A Phishing Scam is Targeting Netflix Customers

There are currently reports of an online scam targeting Netflix customers. In short, while surfing the web, people are seeing a pop up (or received an e-mail with a link) that looks an awful lot like the Netflix log in (there is messaging saying something along the lines of ‘please log in, your account has encountered suspicious activity’).

Upon trying to log in, people are being directed to a customer service number, and the alleged representative is offering some sort of “suspicious activity resolution tool” in the form of a download. 

The download actually is a desktop sharing tool, which gives the perpetrator full access to a computer’s hard drive. Any info stored there (credit cards, passwords, picture, etc… any number of items that can expose people to identity theft) is suddenly available to thieves.

Keep an eye out for the scam.

My Personal Experience With PrivacyGuard’s Credit Monitoring Service

I wanted to blog about my own recent experience with PrivacyGuard’s credit monitoring service.  I will state that in this particular instance, it was not my intention to go out and “test” the performance of the service in any way.  I had already used PrivacyGuard to check my credit report and score and to verify that all of my credit information was correct, so I liked the service and I knew that it worked well for me.  However, I didn’t realize how efficient PrivacyGuard’s service could be until this most recent event.

It was Saturday, Dec 28 at about 4:30 pm when I was in a well known department store exchanging a couple of shirts that I received as Christmas presents and picking up a few more items courtesy of a gift card that Santa left under the tree for me. While at the checkout counter, the very friendly and helpful sales associate informed me of a sale on men’s shirts and told me that if I used the store’s credit card to charge the small balance of the purchase, I would receive an additional discount over the current sale price (which was already discounted almost 50%, mind you).  So, I whipped out my store card, blew the dust off and handed it to the associate who asked me about the last time I had used the card.  “About 2 years ago” was my response and she told me that I would probably have to renew the card in order to use it.  I agreed and it was all taken care of right there on the computer terminal at the checkout area.

Of course, I was careful about giving my information to the associate, but I was comfortable as I was able to input all of my own personal information into the system myself via the card keyboard and there were no other people around to “look over my shoulder” or listen to any of the dialogue that I had with the sales associate.  My credit was approved, the items were paid for and I realized further discounts on my merchandise, life was good.

Afterward, I got my goods and browsed through the mall for a bit, on the lookout for any other after-Christmas bargains.  I was able to pick up a few things here and there, and went back home satisfied and happy with my clothing and other purchases.  By now, it was probably about 6:30 pm and I looked forward to heading out to a small get-together with a few friends.

The next morning, Sunday, December 29, 2013, at 10:01 am, I received a text message alert and an e-mail alert from PrivacyGuard informing me of the following:

Attention….,
Member Number: XXXXXXXX
We have detected activity on your credit report.
Log in to your account at PrivacyGuard.com and view your updated score.
Understanding this notification
Your PrivacyGuard membership includes daily monitoring of your Experian,
Equifax, and TransUnion credit files.
Certain changes have been detected that may or may not be an
indication of fraud.

It’s important that you review the details of this notification immediately.
Our goal is to keep you better informed on your credit.
You can rest easier, knowing PrivacyGuard is working 24/7 to help protect your credit and identity

If you have any questions on your recent alert, please contact the Credit Information Hotline at 1-800-270-3819, Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (ET).

For questions on your membership account details, please contact us at 1-800-270-3819 or go to www.PrivacyGuard.com/secure/MyProfile.aspx

Sincerely,


PrivacyGuard Customer Service


When I saw the e-mail, I immediately thought of the transaction at the department store and I knew that they had probably made an inquiry into my credit report in order to approve the renewal of my store card.  The e-mail alert was direct enough to get my attention, yet balanced enough that it served to alert me of activity and not alarm me into any sort of panic situation.

However, since I had used my credit cards quite a bit over the preceding two weeks, I started to wonder if something else had triggered the alert.  Well, upon logging into my PrivacyGuard account and reviewing the recent activity, I verified that it was indeed the store card inquiry into my credit report that set off the alert.

I was very impressed with the PrivacyGuard service, as this notification reached me less than 24 hours after there was activity recorded on my credit report.  The service responded quickly, accurately and through multiple communication channels.  In this case, the activity was completely justified and there were no unauthorized transactions or activity that could have harmed my credit.  However, if this had been a some more nefarious, like a case of someone trying to open up a credit account under my name or social security number without my knowledge, I would have known about it less than 24 hours later and I could have taken the appropriate action to protect my good credit standing.  This is the very reason that many of us use credit monitoring as a credit protection tool. 

Please visit PrivacyGuard.com today to review their credit monitoring and identity theft protection services. I happen to work as a contractor for Affinion Group, the company that runs PrivacyGuard, but that hasn’t affected my opinion in any way. 

6 Tips To Organize Your Wallet

Organizing your wallet doesn’t just make it easier to fold and carry, it helps you know how much money you have on hand and allows quick access to everything important you might need; and, it can also aid in protecting you from identity theft. However, we carry so much information in our wallets that it can be hard to figure out what to toss and what to keep. 

Here are a few guidelines to help you get started:

1) Keep it simple. When it comes to identification, carry only what you need. Have your driver’s license in an easily accessible place, but other forms of identification, like your voter's registration card doesn’t necessarily need to be in your wallet unless you plan on voting in the near future.
2) Recipe for receipt keeping. If you hold onto a receipt, fold it up and keep all of your receipts together in one place. On a regular basis, consider logging your receipts in your checkbook register or check them against your account statement and then either file them for tax purposes or throw them out.

3) Organize your cash. Organizing your cash can make your money easier to find and lets you know how much you actually have on hand. Straighten out the bills to keep them from taking up extra space.

4) Limit yourself. We live in a world of credit and debit cards, so it’s important to have them on hand, but consider only carrying the credit cards you need. This way, an identity thief will have fewer of your cards in his possession if he gets ahold of your wallet. Similarly, it's easy to fill up your wallet with membership cards from libraries, civic organizations or museums but if you don’t need them, don’t pack them in your wallet. Instead, try placing them in a labeled envelope in a safe place at home.
5) Make a contact list. If you collect business cards, consider taking them out of your wallet as soon as you get to work or home. Then, transcribe the contact information or file the cards.

6) Protect private information.
Never keep your Social Security card or number in your wallet, doing so can be an open invitation to a thief to steal your identity.


Clean out that wallet, and start fresh.

Help! There’s An Error In My Credit Report

Inaccuracies in your credit history can hurt your credit score. Learn what to do and what to expect if you encounter a credit report error.


In theory, a credit report should contain every statistic that pertains to an individual’s finances, along with basic identity information. In the U.S., each of the three independent credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax) compiles credit reports based on information supplied by banks, credit unions, credit card companies and other businesses that sell goods or services through credit accounts. Credit bureaus also get credit information from collection agencies and public records pertaining to court judgments on financial issues (divorce, bankruptcy, liens, etc.).

Mistakes can creep into credit reports. When this happens, the credit scores derived from credit report details can be adversely affected. If your credit scores drop, this may hurt your chances of qualifying for a low-interest loan and other financial benefits. That’s why financial advisors recommend keeping track of your credit scores and checking your credit reports. 
Credit scores are easy to check using monitoring services like PrivacyGuard. A useful feature of this service is an alert setting that automatically contacts you of certain credit-related activity that has been added to your credit report.  

What causes credit report errors?
Some credit report errors are caused by reporting mistakes on the part of a bank, service provider or creditor. For example, an incorrect social security number may have been given in association with a new credit account. In other cases, the consumer is responsible. It may be an innocent mistake for an individual to open bank or credit accounts in two names. But William Smith’s credit activity may not be recorded on the same credit report that holds Bill Smith’s information, even if they are the same person.  

Some credit report errors are simply small oversights, but they can manage to hurt your credit score anyway. For example, if you make a final payment that falls short of the total payment due by just a small amount (like a $3.75 interest charge), the creditor could potentially report the account as overdue. Even a small accounting error like this has the potential to hurt your credit score, because it can show up on your credit report as an overdue payment.

Identity theft is another cause of credit report errors that deserves mention. If someone gains access to your social security number, address and other personal information, he or she can open an account or multiple accounts in your name, resulting in false information being added to your credit report. The credit problem is exacerbated if the thief runs up expenses in your name. If your credit scores change unexpectedly –without significant financial or credit activity on your part—this can be an indication of identity theft.

How can credit report errors be corrected?

It’s important to correct errors on a credit report, but unfortunately it’s not easy. The Fair Credit Reporting Act makes it a legal requirement for credit bureaus (sometimes referred to as credit agencies, credit reporting agencies or CRAs) to investigate credit report mistakes when requested to do so by a consumer. Despite this legislation, such investigations rarely happen in a timely fashion. 

So how can a consumer speed up the process of correcting a credit report mistake?
Of course, the first step is to order a copy of the credit report (or reports) that you suspect of being inaccurate. You are legally entitled to see a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three major CRAs. The next thing to do is to check for identity errors, the easiest ones to find. On a photocopy of your report, highlight a name variation, unknown address, incorrect social security number or other error when you find it. Follow this work with a thorough check of all your bank and credit accounts. Again, it’s important to highlight a mistake clearly. In some cases, a mistake will be basic enough to explain in the margin. In other cases, you’ll need to write a longer explanation on a separate document, and include documents that back up your claim. 


Experts point out that you may get faster results if you go directly to the business or institution that is the source of the error. Since banks make regular reports to credit bureaus, it’s best to approach the bank if that’s where the wrong information originated. The same goes for a collection agency, landlord, cell phone service or utility company that provided inaccurate information.

Snail mail beats email when dealing with CRAs

Emailing a CRA may seem like the speediest way to get a CRA to correct credit report errors, but it’s not the approach most personal finance experts recommend. Instead, you’re more likely to get resolution by sending a registered letter containing a copy of your redlined credit report, along with detailed explanations, support documentation and a request for action. 

The good news about working with a CRA to correct credit report inaccuracies is that there are new and powerful incentives for credit bureaus to be more responsive to consumers. 

Steps To Recover From Identity Theft

How can you recover from identity theft?

Having your identity stolen can be an overwhelming experience. It often takes a financial and emotional toll.

So, how can you recover from ID theft?

The first step is discovering the ID theft:

According to a source, financial institutions and credit monitoring service companies are becoming better at catching identity fraud. In 2012, a bank or credit card issuer alerted consumers of the identity theft.

However, you still need to be vigilant. The study highlights that 50 percent of consumers found the fraud themselves by monitoring their bank accounts, credit card statements and credit scores and by purchasing identity protection services.

How long the process may take:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that it can take approximately six months and 200 hours of work to recover from an identity theft. This estimation is based on the amount of work needed to follow the necessary steps to ensure the victim is not responsible for the debt incurred.

Read the full story here.

Protecting Your Identity After the Holidays

Just because the holidays are over does not mean identity thieves are not still hard at work. Here are some basic tips for protecting your identity after the holiday season since identity theft protection is an ongoing effort.

• Watch Your Wallet Or Purse Carefully: Many people keep personal information in their wallets, making it easier for thieves to commit identity theft using the information that they find inside.

o Never leave your purse or wallet in your car, even if it is out of sight in your trunk or under a seat.
o Keep your credit and debit cards, checkbook and cash with you at all times.
o Only carry the minimum number of credit and debit cards necessary for each shopping trip (leave the rest of your credit and debit cards in a secure place at home).
o Avoid carrying your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport in your purse or wallet.
o Don’t step away from your purse or wallet, even for a few moments to grab a last-minute item.
o Keep your eye on your credit card when you hand it to a cashier.
o Shred unwanted receipts.

• Monitor Your Mail: Each and every day, the U.S. Postal Service (and other package delivery companies) handles millions of checks, money orders, credit cards and other valuable and sensitive items, all of which are very attractive to thieves.

o Drop off any mail containing sensitive information (such as outgoing checks/bill payments, financial or insurance documents, etc.) at a secure postal mailbox instead of leaving it in your home mailbox.
o Know when credit card and bank statements should arrive; if they are ever late, call your bank or credit card company to find out when the statements were mailed and confirm that it was sent to your correct address.
o If you will be away from home for more than a few days, place a mail hold on your mail.
o Shred credit card offers, account statements, etc.
o Never send cash or coins through the mail; instead send checks or money orders.  

• Keep A Close Eye On Your Credit: Carefully monitoring your credit and existing accounts can help you catch identity theft before it gets out of control.

o Review your monthly credit card and bank statements, or monitor your accounts online on a more frequent basis.
o Review your credit report regularly and notify the credit bureaus of any mistakes.

Don’t let your guard down just because the holidays are over. By staying vigilant, you will help protect your identity from falling into the hands of thieves.

How Medical Identity Theft Can Affect You And Your Credit

It has been widely reported that identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. What is not quite as well known is that one of the subcategories of identity theft is currently enjoying a rapid growth of its own. The category we’re talking about is medical identity theft.

Medical identity theft can start in a few different ways:

• Medical records can be stolen by hackers who are able to access poorly protected databases.
• Old medical bills or files that haven’t been protected or disposed of properly can fall into the wrong hands.
• Dishonest medical office personnel can copy patient information quickly and without detection on flash drives or other data storage devices.

If your medical information is compromised, the identity thief has a few different ways to use it for his own benefit. One tactic is the simple use of your name and insurance information for the purposes of obtaining “free” medical services. In this case, an identity thief uses your personal information to get medical treatment at a hospital or medical office and leaves you and your insurance company holding the bill for the services that he or she received. Pretty bad, isn't it? Well, as bad as that may sound, it gets even worse. Since this individual used your name and medical identification to receive treatment, your personal medical files and information database may now be contaminated with his or her medical information. At some point in the future, if you were to receive treatment for one of these nonexistent ailments, the results could be harmful or even fatal in some cases. An example of this would be if your medical file were altered because another person was using your name to attain medical treatment, the information pertaining to your blood type, allergies, or previous procedural information could be affected. Medical identity theft is not something to be taken lightly.

Another popular scam pertaining to medical identity theft is the filing of false claims in order to receive reimbursement from your insurance carrier. This particular type of identity thief will usually have knowledge of medical billing practices, and may even be a medical office employee or health provider. Excess billing can lead to a run up toward maximum coverage limits on your policy and increased premiums going forward.

Finally, any personal information that was used to access your medical information, along with any new information retrieved from your medical records themselves, can be used to open new credit accounts and run up bills on your credit. This can leave you with the double dose of unpaid credit card bills or loans and a big headache on your credit report.

We have all read about the effects of identity theft and the financial problems that it can cause many people. It seems that medical identity theft can be considered even more sinister, since it can have an adverse affect on your physical health as well as your financial health.