity Theft Protection Services are now available on the web. They offer similar services, and vary mainly with the amount of money they will guarantee to spend to recover your (money, credit rating, identity) if you are unfortunate to become a victim. They generally cost around ten bucks a month – so what do you get for your money?
What they do is the stuff that we should do ourselves: monitoring our credit, setting alerts on the credit reporting companies, removing your name from the financial junk mail lists (the cause of a lot of identity theft – please shred the credit card offers, before trashing them!) and identifying the places to call should fraud occur.
Now most of this could be done by yourself, with little or no cost, but the difference is these organizations know what to look for, they know all the places to notify and generally help you avoid the hassle.
But In Addition (and here’s the clincher), they also provide a security blanket/insuarnce policy that pays out if, after all these good steps, something goes wrong. They’ll cover the stolen money, pay for new identity documents, pay for lawyers. do whatever it takes (up to their service guarantee limit) to restore your status quo. Worth $10/month? We think so!
The two biggest players, who are in direct competition are IdentityTruth and LifeLock ). Lifelock have been around a little longer but IdentityTruth is aggressively taking market share by matching and adding services and making a $2 million service guarantee. Scamdex has championed these services in the past but it’s nice to see a little competition and on a side-by-side comparison. IdentityTruth seems to provide the best value for money.
This is what we know about you when you visit this (or any other) website
How trustworthy are they (Will they pay up)?
There is a little controversy about the owner of Lifelock which ScamBusters documented extremely well but Scamdex is still happy to recommend them, based on their financial backers and reputation to date. As can be seen from the table below, all are US-based and privately funded. You do have to exercize a certain amount of trust when you signup with them, to give them power of attorney to access financial records on your behalf – if that makes you uneasy then do some more research.
Signing up for some of these services from the Scamdex website even gets you a discount and helps Scamdex keep running :’)
ID Theft Protection Companies – How they Rack Up
A comparison of a few of the organizations providing Identity Theft Protection services.