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Identity Theft: Don't Fool Me Once and Definitely Don't Fool Me Twice

Too often we hear about what steps people should take after they have been victims of identity theft and fraud. That’s like telling a batter to wear a helmet after he’s been hit in the head by a baseball.

In a recent news report from a local Fox affiliate in Florida, Jackson Hewitt tax preparer Jessica Douglas said she constantly sees instances of fraud when people come to her to file their returns. Many of these individuals don’t even realize that they have been victimized until months later when they’re sitting at her desk and are blindsided with the news. The Internal Revenue Service sends back a rejection notice, which signifies that someone else has already used your Social Security number to file a return.

Now, Douglas says the IRS will give you a personal identification number that supposedly makes it more difficult for villainous types to steal your identity. But, once again, the catch is that you have to have already been victimized once before you can get a PIN.

Rather than relying on after-the-fact “fixes” that are the equivalent of putting band-aids on bullet wounds, we need to focus on preventative measures that one can take to avoid being an identity theft victim in the first place. After all, if you aren’t taken by fraudsters once, you can’t be taken by them twice. Hence, there’s no need for a PIN.

For starters, everyone should know their Social Security number by heart, and no one should carry their Social Security card in their wallet or purse. If it falls into the wrong hands, it’s like handing over the combination to a safe that holds all your most treasured valuables.

Maintaining detailed financial records and periodically checking your credit report are also very useful identity theft prevention tools.

John Sileo is an identity theft prevention expert, the award-winning author of the ID theft prevention book, Privacy Means Profit, and a keynote speaker on social media privacy, identity theft and fraud. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent work on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.

How to Prevent Child Identity Theft

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Fraud Expert John Sileo discusses why your child is 51X more likely to become a victim of ID Theft on Fox Business.

Why are our kids, the very people we most want to protect, so vulnerable to identity theft? Because they have unused, unblemished credit profiles. According to Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab 10.2% of the children in a recent report had someone else using their Social Security numbers. That figure is 51 times higher than the rate for adults of the same population.

Thieves steal a child’s identity early on, nurture it until they have a solid credit score, and then abuse and discard it. If it’s not discovered in time, fraudulent use of your child’s identity could mean the loss of educational and job opportunities and starting off adulthood at a serious disadvantage with someone else’s bad credit in her name.

Oddly enough, credit checks do not have any way to match your child’s date of birth with that listed with the Social Security Administration. Therefore, the criminal can put down any date of birth and gain access to your child’s credit. The most unsettling part is thatthe age of the applicant (in this case,the person posing as your child) becomes official with the credit bureaus upon the first credit application.This makes clearing a sabotaged credit record even more difficult because you have to prove to the credit bureau that your child is a child and not responsible for thousands of dollars of debt.

In most cases, you won’t discover the illegal purchases and identity theft until your child applies for a job, tries to get a driver’s license or enters college. At that point, you are left with the time-consuming dilemma of cleaning up someone else’s fraudulent mess. If only clearing up a credit report was as easy as cleaning up after your kids.

Common Sources of Child Identity Theft

  1. Undocumented Workers who need identities to keep working in the US (see NBC News Video Above).
  2. Organized Criminals who reap huge financial gains with little risk of prosecution.
  3. Friendly Fraudsters (friends and relatives) who abuse their relationship with the child to cover debts and expensive habits.

Here are some of the ways your child’s information is stolen:

  • When registering for daycare, schools and recreational sports
  • On medical, dental and hospital records
  • When joining organizations like the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, etc.
  • When their identity is stored and accessed by volunteers or employees
  • When one of the above organizations is breached by a hacker or malicious software
  • When an adult befriends your child on a Facebook and socially engineers private information out of them

For parents, cleaning up the disaster of identity theft for their children is costly and incredibly time consuming. Getting a new Social Security number is almost impossible, and rarely the best option. Taking steps right now to protect your child from this horrible crime is one of the greatest investments you will ever make in their financial and emotional future.

Consequences of Child ID Theft

Acting now on behalf of your child will protect them from consequences common to child victims:

  • Starting adulthood with a credit rating low enough to scare away the hungriest of loan sharks.
  • Being denied a loan, credit card or apartment rental because of a crime committed 10-15 years earlier .
  • Being denied access to college, financial aid or a new job based on a past criminal record, falsified earnings or tarnished reputation.
  • Having an arrest warrant for crimes your child didn’t commit.

Protecting Your Children

In the same way that you can’t protect your children from every bruise and scrape, you can’t entirely remove the risk of identity theft. You can, however, prevent or soften the fall if it does happen. Take these steps first:

  1. Watch for mail in your child’s name. This is a potential sign that credit has been established using their identity. The most common types of mail that signal identity theft are financial (pre-approved credit cards, etc.).
  2. Consider ordering a free credit report for your child. If you suspect foul play, write to the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to see if your child has a credit profile (no profile, no chance that it is being used illegally). If they do have an active credit profile, you will need to resolve this with the specific credit bureau. Please note that requesting your child’s credit report repeatedly can actually establish a credit profile in their name. For a more convenient option, use an identity monitoring service for you and your family that alerts you when credit is established in any of your names.
  3. Stop giving out your child’s personal information. Until you are confident that it is absolutely necessary to receive the services desired, withhold their personal information. More than 80% of organizations that ask for your child’s Social Security number don’t actually need it to establish services. If you must give it, ask them how they will use it, how long they will keep it and how it will be protected while they have it.
  4. Protect your child’s identity documents. Birth certificates, passports, bank account information, wills and trusts involving children should all be locked securely in a fire-safe or bank’s safety deposit box. Physical document theft is one of the most prevalent ways kid’s identities are stolen.
  5. If you find evidence of fraudulent activity, contact the police, the source of the fraud and all three credit bureaus. Filing a police report helps to establish your child’s innocence in an official way.Have the credit bureaus FREEZE your child’s credit for maximum protection. Keep detailed records of all correspondence between yourself, the police, the merchant and the credit bureaus. It will come in handy should you ever find yourself in court, as I did.
  6. Educate your children on the importance of protecting their personal information. Teach them about the value of their personal information: their name, address, phone numbers, email address, Social Security Number and any passwords and PIN numbers. Reinforce that they own their private information and that it should not be shared with friends, over the internet or with anyone whom they don’t know or trust.Education is absolutely the best financial gift you will ever give to them.

In the case of child identity theft, an ounce of prevention is worth a lifetime of financial security. Don’t let the center of your universe become just another statistic. Because you love and protect your children as much as I do, start this process immediately.

John Sileo is an award-winning author and speaker on social media privacy, data security, fraud and identity theft. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, the FDIC, and Homeland Security. Sample his Keynote Presentations or watch him on Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes or Fox Business

6 ways to Protect Elderly Relatives from Identity Theft

Senior Citizens are more vulnerable to Identity Theft because they are more trusting and less aware of the increasing variety of scams. Although most of our older relatives have no interests in the complexities of smart phones, computers, the Internet, and online banking; many that give it a try leave themselves defenseless against thieves.

The Elderly can be easily targeted online or through the mail in old fashioned schemes to steal their identity and ultimately their money. They are more likely to tell a stranger stories of their past that include simple password reminders (birth date, city, childhood pet, etc). They are less likely to suspect that an interested individual is a con-artist and not just a new friend. They can also be conned through the phone or in person by thieves impersonating a representative from a charity or a well-known company.

Although it is impossible to be fully protected from Identity Theft here are a few ways that you can keep them protected.

  1. Online Security. Encourage them to continue to bank in person rather than online and have the bank inform you of any purchase over a certain dollar amount. Also, install security software on any computer they use and keep it up to date. If they do click on a link including a virus their computer and information will be more protected.
  2. Freeze their credit. A credit freeze is the fastest and easiest way to protect yourself from Identity Theft. A credit freeze is simply an agreement you make with the three main credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) that they won’t allow new accounts (credit card, banking, brokerage, loans, rental agreements, etc.) to be attached to your name/social security number unless you contact the credit bureau, give them a password and allow them to unfreeze or thaw your account for a short period of time. Yes, freezing your credit takes a bit of time (maybe an hour of work), can be a little inconvenient when you want to set up a new account) and it can cost a few dollars (generally about $10 to unfreeze, a small price compared to the recovery costs of identity theft). And it is worth it!
  3. Credit Check and Monitoring Service. If you are not going to do a credit freeze, then frequently check their credit report with them to make sure they understand if any new accounts have been opened. You can even use an Identity Theft Monitoring Service for as little as $10 a month to help you keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
  4. Opt Out. Have them opt out of junk mail that comes from financial institutions. They can do this by going to www.OptOutPreScreen.com or by calling 1-888-567-8688. This should significantly reduce any pre-approved credit cards or junk mail that may get thrown in the trash and swooped by a dumpster diver.
  5. Buy them a shredder. By shredding anything that has their name, address, birthday, social security number, or account numbers they will be less likely to have their identity stolen through the trash. Teach them what to shred and make it convenient. If its not as close as the trash can, they won’t use it.
  6. Keep them Informed. By staying current on the newest scams and social engineering techniques you can not only protect yourself, but you can protect others. Whenever you hear of a new scam tell them about it. You can stay current and informed by using Google alerts or subscribing to our newsletter.

Naturally, these steps will get you started down the road to protecting their privacy, but there are many more suggestions than the ones above to continue preventing Identity Theft. Please visit the other blog posts at www.Sileo.com as well as our Identity Theft Resource Store www.ThinkLikeASpy.com/store.

John Sileo became America’s leading Identity Theft Speaker & Expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, the FTC and the FDIC.  To learn more about having him speak at your next meeting or conference, contact him by email or on 800.258.8076.

Cybercrime on the Rise: Reported Losses over $550 million!

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According to a new article in the Wall Street Journal, cybercrime has significantly risen 22.3% in 2009 from 2008. Identity thieves and white collar criminals have taken to the internet and caused over $550 million in reported losses. There were also over 60,000 more complaints of cybercrime in 2009. Many experts say the plummeting economy is responsible for the great rise last year.

The article goes on to discuss the new and more technologically savvy way that criminals are stealing our information.

Criminals’ tactics also are changing, with a growing number of crimes involving malicious applications installed on mobile devices and embedded in news and celebrity gossip Web sites. In this type of crime, Web criminals are using search-engine optimization to allow fake Web sites to rise to the top of searches. When users click on the links or pop-ups, malware or key loggers infect their computers, usually with the intent of hijacking personal and financial information such as bank passwords and account information. Scam artists also are switching from email to social-networking sites to perpetrate “phishing” scams designed to steal sensitive information from victims.

Top scams now include nondelivery of ordered merchandise, fraudulent emails claiming to be from the FBI seeking personal and financial information, identity theft, credit-card fraud, online auction fraud, and job and investment scams. Online auction fraud, which was a top complaint in the past, has declined and losses have fallen as awareness and auction-site security protections have improved, officials said.

In order to minimize your risk, share as little personal and identifying information on the internet as possible. The less that is out there, the less there is to steal. Verify web addresses and don’t click on unknown links or advertisements that come through on email and other sites. If you are the least bit suspicious don’t enter financial information onto the site!

John Sileo became one of America’s leading Social Networking Speakers & sought after Identity Theft Experts after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To learn more about having him speak at your next meeting or conference, contact him by email or on 800.258.8076.

New Item: Identity Theft Prevention and Recovery Workbook!

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TLAS-Workbook

Identity Theft Prevention and Recovery Workbook

$10.95* (Including Shipping) – Click Here to Order!

Order your copy Today to get our special introductory pricing!

The #1 recommendation to prevent Identity Theft is Education. Know what to look for and the steps to take to fight Identity Theft. If you have been a victim, learn which steps to take and in what order to recover your Identity quickly, accurately and safely!

Identity Theft is on the rise and according to Javelin Strategy & Research there were a staggering 11.1 MILLION Identity Fraud victims in 2009 alone. The cost of this handbook is well worth the price of protecting your most valuable asset, your Identity!

This 20 page Workbook includes:

Part I – Prevention

This 10 phase process of Preventing Identity Theft Includes:

  • Protecting your credit.
  • Knowing what is in your wallet.
  • Securing databases and physical documents.
  • Being safe when mobile computing.
  • Protecting Online presence.
  • Travel Safely.
  • Social Engineering awareness.

Part II – Recovering from Identity Theft Basics

This 17 step process to recovery your Identity includes:

  • Top 15 ways to detect Identity Theft.
  • Contacting banks, creditors and credit reporting agencies
  • How to keep an accurate Dossier.
  • Credit Freezes, Fraud alerts and credit monitoring services.
  • Easily listed contact information to help you easily fight to gain your identity back.

Know the facts! According to Javelin Strategy and Research:

  • Electronic Monitoring reduces mean detection days and mean consumer costs.
  • There has been a 37% rise in Identity Theft since 2007.
  • Small Business Owners suffer from ID Fraud at one-and-a-half times the rate of all other adults.
  • Identity Theft by adding a new name as a registered account holder nearly doubled in 2009.
  • Victims who were notified of identity theft by the police averaged $1917.00 in consumer costs.

Just as you would buy an umbrella before a storm, protect yourself before you become one of the over 11 million victims. This new handbook will give you step by step instructions on how to protect yourself and work towards preventing Identity Theft.

This workbook is not just for individualsPrivacy Means Profit encourage safe identity practices in your company and protect your business from a larger data breach. When your employees know how to protect themselves, they learn how to protect your company and your customers from data loss!

* Special discounting offered for purchases of 100 or more. Contact 303.777.3222 or info@192.241.219.145 for help!

2009 Identity Theft Statistics

Javelin Stratecy and Research

Statistics can be dry but these figures could prompt you to zealously guard your most valuable asset, your identity. According to Javelin Strategy and Research, Identity Fraud continues to rise, but mean customer costs and resolution time have decreased. In their latest 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report they found that Identity fraud has risen to 11.1 MILLION US victims, which is up 12% from 9.9 MILLION in 2008. That is a significant climb.

  • 4.81 % of the US population is a victim of Identity Fraud.
  • The total fraud amount in 2009 reached 54 BILLION dollars, which is up from 48 BILLION dollars in 2008.
  • Consumers who monitor their accounts electronically have shorter detection times and their consumer costs are over 50% less.
  • Social Security Number thefts remain the top breached data and one of the most difficult frauds to detect.
  • The risk of Identity Theft through social networking has nearly doubled in the last year.
  • Small Business owners suffer from Identity Fraud at one-and-a-half times the rate of all other adults.
  • What Can we learn from these new statistics?

    To prevent identity theft, it’s imperative that you think critically about what you share freely over the internet and through social networking sites. What you post is permanent, public, and exploitable. Also, remember that early detection of Identity fraud is key to a swift recovery. Electronically monitor your accounts and be aware of what is on your credit report.

    Identity Fraud is at its highest peak in the past 6 years. Consumer costs have lowered significantly in the past year because more and more financial institutions are absorbing the cost to limit the impact on their customers; however, those costs may be later passed on to the customers through higher fees. Some attribute this rise to the struggling economy combined with sophisticated criminals who are constantly designing new weapons of attack. Whatever the reason may be, there is no time like the present to protect and defend yourself from Identity Theft and Corporate Data Breach.

    John Sileo became one of America’s leading Social Networking Speakers and sought-after Identity Theft Experts after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To learn more about having him speak at your next meeting or conference, contact him by email or on 800.258.8076.