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Spammers Gear Up for 2010

February 3, 2010

The new year is shaping up to be a banner year for spammers. They have a new twist that makes the emails look like they’re coming from social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace. Even LinkedIn isn’t as safe as you may have thought in the past.

There are still too many people who think only their ‘friends’ are following and contacting them. Little do you know that your friends just may be an organized cybercrime group looking to steal your identity or install some kind of malware onto your computer.

Spammers have been releasing an onslaught of emails from these addresses:

  • message.myspace.com
  • facebookmail.com
  • new-music.itunes.com

These are all false addresses and shouldn’t be opened and certainly you should never click on a link or respond to them in any way.

Don’t depend on FB or Myspace to keep you safe. There are hundreds of millions of users and security is a big undertaking. It’s difficult if not impossible to keep up with the latest cyberthreats let alone be ahead of them.

Use your common sense and a hefty dose of good judegment before opening emails or clicking links. Your real friends already know how to get in touch with you and probably aren’t the least bit interested in stealing your identity!

Students, Grades and Social Security Numbers

August 27, 2009

When social security numbers were first issued back in the 1920’s, they were never intended to be used for identification purposes. They were simply to be a way to track earnings and the amount of money you had paid into the new social security system not a critical piece of information for identity theft.

Flash forward 50 years….

SSN’s are being used by everybody to identity you. In recent decades past, they were used as student numbers. Every report card my children got has their number on it. Even colleges used them.

Flash forward to the present time…..

Schools, colleges and universities routinely post grades online now. The Department of Education reports that almost 50 percent of college students have had grades posted by Social Security number. Because students seldom bother to check their credit report, a theft can go on for years and not be discovered until they’re turned down for a school loan, an apartment, or a job.

Identity theft isn’t always about having money stolen from you. The real danger in identity theft is the harm it does to your financial future. In reality, they are stealing your reputation and that’s where the real harm is done.

Imagine graduating from college all ready to start off on a new life only to find out that someone has racked up thousands of dollars in charges using your name. The unfortunate reality of identity theft is that you, as the victim, are left to clean up the mess and clear your good name. It can be unbelievably frustrating and can take months or even years. You will automatically be assumed to be a deadbeat and it’s up to you to prove you’re not.

If your school is still using any part of your social security number for identification, you need to find out what you can do to get this archaic practice changed.

Related post: College Students are High Risk for Identity Theft

What Makes Identity Theft So Gut-wrenching?

August 19, 2009

When I talk to people about identity theft the usual issue that pops into their mind is money that would be stolen. And many times they’ll just say their credit is so bad that no one would want to steal their identity anyway.

One of the biggest issues with id theft is the mess it can make out of your personal finances and the way this mess can leave you labeled as a deadbeat. The emotional devastation this brings on can be way worse than any financial issues.

I ran across a blog post recently that was written by a 20-something gal named Elyssa. Her income tax return had been rejected several years in a row.  Her admitted ignorance of what to do (if anything) led the problem to go on for years. Her post tells of her mission to get it resolved.

Here’s a little excerpt:

When taken into account the substantial cost to society, not to mention the havoc it wreaked on my life, I respectfully think that maybe you should not assume that someone is making false claims just because you don’t think it sounds "right."

 

Lots of things don’t "sound right" however that doesn’t mean they aren’t true. Gotta go now, I have a date with eBay to auction my social security card to the highest bidder. Clearly, it is not worth anything to me so long as the authorities fail to do their part in ENFORCING the laws associated with Identity theft. Sure, it is easy to blame the victim as being irresponsible or somehow negligent in these situations, however I will refer you to some fascinating research that has been done on the emotional consequences of Identity theft. The cost is far more than just an issue of financial discomfort; it is something that can ultimately leave you questioning your own identity.

Don’t poke your head in the sand and pretent it can’t happen to you.

Students, Grades and Social Security Numbers

August 6, 2009

When social security numbers were first issued back in the 1920’s, they were never intended to be used for identification purposes. They were simply to be a way to track earnings and the amount of money you had paid into the brand new social security system.

Flash forward 50 years....

SSN’s are being used by everybody to identify you. In recent decades past, they were used as student numbers. Every report card my children got has their SSN on it. Even colleges used them.

Flash forward to the present time…..

Schools, colleges and universities routinely post grades online now. The Department of Education reports that almost 50 percent of college students have had grades posted by Social Security number. Because students seldom bother to check their credit report, a theft can go on for years and not be discovered until they’re turned down for a school loan, an apartment, or a job.

Identity theft isn’t always about having money stolen from you. The real danger in identity theft is the harm it does to your financial future. In reality, they are stealing your reputation and that’s where the real harm is done.

Imagine graduating from college all ready to start off on a new life only to find out that someone has wracked up thousands of dollars in charges using your name. The unfortunate reality of identity theft is that you, as the victim, are left to clean up the mess and clear your good name. It can be unbelievably frustrating and can take months or even years. You will automatically be assumed to be a deadbeat and it’s up to you to prove you’re not.

If your school is still using any part of your social security number for identification, you need to find out what you can do to get this archaic practice changed. Be pro-active and go to the administrative office and encourage them to change their system. It’s safer for everyone in the long run.

Related Article:
College Students Are High Risk for Identitiy Theft

What Does Octomom Have To Do With Identity Theft?

July 31, 2009

Octomom, Nadya Suleman, herself doesn’t have any connection with identity theft – she has enough to do already with all those little ones. However, in May 2009, the Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center in Bellflower, CA was fined $250,000 for failing to stop employees from snooping in her medical files.

Octomom’s case is so popular that the hospital employees just couldn’t resist snooping some more. So on July 21, 2009, the hospital was fined $187,500 for failing a second time to protect confidential patient information.

Now how safe do you feel about your medical records at any hospital or doctor’s office you’ve been to in your lifetime?

Besides the intrusion of strangers into your medical history, apparently almost anyone can see all your personal information that can easily lead to identity theft.

It’s pretty standard for a doctor’s office to have you fill out a form on your first visit. The form asks for your date of birth which is probably reasonable because they need to know how old you are. Another standard question asks for your social security number. I can’t imagine why my doctor needs that number since I doubt he’s going to be sending me a paycheck.

You don’t have to automatically give out your SSN when you visit a doctor. Just leave that line blank. If the office insists on getting it, ask them what they need it for. Then ask them their procedures for how they keep your files secure. Remember, it’s your information, your identity and your finantial future. In our new digital, instant credit world, we all need to adapt and start protecting ourselves.

Is Check Washing On Your Laundry List?

July 22, 2009

The first time I ever heard about check washing was some years ago from a client of mine at one of my insurance accounts. She was signing the application with her ‘special’ pen. I asked her if it was ‘special’ because it was purple. She told me it was a gel pen that had indelible ink that can’t be washed off with water or chemicals like bleach or solvents.

Check washing is a pretty simple way thieves have of stealing your money. They chemically erase the handwritten parts of your check – most commonly the Payee (who the check is written to) and the amount. Clever thieves will only change the Payee part making it payable to themselves and leave the amount the same. You’ll probably not even notice this in your banking statement. That is, until you start to get late or unpaid notices from the company you wrote the check to – like your credit card payment, utility bills or mortgage.

Mail theft is the typical way a thief would get his hands on your checks. You put your paid bills in your mailbox in the morning and go off to work leaving them unattended and exposed to any bold thief who drives down your street. It’s not hard to figure out which envelopes contain paid bills and greeting cards many times have gift checks in them.

What can you do to prevent this type of identity theft?

  • Use a gel pen preferably black ink – Uni-ball and Avery are good choices
  • Mail letters with checks in them at the Post Office – preferably at the inside mail drop
  • Get a locking mailbox for your home
  • Do your banking online on a secure computer
  • Check your bank statements right away – Banks generally give you only 30 days to report a fraudulent transaction
  • Fill in all the lines on a check and if the Payee name is short, draw a horizontal line across the middle of the space left over to prevent anything else being written there.

 

 

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