Topics:Internet Security Identity Theft 101 Data Breach News Business Security Tax Identity Theft Medical Identity Theft Scams
It's summertime, and, whether you've just procrastinated your vacation planning or just decided to add another getaway to your summer plans, you're likely going to start your search online with a travel site. Of course, as you set off on your adventure, there are the usual risks. Cancelled flights. Pickpockets. Terror threats. Diseases. But some of the threats start before you even book your trip. One would-be traveler had started to book a Dominican Republic vacation rental on travel site FlipKey when she received an email from the supposed owner of the property. If she just wired the money to a British bank account instead of booking on FlipKey, the email said, she could get a sizeable discount. She took the bait, the actual booking never happened, and the sender of the email ran off with a cool $3,500. Unfortunately, travel site scams are all too common. According to the FTC, 24,171 travel scams were reported in 2015 alone. A study by the American Hotel & Lodging Association found that six percent of all online bookings every year are scams-that translates to approximately 15 million fraudulent bookings and $1.3 billion stolen every year. With numbers like these, odds are high that you will encounter a travel site scam. To keep from becoming one of the six percent who will have their money stolen and their vacation dreams dashed this year, watch out for these five most common travel site scams: 1. You've won a free vacation Yes, the Internet is overflowing with promises of free stuff. Free music. Free samples. But when it comes to promises of free vacations, you might want to think twice. Offers of free vacations can show up in your inbox, complete with what appear to be logos from legit travel companies, promising you tickets to anywhere in the continental U.S. Forget why they chose you, of all people, for this dream come true. It's a free $1,400 vacation! Of course, there's a catch. "[Y]ou are instructed to call a toll-free number to 'claim" your award," says travel guru Peter Greenberg. "If you do, there's a small processing fee you'll need to pay with your credit card." As you've probably guessed by now, as soon as the scammers get your "processing fee," they and your free vacation vanish. So how do you recognize this type of online travel scam when you see it? The FTC gives this helpful advice: "A legitimate company won't ask you to pay for a prize. Any company trying to sell you on a 'free' vacation will probably want something from you - taxes and fees, attendance at mandatory timeshare presentations, even pressure to buy 'extras' or 'add-ons' for the vacation, etc. Find out what your costs are before you agree to anything." 2. No returns or refunds Travel sites can often say one thing, but do something else entirely-especially when it comes to returns and refunds. Says Catey Hill at MarketWatch: "This happens when a consumer believes (rightly or because she was led to believe it by the company or otherwise) that the online travel booking site has a certain refund or return policy, when in fact it has no returns or requires an exorbitant fee to change or cancel a trip." This might be one of the most subtle types of travel site scams. Across the board, policies, terms, and conditions on websites are universally hard to find and even harder to read. As a result, most of us skip over the fine print (who has time for that?) and get on with our lives. But we might end up paying for this negligence. When the site that we sorta remembered saying something about refunds tells us that they don't give refunds, because we haven't read the terms and conditions, we are less likely to push back and more likely just to take what they're dishing out. 3. Fake reservation sites One increasingly common travel site scam involves third-party booking websites that are made to look legitimate. Greenberg estimates that these sites rake in an estimated 2.5 million fake bookings and $220 million in revenue every year: "It all comes down to websites that often pop up as paid advertising in search results and appear-some say in a deceptive way-similar to a hotel's actual booking website. Many even prominently display hotel logos while minimizing the appearance of their own logos. Essentially, these are third party websites trying to pass themselves off as actual hotels. So a growing number of consumers think they are booking a room directly at a Hilton hotel-offering great reduced rates-and it turns out they're totally out of luck." Is it possible to recognize one of these fake booking sites before they take your money? Greenberg recommends that travelers contact the people at the hotel or other lodging they're interested in and get them to verify the validity of the website and the rate they're promising. 4. Quote? What quote? File this one under "sneaky." Travel scammers promise you one price, only to jack it up at the point of purchase or just charge you extra on your card after the fact. According to the FTC, these additional fees often go by the harmless-sounding name "resort fees": "'[R]esort fees' - for services like fitness facilities or internet access - can add to the per night cost of your stay. More important, the fees are mandatory: you must pay them regardless of whether you use the services." To combat this, the FTC recommends that you call the hotel, cruise line, etc., in question and ask them to give you the total resort fees they charge. If you feel they are purposely withholding this information, you are encouraged to file a complaint with the FTC. Another way that scammers do this is by hiding vague clauses about exchange rate changes in their terms and conditions. "Sometimes this happens because somewhere, buried in the fine print, the company notes that if the exchange rate changes in a way that's not in your favor, you'll have to pay the difference," explains Hill. Scammers use these types of policies to mask arbitrary increases in fees or costs. 5. Fuzzy on the details Finally, travel site scammers will take liberty with the way they describe their lodgings to mislead their customers. Without a second thought, vacationers think they're getting a steal on an elite resort and book it as quickly as they can. Shock sets in, however, when they discover that their actual lodgings are nothing like they pictured it would be. "The more vague the promises, the less likely they'll be true," warns the FTC and then gives these hints. "Ask for specifics, and get them in writing. Check out the resort's address; look for photos of the ship." Get Away From Scams Fortunately, there are a host of legitimate travel sites out there, both third-party booking sites and the direct sites of cruise lines, hotels, and airlines, that protect customers from scammers and do their best to make things better when hotels and airlines fall through. By knowing what warning signs to look for, you can still get a great deal and a vacation that's memorable for all the right reasons. It also might be a good idea to hire a professional identity theft protection service to watch over your credit and information while you are looking at/booking with a travel site.
Do you work for a corporation, especially in the U.S.? You may be at risk for tax identity theft. ADP is a payroll provider. Hackers were able to acquire tax information of employees of U.S. Bank from ADP. Now, this doesn't mean that ADP was directly hacked into. Instead, what happened, it seems, their authentication system was flawed and ADP failed to implement a protection strategy for the personal data to keep it safe from prying eyes. The crooks registered ADP accounts by using the stolen data of the bank employees. These accounts allowed the crooks to get additional W-2 information-enough to commit tax return fraud. In other words, looks like a W-2 gateway was created to file fraudulent tax returns. If it happened to U.S. Bank and ADP, it can happen many other places as well. The hackers also used a unique company issued URL. This URL is needed to register an ADP account. It is not known at this point in time if the U.S. Bank URL required credentials to gain access to or not, but since this data breach, U.S. Bank has withdrawn plans to further post the URL online. U.S. Bank has also removed their publicly accessible W-2 form from cyberspace. Despite the data breach, there were only minimal effects to employees and customers of ADP and U.S. Bank. But the minimal adverse outcome is no reason to let your guard down. Next time, the institutions may not be so lucky. Solution: Fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit ASAP. Here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f14039.pdf
This is part two of a two-part identity theft series As mentioned in part one of this two-part series, identity theft is a serious crime that can make anyone its victim. Identity thieves will target anything from your bank accounts to your medical history. Although there are some security measures you can take to help avoid identity theft, there is no way to become 100 percent safe. Even though identity theft has been a threat for years, it just continues to become even a greater threat as it evolves alongside technology. Here's what two victims have to say about their experiences with identity theft: Brian Shell, Author of 35 books at PassionHero.com "It was a Friday when I worked from 3-7 p.m. at the corner store a half mile away. At 2 p.m., I went grocery shopping and came home to put everything away, and all was okay. I went to work at 3 p.m. and decided to stay to 7:30 p.m. because we were busy. When I came home, I found my TV missing and both of my bedrooms ransacked with a broken-out back window (their entryway), and a kicked-open side door (their exit portal). Since my safe was stolen, and since I knew there were spare credit cards inside, I immediately started calling those particular cards to cancel them. One of them was being used on a shopping spree as I spoke with the agent, and a freeze stopped their spree. It also provided the evidence I’d need to convict and evict them. Interesting side note is that if I only worked until 7 p.m., the credit card would have been cancelled before they tried to commit credit fraud, and I may not have been able to get convictions. It was a good work ethic that enabled the perpetrators to start spending before the card was cancelled. Among the items stolen were all of my family’s jewels/heirlooms… but also the Bible my Grandmother gave me for my first communion and my deceased dog’s collar, tags, photos, and 1994 ad in the paper for him to find a good home. I didn’t sleep well for days. The first thing I did after cancelling the cards and having the police document the case was to change every single one of my passwords. I then changed them all again a week later. The police case opened was for the breaking and entering burglary. I also closed my bank account and opened a new one so the banking checks they stole couldn’t be used either. I spoke to the detective who works at Macy's, told her about the use of my Macy's AMEX card at their store, and she gathered video evidence that enabled me to convict two of the three perpetrators and get one (the juvenile) of them evicted from our neighborhood. I also opened another police case for credit fraud in the city that it was committed in because that was the only hard evidence I could gather that could and did lead to a conviction for credit fraud. They didn’t leave any evidence behind for the B&E. When they ransacked my home, they opened every dresser drawer, tossed my mattresses, and went for the stuff with handles that were easy to grab and carry. The issue I faced was that two of my windows were without blinds and curtains, so it was easy to look inside. Another issue was that I didn’t keep my lights on while I was away at work for the evening (in a frugal attempt to save pennies on my electric bill), so the place looked dark and broadcast that no one was home. Now, I keep a few lights on and play the stereo while I’m away. I invested in blinds and curtains. I vary my patterns and structure more than I used to do. Also, keep your credit cards and birth certificates and social security info in a non-obvious spot. A few other things I did after the credit fraud was go to the social security office and get the government pamphlet of steps to take to protect your identity. Follow each and every one as much as possible. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. At first, I called the three credit reporting agencies every 90 days to keep a credit alert in play. However, if you want to get a seven-year extended credit alert with the credit bureau, you will need to mail each credit bureau a copy along with your written request that you need to send via certified mail." Charles Lee Mudd Jr., Principal and Attorney at Mudd Law "Someone obtained my credit card information and used it to make purchases of sporting equipment. This occurred perhaps about 15 years ago. A party called to confirm an order had been placed. I believe it was the credit card company. I indicated that I did not place the order. It also appeared that a second order had already been placed and cleared. I informed the credit card company that the orders were not valid. I obtained as much information about the merchants as I could from the credit card company. I called the merchant at issue and informed them that orders had been placed with my card that were not valid. They stopped one shipment, but a shipment had already been made and was scheduled for delivery. I obtained the shipping company’s name and information. I obtained the tracking number, called the company, and informed it of the facts. They began an investigation while I held on the phone. As it turns out, the package had just been delivered to the address and a signature had been obtained. They sent me records. In the end, there was no house or property at the address. The signature was not mine. And, although one package had been delivered, I cancelled everything else. I obtained a new card number (you do not want to cancel the whole account as you will lose the longevity of the account and a new account may appear more negative on your credit report). I did not seek professional advice, as I was the professional. This experience provided me the first-hand stress and perspective of our clients. Though, to be honest, many of my clients have much worse situations than I did. You should actively monitor your credit report. I pay for a monitoring service to receive any alerts. I actively manage my scores as well. I work to ensure my scores will be high. So, it’s an active involvement in managing your credit. Use a credit card for purchases for vendors online. Then, pay it off right away. Do not use your debit card. If a fraudulent charge is made on a credit card, the company will usually credit the amount while it investigates the matter. With a debit card, the bank will likely not put the funds back into your account pending the investigation. Try to use one card. Use distinct passwords. Do not use the same password for access to all of your accounts. I wish I had been a bit quicker to stop the one delivery. But, I acted pretty quickly regardless. I wish I would have known how long it would take the police in the city to respond to the complaint I filed. I did not hear anything for months. So, take notes and memorialize everything at the time it happens. If you file a police report, you may need to pull it back up months down the road." Identity theft advancements Since identity theft is constantly evolving, the idea of keeping your information secure can seem overwhelming at times. Instead of worrying about just a wallet or a home safe, people now have to worry about their smart devices, points of Wi-Fi access, passwords, security software, credit reports, etc. The list keeps growing as we become more vulnerable to identity theft. It's important that you regularly monitor all of your devices and accounts to ensure your security. On top of personal monitoring, you should consider getting help from a professional identity theft protection company.
This is part one of a two part identity theft series. Identity theft can take several forms and has sparked fear in millions of people. One of the most terrifying aspects of identity theft is the fact that there is no way to guarantee you won't become a victim. There are, however, steps and precautions you can take to lessen your risk of identity theft. Here are two real stories of identity theft told by the victims themselves: Veonne A.: "It was the scariest, most inconvenient thing to happen to us. . ." "My husband and I experienced identity theft at a Starbucks coffee shop. My husband was on a lunch break and left his wallet sitting on a table after going to get his coffee and left out to return to work. The wallet had both of our licenses, debit cards, and social security cards in them. The person who stole our identities went to buy liquor (it was New Year's Eve), went to go apply for credit cards, and tried to use my husband's transit card. When we reported it to Target (where he tried to open a credit card account online) they saw it was fraud, but the police did nothing about it. It was the scariest, most inconvenient thing to happen to us because we just had a baby 30 days before it happened. We found out when my husband got a Chase bank alert of alcohol being purchased through his transaction text message alerts. Then, we eventually checked our emails some weeks later on Credit Karma and saw that they tried to open credit card accounts online. We tried to fix the issue by filing a police report, but they did nothing when we got information from Target which reported that it was identity theft. We just put a hold on our SS numbers. Never carry your social security card in your wallet. You really don't need to carry it on a day-to-day basis. Put it in a safe or a place where you secure important documents. Be sure to double check that you have all your belongings before leaving public places. This simple action could have protected us and would have given us a peace of mind. Make sure to have transaction alerts sent to your phone for each bank account you have. Thanks to this, we were alerted so we could put a freeze on our account. This can save you a lot of time and money. Check your credit report often so you can check for any activity that you are not aware of." Sheri B.: "Now, I understand your identity can be stolen just from people having your data. . ." "I've been the victim of identity theft twice, once when I was in college (30 years ago) and once more recently. The first time, it was the standard 'my wallet was stolen' though in my case because my SSN was my student ID number (they don't allow that anymore in California) someone got a job using my SSN in a different area of the state. It wasn't until five years later when I applied for pregnancy-related disability leave I found out. I reported it to the IRS, and of course, the IRS immediately sent me a bill for that person's unpaid taxes. More recently a friend of a now ex-boyfriend got onto my computer and stole my SSN off my turbotax. He used it to open up several accounts and racked up about $3,000 in bills in my name. Since that occasion, I've put my credit on fraud watch and check my score with Credit Karma at least once a month. Because my ID has been part of a couple of data breaches (government background check and Home Depot), I am pretty religious about now keeping my data as secure as possible. My hard drive is encrypted. I put passwords on the PDF files of my tax returns. I would never, ever do an all-online tax return (electronic filing is okay). I did not seek professional help other than filing a police report in both cases. I fixed it by lots and lots of phone calls, affidavits, certified letters, etc., and the companies hounding me finally deleted the information off my record. I definitely wish I had thought about the social engineering aspect of it more. My concept of identity theft used to be 'paper' — i.e., someone steals your checkbook, someone steals a paycheck stub. Now, I understand your identity can be stolen just from people having your data, nothing tangible needs to be missing, and you don't even find out it happened until the bills in your name go past due." The future of identity theft Veonne and Sheri's stories, although tragic, are not uncommon. Identity theft has been a major threat for years and will only continue to increase as technology advances. The future of identity theft depends on the average person's ability to mitigate their risks. As identity theft becomes more complex, so do the precautions we need to take to stay one step ahead of the game. You can research the types of identity theft, identity theft protection companies, recent data breaches and identity theft-related news, and steps to take to avoid becoming a victim. Make sure to check out part two of this article series for additional identity theft victim stories and tips.
Tax identity theft, like many other forms of identity theft, is down right terrifying. Each tax season provides an opportunity for tax identity theft criminals to do their dirty work. Once these thieves get their hands on your social security number, the odds of you having a normal tax season are not in your favor. Here are the 10 stages of being a tax identity theft victim: At the beginning of the tax season, you'll likely feel invincible. Little do you know, you just entered into a fight between you and tax identity thieves. You get a notice from the IRS telling you that there has been more than one tax return filed under your name and social security number. 4. You do research on how to report the tax identity theft and you immediately fill out the official IRS Form 14039 which you mail back to the IRS. 5. Now that you've done your part, it's time to wait (a typical IRS tax identity theft case can take up to 120 days to solve). 6. The IRS takes action and hopefully things work out for the best (it can depend on your situation). 7. After your struggle this tax season, you recover and learn from your mistakes 8. You're in good shape for next tax season because you researched and did all you could to prevent tax identity theft. 9. You teach your family, friends, and everyone you know about the dangers of tax identity theft to help keep them safe 10. You never forget your experience and strive to do what you can to avoid becoming a victim of any other form of identity theft If you want to know more about what to look out for and how to report and prevent tax identity theft, visit the official IRS website. To prevent becoming a victim of other forms of identity theft, you might want to look into hiring a professional identity theft protection service. The best identity theft protection companies offer around-the-clock monitoring and immediate notifications if there is any potential for fraudulent activity. They will also help you come up with a recovery plan if you do become a victim of identity theft under their watch.
Guest Blog Post from Lexington Law With major data breaches making headlines across the globe, the public’s concern with identity theft has never been greater. But, is it possible you’re actually helping identity thieves get your personal information, and you don’t even know it? Absolutely. Following are five ways identity thieves are getting your information and what you can do to protect yourself and your family. You haven’t memorized your Social Security Number (SSN) Granted, it’s not easy for everyone to remember that nine-digit number, especially with so many other pieces of important and trivial data competing for space in our brains. The real problem, however, is what you’re doing instead. If you carry your SSN card around with you (or have the number written down) in your wallet, purse, or the glove compartment of your car, you’re practically begging for an identity thief to destroy your life. While losing some cash or even your ATM card can be upsetting and costly, it pales in comparison to what a clever thief can do with your social security number. Best practice: Memorize it, no matter how hard that seems. Then, keep your physical SSN card locked away where you know it’s going to be safe, perhaps in a safety deposit box or a fireproof case at home. You’re not shredding sensitive documents You can buy a simple office paper shredder at Staples or Walmart for less than $30, and it can save you time and money by making it nearly impossible for identity thieves to gather your personal information through the aptly named method of “dumpster diving.” As the name implies, thieves will gladly physically pick through your garbage as it sits in a dumpster or on the side of the road awaiting collection. If you’ve thrown out any paperwork that includes personal information, you’re handing them free access to steal your identity. Remember, the three keys that will open nearly everything you hold sacred are your full name, date of birth, and SSN. How many times have you blithely thrown out a document with one or more of those items printed on it? Best practice: Get in the habit of shredding everything — from birthday cards to junk mail — that could help a thief learn more about you. You're sharing absolutely everything about yourself online As a society, we’ve become incredibly willing and able to share our lives with friends, family, and the public at large. From major life events to what we ate for lunch, taking a quick selfie and tacking on an update is almost second nature for many. Unfortunately, this oversharing mentality has led otherwise intelligent people to take some pretty stupid risks with their personal information. Sure, most of us wouldn’t snap a picture of our credit card and post it online (yes, it’s happened,) but what about freely offering up your date of birth on your social profiles just so everyone can bombard you with “happy birthday” messages? Or, do your profiles publicly reveal your full address, what schools you’ve attended, or your mother’s maiden name? As you know, these and a thousand other snippets of personal information are commonly used to secure vital accounts and records, so they can be used just as easily to open them up without your knowledge. Best practice: When it comes to the kind of personal information thieves can use to steal your identity, share as little as you possibly can, whether you’re online or not. And, be mindful of how thoroughly you expose your normal routine and schedule, since all kinds of thieves would love to know when you are home and when you are out. You're shopping carelessly online It’s essentially impossible these days to completely avoid making purchases online. And, realistically, there’s no reason you should have to do so to stay safe. However, the Internet is rife with scams, viruses, and outright fraud schemes that can steal your financial, medical, and identifying information before you can even say, “I’ve been phished!” By law, retailers aren’t allowed to save your full credit card number and other details on their servers unless you give them permission. It seems really convenient to just check the little box so you won’t need to type in that tedious 16-digit number again every time you buy something from that site. But it won’t feel so convenient when that company ends up as the next victim of a data breach and now your credit card information — and everything else attached to it in your site profile — ends up in a thief’s hands. Best practice: Never allow a website to save your credit card information. Also, make sure any site you consider buying from is secure (with HTTPS:// in front of the URL), preferably with multiple layers. And please don’t respond to that Nigerian prince or Croatian businessman who emailed you out of the blue. (Yes, it’s happened.) You access the Internet via an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot Free Wi-Fi has come to be expected in most public spaces, like restaurants, hotels, and shopping centers. And that’s fantastic for standard Internet searches, looking up directions, or checking out your Instagram feed. But, if you’re checking your bank balance or making a purchase, it becomes a dangerous situation indeed. The technology exists to intercept unsecured Wi-Fi signals and record every single keystroke, swipe, and long-press. And, it’s not hard to obtain or to use. In other words, if you’re using unsecured Wi-Fi, there’s a better-than-average chance it’s already hacked. If you enter a login and password while you’re connected to that signal, an identity thief knows what it is. If you expose your SSN, credit card number, or any other valuable information over that Wi-Fi, they have that now too. Best practice: Never access protected information over an unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspot. And please, please, PLEASE setup your home Wi-Fi with a secure login and password. Unfortunately, we don’t have the time or space to cover every possible way in which you could be helping identity thieves do their job. But this list gives you an excellent head start on avoiding the dumb things smart people sometimes do. Rather than facing the legal, financial, and emotional disaster that is identity theft (credit repair, account replacement, lingering debt, illegal activity that appears to be yours, etc.), follow these common sense best practices.
Millions of people use a variety of social media accounts and networks on a daily basis. The increasing use of technology is also increasing the risk of cyber crime and identity theft. Being cautious and developing safe social media habits is more important than ever. Not only are adults and teens being targeted on social media, but so are children. Many children today either have access to social media accounts or their photographs are being posted on some form of social media. Photographs, especially those of children, can be easily stolen through social networks for various inappropriate functions. A photograph is just one form of identification that can fall into the wrong hands through social media. Identity theft is a serious crime and ruins hundreds of lives each year. You may want to consider hiring professional identity theft protection services. Best Company provides a ranked and reviewed list of the best identity theft companies for consumers who are looking for high quality identity theft protection.
Over the past few years, identity theft has become increasingly more complex as several different types of identity theft have surfaced. The 2017 Identity Fraud Study conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research showed that the number of identity theft victims hit an all-time high of 15.4 million in 2016. Basically, the increase in the different types of identity theft and the advancement of technology has led to a higher number of identity theft victims. Knowing which types of identity theft you should be looking out for and taking precautions can greatly decrease your risk of being affected. Here are the top two types of identity theft that experts say you should be aware of: Medical Identity Theft Medical identity theft is one of the more recent types of identity theft. Identity theft and scam expert, author of "The Truth About Avoiding Scams," and founder of Scamicide.com, Steven Weisman, said that "while there are so many variations of identity theft, by far the most dangerous is medical identity theft where your medical insurance information is stolen and then used by the identity thief or people to whom the identity thief sells this information." Weisman explained that "this type of identity theft is potentially deadly because the medical information of the identity thief can be commingled with the medical information of the identity theft victim's medical reports. This can potentially result in the identity theft victim receiving a blood transfusion of the wrong blood type or other improper treatment." The Fifth Annual Study on Medical Identity Theft estimated that 2.32 million Americans have been victimized by medical identity theft. Since the study was released, the number of medical identity theft victims has continued to rise. Concerning protection, Weisman warns "the best thing you can do to protect yourself from this type of identity theft is to closely guard your medical insurance information." He suggests that people "carefully review their Explanation of Benefits (EOB) when they receive it from their health insurer after their medical insurance has been used in order to quickly recognize that there is a problem." In order to report medical identity theft, Weisman said "the best thing to do is to report this to your insurance company and your medical care provider immediately." He also warned that people should "be particularly wary of offers of 'free' medical services or equipment if you merely provide your insurance number or Medicare number. These can often lead to fraud or identity theft." Child Identity Theft Not only can identity theft ruin your life, but it can also ruin your child's life. Information security consultant and Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist, Rob Douglas, said that "other than medical identity theft, one of the most dangerous types of identity theft is child identity theft." Douglas explained that "the danger lies in the fact that this form of identity theft often goes undetected until the child is approaching adulthood and begins to engage in credit transactions. Those transactions—ranging from opening a cellphone account to applying for student loans—may be delayed or denied because of the damage that has been done to the victim’s credit score by the criminal who stole the child’s sensitive personal information years earlier. This damage can be compounded by the number of previously undetected fraudulent accounts and the length of time that has passed, making repair and restoration of the credit file and score a cumbersome process." The 2012 Child Identity Fraud Report conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research proved that at least one child within 1 of 40 households has had personal information compromised. Although many people blame child identity theft on stereotypical identity theft criminals, relatives are often the ones to blame as well. Douglas explained "another tragic reality is that a significant percentage of child identity theft is committed by a parent or other relative of the child who has access to the child’s Social Security number and other sensitive personal information that can be used to assume the child’s identity for criminal purposes." In regards to protection from child identity theft, Douglas suggested that "parents should place a security freeze on their child’s credit file (if one exists) at each of the four major credit bureaus—Equifax, TransUnion, Experian, and Innovis. The legal right to place a security freeze on a child’s credit file is determined on a state-by-state basis with more states every year passing legislation enabling this important security feature. Additionally, parents should be on the lookout for mail (or other communications) addressed to a child that may indicate that credit accounts have been opened in the child’s name or that the child’s name is appearing on mailing lists." If you believe your child's identity has been compromised,Douglas recommends you follow these steps. Contact the police in order to create an official report Go to www.IdentityTheft.gov/steps for instructions and suggestions from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission When on the website mentioned above, Douglas suggests that you scroll down to "Special Forms of Identity Theft" and click on "Child Identity Theft" Additional Precaution If you are worried about any type of identity theft, follow the tips provided above and consider hiring a professional identity theft company. The best identity theft companies will monitor your information 24/7, provide immediate notifications if there is any suspicious or fraudulent activity, and will help you develop a recovery plan if your identity is stolen.
Credit and debit cards have been a growing form of payment in the United States for decades. Many Americans get one or both types of cards when they are teenagers. According to a study on federalreserve.gov, the amount of total credit card payments reached 33.8 billion in 2015, making credit cards one of the most common forms of payment. Although credit cards are popular, debit cards are also widely used. The same study from federalreserve.gov found that the number of debit card payments reached 69.5 billion in 2015, which led it to have the largest payment number increase out of all payment types in the study. With this increase of usage for both debit and credit cards, you may be wondering which one is safer to use. Many people, like millennials, are afraid of credit cards and their potential to accumulate debt. However, credit cards are generally safer to use on a regular basis than debit cards. Fraud Protection Unlike debit cards, credit cards offer protection against fraud, theft, and loss. According to millionmilesecrets.com, established law keeps credit card owners safe from unauthorized charges when their credit card is stolen, hacked, or lost. Because credit cards are used, and unfortunately lost, so frequently, credit card companies are prepared to deal with the crisis in a timely manner. Debit cards, on the other hand, can cost an individual more if they are stolen or lost. When someone uses a stolen debit card, the card owner’s money is stolen upfront, making it very difficult to get any money back. For this reason alone, credit cards are better at protecting your identity and your money. Although there are many ways to secure your cards and your identity, one of the best ways is to use an identity theft protection company. If you are unsure which company fits your needs, a helpful list of ranked and reviewed identity theft companies can be found at bestcompany.com. Even though credit cards are safer due to their fraud protection, it can never hurt to be prepared for the worst. Disputable Charges Some credit cards offer the ability to dispute charges. According to moneyunder30.com, making large purchases with a credit card is smart because if something were to go wrong with the item, the charges can be disputed with the credit card company to ensure that the card user doesn’t have to pay until the problem is resolved. With a debit card, there is an almost immediate money withdrawal from the person’s bank account, which gives the cardholder a difficult time getting money back if something goes wrong. No Fear of Holds Hotels, gas stations, and other institutions may put a hold on your account if you choose to pay with a debit card to ensure that you have enough money in your account to pay. These holds, according to clark.com, can be large and can be in place for days. Credit card users, however, don't need to worry about holds or their money not going through right away. Rental Transportation In a few instances, you simply cannot use a debit card to reserve things, including rental transportation. Most rental car companies will not allow you to reserve a car without a credit card on file. This ensures that the car will be paid for and that renters will not lose money before they even get the car. Overall, credit cards are the safer form of payment when it comes to American currency. Debit card and cash are fairly similar in the sense that debit card and cash owners can permanently lose their hard-earned money if the card or cash is stolen. Although many people are still wary of using them, credit cards can save time, energy, money, and worry in the long run.
Everyone is subject to identity theft crime. However, certain groups of people are targeted more often than others. Children are targeted from birth. At birth, children are given a social security number. This number, if the proper precautions aren't taken, can be easily stolen and used by identity theft criminals. College students can be targets because of the extensive personal information kept as university records; if the university is hacked, their information can be stolen. College students are also more vulnerable because they regularly access the internet and are often unaware of the security measures they should be taking. The elderly group is targeted as they are more likely to not know how to institute proper security actions. More often than not, the elderly are considered to be less tech savvy than the rest of the population. This age group lived most of their lives without the type of technology that is used today. Therefore, they are seen as easy targets for hackers. Lastly, those serving in the military are at risk of identity theft because their service identification numbers are regularly used. Other private information, like medical records and birth certificate information, is also stored by the military. If a breach occurs, their information can be easily taken and used for criminal activity. Although these select groups of people are more at-risk, no one is completely safe from identity theft. Therefore, hiring a professional identity theft company that will monitor your information 24/7, notify you immediately of fraudulent activity, and will help you develop a recovery plan is the best option to ensure that you keep your identity all to yourself.