Tag Archive for identity theft

Things You Should Never Share on Facebook

Facebook has millions of Americans sharing their photos, favorite songs and details about their class reunions, but there are a handful of personal details that you should never share or post if you don’t want criminals — cyber or otherwise — to rob you blind.

Furthermore, many an ill-advised Facebook post can get your insurance cancelled or cause you to pay dramatically more for it: home, auto, fire, flood, life or other forms of insurance included. Almost everybody knows that drunken party photos can cost you a job; and now experts say debt collectors are switching from phone books to trolling social networking sites to find deadbeats.

Facebook No NosYou can certainly enjoy networking and sharing photos, but you should know that sharing some information puts you at risk. What should you never say on Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking site? Read on…

Your birth date and place. Sure, you can say what day you were born, but if you provide the year and the place you were born too, then you’ve just given identity thieves a key to stealing your financial life. A study by Carnegie Mellon showed that a date and place of birth could be used to predict most — sometimes all — the numbers in your Social Security number.

Home BurglaryVacation plans. There’s no better way to say “Rob me, please” than posting your vacation countdown or your moment of departure or arrival at the airport. Post the photos on Facebook when you return, if you like, but don’t invite criminals to your home by telling them “I’m not home!”

Home address. Great follow-up to the last item, eh? So many people do this though. A recent study by the Ponemon Institute found that social media users were at greater risk of physical and/or identity theft because of the information they shared. In fact, some 40% listed their home address; 65% didn’t even attempt to block out strangers with privacy settings; and 60% said they weren’t confident that their “friends” were really the people they know, or even that they fully trusted them either way.

Katie Furlong 2009 FacebookConfessionals. You may hate your job; lie on your taxes; or be a recreational drug user, but Facebook is not the place to let it all out. Employers commonly peruse social networking sites to determine who to hire and who to fire.

Need proof? Just last month alone there were two such cases. In the first case a prison guard at the Lebanon Correctional Institution in Ohio was fired after posting a threatening comment about the state governor; and in Winfield, West Virginia the mayor fired the local police chief after his son posted a disparaging comment about a teenager who had been struck by a train. Last year a NYC teacher was fired after posting a comment that she thought some of her school kids should drown. (A Manhattan judge recently ruled she should be given her job back).

A 2009 Proofpoint study showed that 8% of companies with over 1,000 employes had fired someone for “misuse” of social media.

Password clues. If you’ve got online accounts, you’ve probably answered a dozen different security questions, telling your bank or brokerage firm your Mom’s maiden name; the church you were married in; or the name of your favorite song.

Got that same stuff on the information page of your Facebook profile? Are you playing games where you and your friends “quiz” each other on the personal details of your lives? You’re giving crooks an easy way to guess your passwords.

Maybe it’s time to review your social media profiles?

Free Credit Report Scams

Seen those catchy FreeCreditReport.com ads? Pretty funny, eh?

The funny part is that although it is there to allow you to see your credit report from the top three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — the site is actually owned by Experian. So once you go there you will be exhorted repeatedly to sign up for one of their pay services.

On Friday, March the unlucky number day, I was surfing the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) web site looking for scam alerts, and I found out the following

AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source to get your free annual credit report under federal law.



Pretty interesting. It’s AnnualCreditReport.com, and not FreeCreditReport.com. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to a free credit report from each of the three nationwide reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – every twelve months.

The Federal Trade Commission has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report, but instead paid hidden fees or agreed to unwanted services. Don’t be fooled by TV ads, email offers, or online search results. Go to the authorized source when you request your free report.

So if you’re looking for a real free credit report start by:

AnnualCreditReport.com even has their own commerical spot which pokes fun at the better known FreeCreditReport.com ads.

Best Way to Check Your Credit Report
The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles you to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies every 12 months. Most people order all three at once, but a better approach is to spread them out or stagger them. That is, don’t get them all at once; instead, order one from one agency in January, then from a different one in May or June, and then from a different one in September or October. Then when the new year begins you can repeat the process. This allows you to montior your credit report all year round.

No matter how you request your report, you have the option to request all three reports at once or to order one report at a time. By requesting the reports separately, you can monitor your credit more frequently throughout the year.

Why should you request a credit report?
Because the information in your credit report is used to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, and renting a home, you should be sure the information is accurate and up-to-date. In addition, monitoring your credit is one of the best ways to spot identity theft. Check your credit report at least once a year to correct errors and detect unauthorized activity.

What should I look for when I review my credit report?
If you see accounts you don’t recognize or information that is inaccurate, contact the credit reporting agency and the information provider. For more information, read the FTC’s tips on how to dispute credit errors.

Lastly, if you suspect identity theft, you may need to place a fraud alert on your credit report, close compromised accounts, file a complaint with the FTC, or file a police report. Start by visiting the FTC’s identity theft website.

Check back here at Skylarking for more scam info. Next up: Free Government Grant and Economic Stimulus Scams on TV and Online. You can also watch the FTC news conference on these scams which was recorder earlier this month.

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ID Theft: It’s in the family

A lot of time has been spent in this blog discussing spam and false or misleading identities associated with spam, but I have yet to tackle the subject of identity theft until today. It came to a few days ago while reading the morning news.

Did you know that 47% of all identity theft cases are traced to family members, relatives, friends, and neighbors? Similarly, 36% of all Identity theft victims know the person who misused their information?

It’s my opinion that most people think that most identity theft occurs online then anywhere else, but a study in 2006 reveled that 90% of all identity theft takes place offline. The primary sources of theft are through lost or stolen wallets, checkbooks, and credit cards. Garbage cans and refuse are decreasing as sources of theft as nearly 70% of all consumers shred their documents before throwing them out, so the trash is now responsible for less than 1% of identity theft sources.

ID Theft Trends by Age Group

  • The 65+ age group has the smallest number of victims (2.3%)
  • The 35-44 demographic age group has the highest average fraud amount ($9,435). No connection was found between the age group and Internet usage. Most fraud cases arose from offline areas such as lost cards, checkbooks, wallets, and carelessness in leaving personal information in an accessible area.

Four Misperceptions Surrounding Identity Fraud

Misperception #1: “Consumers are helpless to protect themselves”

  • In 63% of fraud cases, the point of compromise was either theft by close associates of the consumer (friends, family, neighbors, etc.), lost or stolen wallets, cards and checkbooks, breached home computers or stolen mail or trash.
  • Consumers detect almost half (47%) of identity fraud cases. Self-detection is faster (averages 67 days vs. 101 days), results in smaller average fraud amounts ($4,431 vs. $8,466) and smaller consumer costs ($347 vs. $538).
  • A key way to detect fraudulent accounts is through credit monitoring / reports. Eleven percent of fraud cases were caught via this means.

Misperception #2: “Consumers bear the brunt of the financial losses from identity fraud”

  • Average out-of-pocket cost for identity fraud victims is $422.

Misperception #3: “Internet use increases the risks of identity fraud”

  • Less than 10% of identity theft cases occured online.
  • Internet use can lead to lower damages from identity fraud.
  • Electronic account monitoring is the fastest way to detect fraud and leads to lower losses – (22 days and $3,806).

Misperception #4: ” Seniors are most frequent targets of fraud operators”

  • Generation X (ages 25-34) has the highest rate of identity fraud at 5.4 percent. The average fraud amount for this demographic is $6,270 as compared to the average fraud amount for the 65+ segment which is $2,665.

Identity Safety Tips That Can Protect Consumers

from the Better Business Bureau

PREVENT access to your personal information

  • Do not release Social Security or account numbers in response to e-mail, phone or in-person requests. When responding to e-mail, ignore any Internet links provided and type the full address instead.
  • Keep all sensitive documents, checkbooks and credit cards securely locked away at home and at work.
  • Carry only those credit cards that you need in your wallet.
  • Before discarding, shred all private documents.
  • Retrieve paper mail promptly and place outgoing checks or other sensitive documents in a U.S. Postal Service mailbox.
  • Sign up for automatic payroll deposits.
  • Replace paper bills, statements and checks with online (paperless) versions.
  • Keep passwords hidden (even in your own home) and change them frequently.
  • Use and regularly update firewall and anti-virus software.
  • Do not respond to suspicious e-mails. Delete them, and if there is any doubt contact the company to determine if the e-mail is real.
  • Don’t discard a computer without completely destroying the data on the hard drive.

DETECT unauthorized activity

  • Review bank, credit card and biller statements weekly – available through online account access.
  • Contact your financial provider if you fail to receive statements in a timely manner.
  • Review your credit information regularly (free annual reports are available at www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228).
  • Use e-mail-based account “alerts” to monitor transfers, payments, low balances, withdrawals, or detect any out-of-pattern activity.
  • Visit your bank’s, credit card issuer’s or biller’s web site(s) frequently to monitor regular account activity.

RESOLVE fraud promptly, minimizing losses and protecting your credit record

  • Ask your financial provider about zero-liability guarantees against fraud and dedicated resources to help you resolve and recover from any potential losses.
  • Victims of theft: notify your financial providers, begin monitoring your accounts more frequently, and place an “alert” at all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion).
  • Alert federal and local law enforcement if you suspect or detect identity fraud.

More Online Resources

Statistics by Javelin Strategy and Research:


About Javelin Strategy and Research
Javelin provides research-based strategic direction for financial services, payments, e-commerce, and identity fraud. Javelin rigorously researches technology issues, industry trends, attitudes and activities of consumers, small businesses, institutions, processors, merchants, billers, and other organizations in order to deliver relevant, high-impact strategic guidance. Javelin can be found on the Web at www.javelinstrategy.com. For more information on this project or other Javelin studies, visit www.idsafety.net or www.javelinstrategy.com/reports/

Post Comments or Questions with the link below. Keep up-to-date with Skylarking: By Email or RSS Newsfeed or on Twitter. You can also send questions with my email form.