Identity Theft and Stolen Wallets

November 13, 2007

I hope you’re reading this before your wallet or purse is stolen. If you are, follow the steps below to keep danger of identity theft to a minimum.

  • Don’t carry your social security card
  • Carry only one credit card – make a copy of both sides and keep in a safe place at home
  • Make a list of membership cards you carry – include account numbers and contact info
  • Make a copy of your insurance card – both sides – keep in a safe place at home
  • Don’t write your PIN number on your ATM or debit card – don’t write it on anything else in your wallet either

If you’ve lost your wallet or purse, you need to immediately take steps to minimize the damage.

  • File a Police Report – important. This proves the date, time and location of the theft or loss.
  • Lost Driver’s License – contact the DMV of your state and report it.
  • Contact your bank – report stolen ATM or debit card. If you had  your checkbook in your purse, get a stop payment on the range of check numbers you were carrying. There will probably be a fee for this but  you won’t be liable for any unauthorized checks that were written. Consider closing that account and opening a new one. Remember to change any payments that are on automatic withdrawals.
  • Change PIN numbers
  • Social Security Card – report stolen or lost card to the Social Security Administration fraud hotline at 1-800-772-1213
  • Put a Fraud Alert on your credit report – contact any of the credit bureaus and request a fraud alert. It will need to be renewed every 90 days. TransUnion – 800-680-7289 – Equifax – 800-525-6285 – Experian – 888-397-3742
  • Contact your credit card companies – you can find your account numbers and Customer Service numbers on your credit card statements. Report loss or theft and request a new account number.
  • Insurance Card – request a new card – report old one as lost or stolen
  • Membership Cards – Contact any places you have a membership with like a library card, gym, country club, etc. Let them know of the loss/theft and get a new card.
  • House keys – have your door locks rekeyed or install new ones
  • Car Keys – get a locksmith or car dealership to rekey your car locks.
  • Cell Phone – call your cell provider immediately. You’ll be responsible for calls until you report it lost or stolen.
  • Credit Monitoring – sign up for credit monitoring or an identity theft protection service. Compare these services here.
  • Order your credit report – if you don’t use a credit monitoring service, get your credit report for free at Wait a month after the theft to get one because it will take that long to show up on your report.


10 Riskest Cities for Identity Theft

November 13, 2007

Where you live does make a difference in how likely you could become a victim of identity theft. Surprisingly, large metropolitan centers in the western part of the US are more vulnerable than on the east coast.

Some of the factors that contribute to high risk are frequent ATM use, internet use, purchasing habits, dining out and credit card use. This information was gathered by Sperling’s Best Places, a company that helps people make decisions on where to live.

Ten Most Risky Cities

  • 1) San Francisco
  • 2) Seattle
  • 3) Denver
  • 4) San Jose
  • 5) San Diego
  • 6) Atlanta
  • 7) Salt Lake City
  • 8) Las Vegas
  • 9) Sacramento
  • 10) Phoenix

Ten Least Risky Cities

  • 41) Rochester
  • 42) Providence
  • 43) Cincinnati
  • 44) Cleveland
  • 45) Virginia Beach
  • 46) New Orleans
  • 47) Birmingham
  • 48) Louisville
  • 49) Buffalo
  • 50) Pittsburgh

Other Notable Cities

  • 13)Los Angeles
  • 14)Dallas – Fort Worth
  • 29)New York
  • 30)Philadelphia
  • 35)San Antonio


Identity Theft – How Much Are You Worth

November 13, 2007

Internet Cyber Crime Pays Well.

Not only that, but it’s a relatively safe crime to commit. Law enforcement estimates that only 1 in 7,000 hackers is convicted. And that’s a low estimate. It’s very difficult to gather all the evidence to put them behind bars. No wonder so many hackers succumb to the lure of easy money.

Identity thieves don’t just steal your personal information for only themselves to use. There’s a bunch of well funded international criminals willing to pay good money for your personal information. Hackers can make money by finding your numbers and selling them. Quite a nasty litte work at home job.

Bank account numbers along with authentication codes are the most valuable commodities. They can easily bring from $30 to a whopping $400. The more money you have available in your account, the higher the asking price. They are the second most advertised numbers for sale on the underground black market.

Credit card numbers are the most popular items for sale. Even though they bring considerably less money than bank numbers, they are the easiest to steal. Their value is anywhere from $.50 to $5.

According to Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report for the first six months of 2007, banking information and credit cards amounted to 43% of the information available for sale in the criminal community.

The next most valuable piece of info is your email password. It can bring from $1 – $150 depending on whether your account has been used for spamming previously. Email passwords allow access to an email account and are typically used for sending spam. They can also be used to recover a user’s passwords from various Web sites that will email password-reset information to the user’s email account.  Here’s another kick – email accounts with usernames in standard English are generally higher priced. Kinda makes you want to change your name to "Qwerty".

Your full identity goes for $10 – $150. That includes name, DOB, address and social security number. Surprisingly, your social security number will fetch a paltry $5 – $7. They are more valuable when attached to the rest of your personal info.

How do the bad guys get your information to sell?

Bot infected computers are the most common way. They can be in your personal computer or in a company or organization. Bots can also be used by attackers to harvest confidential information from compromised computers, which can lead to identity theft. Furthermore, they can be used to distribute spam and phishing attacks, as well as spyware and adware. Between January 1and June 30, 2007, Symantec observed an average of 52,771 active bot-infected computers per day. P2P sites make it even easier to snoop through your computer.

Security breaches are another huge way thieves get information. Finding a spreadsheet with thousands of credit card numbers worth 50 cents or more is a big payday. Even though hard drives on stolen laptops are generally encrypted, hackers can usually break the code. Remember how fast the iPhone was hacked?

Identity theft continues to be the fasted growing crime in the world.

It’s now bringing in more money than drug trafficking. From a thief’s point of view, online identity theft is a safe and profitable business. Don’t look for it to slow down any time in the near future. Protect yourself with Identity Theft Solutions.

How to Opt-Out of Pre-Approved Credit Offers

November 11, 2007

All those pre-approved credit card offers you get in the mail can be more than just junk mail. They are a favorite way identity thieves get accounts in your name.

Most of us really wouldn’t even think of dumpster diving for anything let alone papers. But it’s a common way thieves get their info to steal identities.

Sure, you can shred them. That’s really important. If you don’t have a shredder, get out your scissors.

Here’s some ways thieves can get those pre-approved offers even if you’re diligent about shredding everything:

  • Thieves will sometimes steal out of mailboxes while you’re at work or school.
  • Your mail can be sent to your old address
  • Your mail can be delivered to the wrong address

The safest way to deal with this is to opt-out of all pre-approved offers.

You’ll need to do this every 5 years. You’ll be glad you did, trust me.

If you decide you want to opt-in and get the offers again, use the same website of phone number. Card companies will be happy to put you back on their list.

Synthetic Identity Theft – a New Spin on Old Crime

November 11, 2007

We’re familiar with traditional identity theft. Someone steals your personal information and opens lines of credit in your name. There’s a new spin on that now that’s harder to detect – Synthetic Identity Theft.

Synthetic identity theft happens when a thief steals bits and pieces of info from different people and creates a whole new identity. This usually happens when your social security number is used with a different name and date of birth. This is much more difficult to detect because of all the mismatched pieces of information. It can go on for years before you become aware of it.

Using your social security number, thief can open new bank accounts, credit cards and get a job. Because the only piece of info that matches you is the SSN, these accounts and actions don’t usually show up on your credit report. That’s why it can go on for years without you finding out. All the different pieces of information confuse and pollute the system.

Where is gets serious is when your social security number gets into databases designed to flag criminals. If a background check is ever done, your number shows up and you’re accused of the crime. Just because it has a different name attached to the number won’t automatically prove your innocence. You’ll probably be accused of using an alias. You could easily be turned down for a job even if you’re able to prove it wasn’t you. An employer may just not want to take the time to listen to you use the TODDI defense – "The Other Dude Did It".

If someone created an identity using your social security number and was accused of murder, your name would pop up in that database search. Ouch…. If taxes haven’t been paid on any income for your number, you could be hounded by the IRS for back taxes and fees. Double-ouch…

Here’s a couple of things to look for to see if you’ve been victimized. Don’t blow them off. Start digging to find out what’s going on.

  • Look carefully at your yearly Social Security statement. Make sure there’s not more income reported than you actually earned.
  • You get lots of mail in someone else’s name.



Phishing with S and T Bank

November 6, 2007

The phishers are at it again. Apparently they decided their Citizen’s Bank scheme had run it’s course. Now they’re trying to impersonate S&T Bank. They sent it to me at the same email address. I guess they’re hoping they’ll eventually hit a bank that I use and that I’ll certainly believe them.

I seem to have some kind of ‘issue’ with my (non-existent) account. They "detected unauthorized use of a bank account linked to S&T bank accounts."  This is pretty funny…. the reply-to address is Hoo Boy – that inspires confidence!

The link in it will take me to "" which is really some domain named – I bolded it in the address above.

They signed it with " S&T bank Account Review Department". I guess they don’t think the word ‘bank’ in their name deserves to be capitalized.

Who wants to go there first?


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