Protect You, Your Family And Friends Against Devastating Identity Theft
Identity theft may not be a term you’re familiar with. If not then today is as good a day as any to educate yourself on this topic – it’s an actual threat to your personal life and your finances. I know there’s a lot of hype in the news about new dangers to your personal life every week but identity theft is one of the sneakier ones. It rarely makes the news yet affects thousands of people each day all over the world.
Identity Theft cost victims $60 billion dollars in 2006
Identity theft is, put simply, when somebody else uses personal information to assume your identity. Why would they do this? Simple. The identity thieves want your money and are willing to do almost anything to get it.
- So what types of identity theft are there?
- Credit card fraud
- ATM fraud
- Loan fraud
- Passport fraud
- Email hoaxes and phishing
This is a not a complete list and more information will be added to it over time.
One of the most common types of fraud is credit card or cash card fraud. Amazingly enough many people will just drop the receipts for these cards in a public place; sometimes just dropping them on the ground near them. Identity thieves will be waiting and watching for this to happen.
All they need is the receipt with your name and card number on it and they’re in business. They’ll find an online or offline store still willing to take credit card details over the phone and they’ll order in your name but ask that the item be shipped as a gift to another address. Does that sound too simple to be possible? It’s not.
Here’s an example. Many years ago I managed a computer and office supply store. One day we get a call from a technician in a local town who’s spilled coffee all over a clients fax machine (like I said it was years ago!) and needed to replace it ASAP. He asked for a specific model which we just happened to have in stock and gave me his credit card details. I ran the sale through and it was fine. He asked for a taxi to deliver the item to the clients house. A nice simple sale for me.
24 hours later I receive a phone call from the card owner asking why she had just been charged several hundred dollars for a fax machine. Alarm bells went off. We contacted the bank and police and of course the taxi firm. When the taxi driver arrived at the “clients” house the thief was waiting at the side of the road to collect the fax machine. Case closed.
These guys will go as far as scavenging in dumpsters and bins for credit card receipts thrown out by hotels. They’ll modify ATM slots to snag your card so it won’t come back out – after you’ve entered your pin of course. They’ll setup fake ATMs in holiday resorts and stores. They’ll even go as far as installing hidden cameras in stores and ATMs to catch you entering your card details.
So far we’ve only discussed what can happen offline. Online financial fraud and identity theft is just as much of a problem. The most common problem is phishing. This is where you receive an email asking you to enter your bank accounts number and pin code to verify that your account details are correct and up-to-date. Yes people do actually reply to those emails. Then you have trojan viruses and keyboard loggers designed to transmit personal information to a thieves computer thousands of miles away. Every single bit of information you enter into your computer could be logged and sent to a thieft. Scary eh? You bet it is!
How can you protect yourself from the scourge of identity theft?
- Shred and any all financial documents you’re going to dispose of – new shredders do a cross cut so that financial details are confetti
- Never, ever, ever dispose of any financial information in a public place.
- Never click on links in emails from sources you don’t recognize.
- Never download files from websites that you’re not familiar with.
- Always use firewall and anti-virus software on your PC
- Run a weekly spyware scan on your computer
There’s a lot more to learn about identity theft and how you can protect yourself against it but if you use a lot of common sense you’ll save yourself from the biggest problems.
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