Showing posts with label identity theft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label identity theft. Show all posts

5 Warnings Your Identity Has Been Stolen

5 Warnings Your Identity Has Been Stolen
One of the scariest parts of identity theft is that it can happen for weeks, or even months, without you being aware of it. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, 15.4 million U.S. consumers were victims of identity theft in 2016. However, the sooner you are aware of the crime, the less damage the thief is likely to do to your credit. By being aware of the subtle signs of identity theft, you can immediately put a fraud alert on your account with each credit bureau to prevent the thief from opening more accounts in your name. While some signs of identity theft are relatively obvious, such as withdrawals from your checking account or charges you didn’t make on your credit card, others are more subtle.

Here are 5 signs to look out for:

You get a call from a collection agency about an account you didn’t open. It’s easy to simply assume that the creditor has the wrong number or made a paperwork mistake if you get a call about an unfamiliar credit card or loan. However, collection calls are actually a red flag that your identity has been stolen.

Your mailbox is empty. If you stop getting mail, you might shrug it off that the mailman delivered it to the wrong house, but if it continues for several days, you need to take action immediately. One identity theft tactic is to forward mail from the victim’s house to a location the thief has access to. This way, you do not see bills for the accounts they opened. Your first call should be to the post office, and then your creditors, says

A refund check arrives from the IRS, but you have not filed your taxes. It’s easy to simply be happy with the refund, but this likely means that a thief filed a return in your name. Another sign is getting a letter from the IRS that you filed two tax returns, when in reality you only filed one. You will need to file a Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit with the IRS to correct the issue, in addition to taking the standard steps to stopping identity theft from continuing.

You apply for credit and are denied. When someone takes out a credit card in your name, they are not paying the bill. This means your credit takes a hit for late payments, which can then result in credit and loan applications being rejected. If you know you have a good credit score and are turned down for a card, your next task is getting a credit report to find out if there are accounts you did not open.

Your child gets credit card offers in the mail. Child identity theft has been on the rise in recent years with approximately 1.3 million victims annually, 50 percent of which are under the age of six. If you find pre-approved card offers in your mailbox addressed to your child, your child’s identity may have been stolen. To find out if it was an error or identity theft, check to see if your child has a credit report. If there is a credit history on file, it is likely that your child has been a victim.

Time is of the essence when it comes to identity theft. By being aware of the signs and taking quick action, you may be able to reduce the impact of identity theft to your credit. 

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.

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.

7 New Year’s Resolutions For Your Credit

The New Year is just around the corner! The old traditions of great food, champagne, parties and fireworks have once again come and gone. However, there are aspects of one tradition that can last throughout the entire year and even beyond in certain circumstances. Yes, of course, we’re talking about New Year’s resolutions!

New Year’s resolutions come in all shapes and sizes. We've all made them, some serious and some silly, some strictly adhered to and some not. Perhaps this year’s list of resolutions should include a commitment toward giving your financial health some consideration. After all, most of us have made resolutions in the past about losing a few pounds or getting back into shape, so maybe it’s time to put your credit through a bit of a workout. With that in mind, we've outlined a short list of New Year’s resolutions that can help you stay on top of your credit profile.

In today’s environment of tight lending standards and ever-increasing occurrences of identity theft, consumers need to understand the importance of protecting their credit reports and scores. Your choice to undertake some or all of these resolutions can help put you on the right path toward a healthier credit life.

7 Important New Year’s Resolutions To Consider For Your Credit:

1. Review your credit report
If you haven’t done so recently, you may want to consider getting copies of your three credit reports and check every section for any errors or suspicious activity. You may want to do this every so often over the course of the year to verify that the information in your credit report is accurate and that it’s free of any unauthorized activity. 

2. Clean up your credit report
If you find any errors during a review of your credit report, follow the appropriate procedures to have them fixed or removed as soon as you can. While some errors may seem to be minor (spelling or omission errors with names or addresses are common), in certain circumstances, they could still affect your ability to obtain credit or secure favorable credit terms. Consider contacting both the reporting organization (bank or company that provided information to the credit bureau) and the appropriate credit bureau in order to have any problems corrected in accordance with their policies.

3. Check out your credit score
Your credit score is a very important element in the credit reviewing process. You may want to start keeping a closer eye on your score and gain a better understanding of what information is used to calculate your credit score. Once you have a baseline level of your credit score, you’ll be more aware of how it can be affected by your financial and credit management activities.

4. Monitor your credit report and score
Monitoring your credit report and score can help warn you of changes or unauthorized activity that may take place within your credit profile. A triple bureau credit monitoring service can save you some time by scanning your credit files for you and alerting you of any monitored changes that may occur in any of your three credit reports (Experian, Equifax, Transunion). If any unauthorized activity has occurred, you may find out quickly enough to stop it from becoming a major problem down the road.

5. Safeguard your personal information
Make an effort to be careful with any documents (statements, pay stubs, bills) or electronic devices (laptop, smart-phone) that may contain personal information like account numbers, social security numbers or passwords for financial accounts. If this type of information ends up in the wrong hands, it can be used to wreak havoc with your credit. 

6. Start reconciling your credit card statements
This should go without saying, but many people don’t even bother to check the transactions that show up on their credit card statements every month. Some simply open up the bill, check the amount (or minimum amount) due and start writing a check. This can be a big mistake, as any simple errors or even serious attempts at outright theft can go undetected while you pay for them out of your own pocket. It doesn't take long to reconcile your credit card statements and at worst, you’re simply confirming the activity that is being reported to you as correct. If you do find an error, you may just save yourself a few bucks. If you find unauthorized charges, you may save yourself a great deal more.

7. Make an effort to learn a bit more about your credit report and score
Information is key, so the more you know about your credit report and score, the better prepared you may be when it comes time to apply for a mortgage, loan or other line of credit.

Even if you vowed to make all of these resolutions and fell a bit short on one or two by the end of the year, you would probably still have learned a great deal about your credit life. Equally as important, you may have found a new process that can add a layer of knowledge and protection to your credit report and score.

Identity Theft – Protect Yourself Against This Growing Problem

As consumers, we can’t ignore the fact that identity theft has become a serious issue in the U.S. According to a major study, it is among the fastest growing crimes in the country, with more than 12 million consumers victimized by identity theft in 2012. This equates to on average approximately 1 victim every 3 seconds….and the numbers are climbing.

By now we've all read an article about identity theft or heard the phrase uttered on the news and thought

“Well, it won’t happen to me”.

This is exactly the type of attitude that identity thieves hope for while they plot to steal your personal information and run up as much debt as possible using your identity. We all hope that certain things “can’t” or “won’t” happen to us regarding any potentially bad social, medical or financial situation. The truth of the matter is that it can happen to anyone at anytime.

How Do I Know If I'm At Risk?

Do you ever:

Use a computer to access any online social, business or financial information?
Use an ATM Machine?
Use a smartphone?
Use a credit card or a debit card?
Have a bank account of any kind?
Receive or pay any bills on a monthly/quarterly/annual basis through the mail or electronically?

If you've answered “yes” to at least one of these questions, as most of us would, you may consider yourself a worthy candidate for identity theft.

You don’t need to be wealthy or famous. You don’t need to own any real estate, drive an expensive car or have a high paying job. Identity thieves simply want to grab your personal information and use it as quickly as they can, for as long as they can, to steal from you. If they acquire your social security number, they may use it to file a false tax return and receive a refund check from the IRS before you've even had a chance to file your own legitimate tax return. The list of potential fraud goes on and on.

How Can Identity Thieves Get My Personal Information?

Stealing a wallet or purse.
Online hacking of credit card or other data banks.
Stealing credit/debit information through ATM's.
Family/Co-workers opening accounts using information readily obtained.
Going through your trash or swiping from your mailbox.

There are many other ways that your information can be compromised.  The main idea that needs to be conveyed here is being cautious when it comes to carrying, assigning or even destroying anything that contains personal information.

How Do I Further Protect Myself Against Identity Theft?

While most of us take some precautions when it comes to information safekeeping, you can further protect yourself against identity theft by following these basic rules:

Never carry your social security card in your purse or wallet.
Avoid using public networks or shared computers to access any websites that contain detailed personal or financial information (bank, credit card, investment, social security, etc.).
Before filling out information or buying anything from an online site or store, verify their authenticity and make sure they use a secure setting.
Shred all documents that may contain personal information.
Share personal information sparingly and only with those that you trust.

In addition to taking these steps, the use of a credit report monitoring service may help alert you to suspicious activity in your credit report. A high quality credit monitoring service will alert you of activity through e-mail, phone or mobile device. Plus, identity theft protection offers a powerful set of tools, further supplemented with professional ID theft guidance, and support to help you correct any issues resulting from certain activity or inquiries made on your credit.

By being vigilant and proactive, you can be sure that you’re taking the proper steps to protecting your identity and minimizing your risk of identity theft.

4 Ways To Protect Your Social Security Number

Your social security number is one of the most important pieces of information that you possess. It holds the key to your state and federal earnings, tax and pension information. It is also frequently used to document employment history, medical history and numerous other vital records. Health and life insurance companies usually use these magic digits to identify you. The simple message: Guard your social security number and keep it as private as possible.

Here are a few simple things that you can do to help keep your social security number secure:

1) Safeguard your social security card. Never carry your social security card in your wallet or purse. It should be kept at home, locked in a safe location such as a fire-proof storage safe along with other important documents such as deeds, titles, wills, etc.

2) Safeguard any documents that list your social security number. Any documents that contain your social security number such as tax returns, health and life insurance statements, medical records or other legal documents should also be locked away in a safe place. When these have become dated, they should be shredded and disposed of properly.

Any of these documents contain enough information for a thief to create false identities and open new accounts using your credit and identity as the foundation.

3) Never include your social security number in an e-mail. Be wary of the information you send over the phone or internet. E-mail accounts can be hacked by outsiders. Even legitimate e-mail recipients frequently forward or copy e-mails without much thought about what information may be erroneously distributed to others. Your information can easily end up in a number of different hands and could make you vulnerable to identity theft.

4) Monitor your credit reports and statements. Consider monitoring your bank and other financial statements along with the social security statements that you receive periodically and review them for errors or suspicious activity.

When it comes to identity theft, your social security number should be considered the golden goose. It’s important to take necessary measures to keep your identity safe. Other than safeguarding your physical social security card and number, the use of a credit monitoring service like PrivacyGuard can go a long way toward helping prevent the theft of your social security number from turning into identity theft.

Check Your Credit Report - Credit Report Inquiries Explained

There seems to be a great deal of confusion when it comes to credit inquiries on credit reports. Many people erroneously believe that all inquiries that are made into their credit reports are universally reported, and have a detrimental effect on their credit scores. Luckily, this is not the case and we’re going to shed some light on this important subject. This subject is one that has kept many people from checking their own credit reports for fear of hurting their credit scores.

The Q&A on Credit Report Inquiries:

What Is A Credit Inquiry?

A credit inquiry is a record of a request to view your credit file. Any time your credit file is accessed, whether by a creditor looking to extend credit to you or by an insurance company or employer looking into your financial record for business purposes, an inquiry is recorded. However, not all of these inquiries are treated in the same way, nor are they all visible to any party that pulls a copy of your credit report.

Who Can Make An Inquiry Into My Credit Report?

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, only businesses with a “permissible purpose” may view your credit report. Other than individuals or businesses that fit into this general definition, only you and those that you have given written permission may pull your credit report. These may include employers, landlords, government agencies and other businesses that may need to check your credit report for internal purposes, licensing, and legal issues.

Are All Inquiries Reported In The Same Way?

Not all inquiries are reported in the same way.

 There are two types of inquiries that are recorded by the credit reporting bureaus:

1. Hard Inquiries –These are inquiries that are made into your credit report as a result of your application for credit for things such as auto loans, credit cards, mortgages, personal loans or other types of credit extensions. These inquiries are recorded on your credit report and remain there for two years. These can be viewed by any other party that pulls your credit report within that time frame.

2. Soft Inquiries –These are inquiries that are made into your credit report by you, or another party to whom you have given permission, as part of an information gathering process or for reasons other than extension of credit. These are inquiries done by you, a prospective employer, insurance company, landlord or government agency or any other non-creditor. These types of inquiries are visible only to you, and are not reported to those who pull your credit report as part of a credit application process.

How Do These Inquiries Affect My Credit Score?

Soft credit inquiries have no effect on your credit score. Several hard credit inquiries in a short period of time may adversely affect your credit score. This is due to the way that scoring models work along with the presumption that consumers who apply for a great deal of credit within a small time-frame may be in a less than optimal financial position. There are exceptions to this rule, mainly in the case of shopping for mortgage rates where a high number of credit inquiries that fall within a short date window. This usually happens up to 45 days, and these are recorded as a single inquiry on a credit report, so as not to penalize a consumer for “shopping around for the best rate”.

Does Credit Monitoring Affect My Credit Score?

Inquiries made by a credit monitoring service are treated in the same way as your own inquiries into your credit report. They have no effect on your credit score. This is a good reason to consider using a credit monitoring service to check your credit file for any changes or to alert you to a high number of inquiries in a short period of time. This is a very good early indicator of identity theft as any party that has stolen your information may attempt to open many credit accounts in your name.

Get The Job, Not A Stolen Identity

If you've been on the job hunt for a while, you can probably fill out job applications in your sleep. Name, date of birth, phone number, email address, social security number, and previous employment history seem to be the most easy to answer questions . However, the information you're giving out may lead to more than just a potential job, it could also lead to identity theft.

Here are a few tips for keeping your identity safe while seeking employment:

• Only give out limited personal information. While companies may ask for your date of birth and social security number on an application, according to one source, you don't have to share this personal information until after you've received a job offer.  Also, you should try to remember to always hand back any paper applications to the human resource department or hiring manager, not just any company employee.

• Do your homework. Online job posting sites are great when they are legitimate, but there are plenty of scammers who post fake job listings. If you are asked for your bank account number, a background check or a copy of your bills before meeting your potential employer in person, you should proceed with caution. Similarly, before applying for any jobs, you should your research to make sure the business has a website that's easy to locate, physical address, phone number and license. 

• Stay safe online. If you do apply for a job online, make sure your Internet connection and the site itself are secure. You can tell if a site is secure by looking for the “https” or a tiny lock icon in the URL. You can also create a separate email address and/or invest in a temporary cell phone, that way your identity stays safe from any phishing scams.

• Keep a record. Always keep a record of which jobs you have applied for and on what sites. Some scammers will contact you saying they saw your resume on a site that you have actually never posted your information to. And, even if you did post your resume on that site, as mentioned above, you should do your homework on the business to make sure they are legitimate.

Job hunting can be a grueling, time consuming process without the added frustration of having your identity stolen. If you choose to follow our tips in being extra careful while finding a new job, you should enroll in our Identity Theft Protection service so that you can keep tabs on your identity at all times! 

3 Credit Checking Benefits

Many people never bother to check their credit history regularly. They may only discover problems with their credit report when they’re denied a major loan by a lending company or if their application for a credit card is rejected by a bank.

Performing accurate and regular credit checks may help you avoid such headaches and may be beneficial to your overall financial health in the long run.

Here are some of the benefits:

1. Better credit score: As you may already know, lenders or creditors look at factors like income and credit score to determine an individual’s creditworthiness. It helps them decide whether they should extend credit to a particular person or not. The higher a person’s credit score, the better their chances of getting extended credit are. Credit scores can be dependent on several things including the age of the credit report, the types of inquiries made by institutions about the report, and the diversity of credit accounts on the report. 

Keeping pace with your credit report can have a considerable effect on your financial stability. By ensuring that you have a good credit score, you can take advantage of many credit services including home mortgages, car loans, and low-interest credit cards — financial options which may not be easily available to you if you have a bad credit history.

2. Discovering errors in your credit report: Because credit reporting agencies handle numerous reports each year, clerical errors and glitches in computer systems may happen. These inaccuracies could harm your credit rating, so it’s better to discover them early so that you can have them rectified by the agency concerned.

3. Detecting identity theft: Identity theft can happen when a criminal opens accounts in your name and accumulates balances over time, leaving you to deal with debt collectors’ demanding payment for loans you never owed. Checking your credit report regularly can help you detect these fraudulent activities arising from identity theft. If you suspect identity theft, you can ask your agency to flag your report with a fraud alert.

Credit reports are easily available from credit reporting agencies. Some of them allow consumers to see the reports directly from their official websites, while others sell copies for a reasonable cost.

8 Tips to Avoid ATM Identity Theft

ATM's are conveniently located, easy to use and provide us with an easy way to get some quick cash with just a swipe of a card and a few keystrokes.  This makes them a staple of everyday life here in the U.S. and unfortunately, a great target for thieves.  Since their early days, ATM's have been targeted by criminals in many different ways.  However, recent advances in technology have transformed ATM theft into a state of the art operation.

No longer does someone need to stand near you or look over your shoulder to secretly read your personal identification number or account information.  This can now be accomplished by the use of miniature cameras and electronic reading (a.k.a. skimming) devices.  These particular cameras are usually fitted into a false top on an ATM located directly above the keypad.  Skimmers can be positioned as a fake card slot that fits over the real slot on the ATM or as a false insert over the magnetic reader on the door to the lobby or entrance point of the ATM.

When an ATM user swipes his/her card to enter the lobby or inserts the card at the ATM, the false reader takes the bank account number and stores it on an electronic device or feeds it via wireless transmission to a storage facility on a computer or other external device.  The user’s pin is then read by the small hidden camera and is used in conjunction with the bank account number (and other bank information that may now be accessed)  to immediately withdraw funds, create new debit cards or open new credit accounts.

You can protect yourself against fraud and potential identity theft by being cautious whenever using your credit/debit card at any ATM and by following a few simple tips:

1. Try to avoid using private ATM's located at restaurants, bars or other small establishments, as these are usually privately owned and don’t have the same security features as those found in banks or other larger enterprises.

2. Avoid free standing or unsecured ATM's that are outdoors as these are very easy to rig with skimming devices and/or cameras.

3. Check the magnetic strip that is used on the access door to the ATM machine to be sure that it has not been tampered with in any way.  Thieves can insert false strips that can read the card’s information when it is slid through to gain entry.

4. Look around for hidden cameras that may be spying on ATM users in order to get access codes and other information during the login procedure.

5. Take a good look at the ATM machine itself prior to inserting your card to make sure that the slot for the card and/or the keypad have not been tampered with or altered in any way.

6. Try to always cover your hand when you use the keypad to enter your PIN.  This helps prevent any cameras from capturing your keystrokes.

7. If you have a problem where cash is not distributed from the ATM, notify your bank immediately.  It may be a legitimate problem with the machine, but you shouldn't take any chances.  Reporting the problem as soon as possible documents your action in case there is any fraud involved.

8. Monitor your bank account through your bank statements and check your credit reports regularly.

You can further protect yourself from ATM and other fraud by using a credit monitoring service like PrivacyGuard that offers numerous services including identity theft protection and identity fraud support services.

Preventing Child Identity Theft

Carelessness with personal information may hurt a child’s chances of having a healthy credit history.

Taking necessary measures to protect one’s own identity is extremely important—but it’s just as important to protect a child’s. Parents can be busy filling out documentation relating to school enrollment and for participation in clubs or other extracurricular activities throughout the school year. Personal information is dispensed that identity thieves can use to sign up for a credit card or secure a loan. A study established that 2.5% of households with children (18 years and younger) have experienced child identity theft. 

Child identity theft often goes undetected.
Adults have numerous ways to detect identity theft because there’s a paper trail to follow and examine: bills, statements and notifications that arrive at regular intervals. Unusual activity, unauthorized payments and other evidence of identity theft will usually show up, as long as we take the time to look over this documentation. Many people also guard against identity theft by monitoring their credit scores. A sudden change in a credit score can indicate unauthorized use of your credit card, bank account, or personal data. 

Because children don’t have a credit history, parents wouldn't be checking their child’s credit information to check for identity theft.  Child identity theft can happen when the thief uses a child’s social security number to secure a credit card or a loan. Armed only with a child’s name and social security number, the thief can use a false birth date to create what’s known as a “synthetic identity.”  A “synthetic identity” can be created when the thief combines a social security number with a different birth date.

Preventing child identity theft involves awareness and action.
A small measure of diligence can go a long way toward protecting against child identity theft. For starters, it’s wise to discuss identity theft with your children, stressing the strategies that can be used to thwart this illegal activity. Never give out a child’s social security number unless it’s absolutely necessary and you feel confident that it will be secure. If possible, put paperwork with identity information through a shredder rather than simply tossing papers intact into the trash. 

Urge children to keep passwords confidential, whether it’s for a computer or for access to websites and online accounts. For children, computer identity theft may not result in financial losses. However, there’s definitely potential for emotional damage though social network postings. 

Establishing the relationship between identity theft and credit scores.
Most financial advisors encourage parents to help their children start building a credit history before they go to college. Discussions about identity theft could provide a good opportunity for parents to explain the importance of good credit and how identity theft can harm your credit score. Those first steps towards adulthood –getting a job, opening a bank account, getting a credit card—can also be the beginning of a good credit history. 

Two Shocking Facts About Identity Theft

Identity theft is not the first thing on people’s minds when talking about crime. Yet in this modern age with technology being the forefront of communication, it has become one of the most well-known crimes in America.

What’s even more disturbing is the fact that identity theft seems to be becoming more complex over the past few years. Identity thieves are becoming smarter, more creative and more audacious than ever in their exploits.

To put things into perspective, here are two shocking facts about identity theft:

1. On Average, there is one incident of identity fraud every 3 seconds.

The speed at which thieves are perpetrating identity theft and the number of victims affected has grown significantly. In fact, reported cases of identity theft have increased by one million in just the past year alone. This means that in the time it takes you to read this sentence, there will be at least one new victim of fraud.

2. More than 1.5 million victims know the thief.

What’s worse is that the majority of identity theft victims know their perpetrator! According to the 2013 Javelin Strategy & Research Report, there are more than 1.5 million consumers who were victims of familiar fraud, or cases wherein the victims know the fraudster. Here is just another example of how crucial it is to be careful of the company you keep!

If you think identity-related crimes are still the stuff that Hollywood movies are made of, think again. It’s very real and it’s happening right now. While the government does everything it can to help us keep identity thieves at bay, it’s up to us to protect our identities from anyone. Proper web browsing habits, securing personal items properly and enrolling in credit monitoring  are our best bets in stopping identity criminals.

Strong Passwords: Your First Line of Defense Against Identity Theft

To steal your identity online, thieves just need to know something as simple as your password. Creating one that’s strong is crucial to keeping your identity safe. After all, a weak password can be easily cracked by a computer program or guessed by a savvy hacker.

Here are a few important details to consider when creating a strong password:

• Think outside of the box: 
Steer clear of common passwords. Thieves often try to open accounts by using passwords that are used by a lot of people. According to a source, these include ‘password’, ‘ninja’, 123456, and so on.

• Steer clear of personal information: 
Avoid using your birthday, Social Security number, or other personal information as a password. If you use personal information as your password, it might not just be your account that’s gone when you’re hacked. You can have your identity stolen with the same information.

• Additional characters: 
Intricate numbers, uppercase letters, and special characters may help make passwords harder to guess for both human hackers and programs. So instead of using something like “soulfulsiren,” try making it stronger and use “soulfulSireN34.” Thankfully, many sites nowadays require users to create these complex passwords when they register. 

• Change the default password: 
Consider changing the default password. It’s usually the same password given to everyone who signs up on a website. This can also be true for electronic gadgets like smartphones and wireless routers. So if you don’t want anyone tampering with your account or gadget when it gets lost, try to remember to change the default password.

• Switch it up: 
You may want to use a variety of passwords for all of your accounts. That way, when one account is hacked, your other accounts can remain safe. To make it easy for you to remember multiple passwords, consider using a theme. For example, a food-themed password series could have “pestoparmigianacheese23!” for one account, and “fusillisushi235 (tempura)” for another account.

Learn more about these principles that can be helpful to prevent hackers from breaking into your account at

Does Credit Bureau Matter?

If you've had any experience dealing with credit, you may know that there are three main credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. And, if you've looked at your credit report recently, you might have noticed that your 3 bureau scores are different. Does this mean that one bureau is better than another? Not necessarily. In fact, it can be helpful to look at all three credit reports and scores.

Here are three noteworthy reasons to consider when looking at all three credit reports:

• Different information. Each of your three credit reports may be mostly similar, but sometimes lenders can report information to one bureau and not the other. While the bureaus share the information they're given, it can sometimes take a while, so your reports may differ in terms of what is listed. This means that it may be a good idea to look at all three credit reports so that you can double check your listed information.

• Errors. Just like different information may show up on different reports, all three credit reports could have different errors. One source says close to 52 million Americans could have credit report errors, which can hurt your score.  In order to fix errors, it’s good to first be aware of them. Regularly checking and staying on top of all three of your credit reports can help limit these types of errors. 

• Identity Theft. Another reason to monitor your credit report is to protect yourself from identity theft. For example, if someone tries to defraud an account that is only listed on your Experian report, and hasn't yet made it to your Equifax report, the thief may have a better chance of successfully stealing your identity. To stop identity thieves in their tracks, try to routinely monitor your credit report and bank accounts for suspicious activity.

At PrivacyGuard, we offer one of the most comprehensive programs to keep track of your credit. We monitor all three bureaus for any changes to your credit file, and we help you see updated credit reports and scores on a monthly basis. Our credit-monitoring services also double as a safeguard from identity theft because we can provide your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion reports daily and alert you if certain changes occur or if a new account is opened.

Top 3 Ways To Help You Avoid Identity Theft From Skimmers

Top 3 Ways to Help You Avoid Identity Theft from Skimmers While Traveling

Being Mindful Along The Way

Identity Theft Travels
Traveling is fun but it can also be the perfect time for identity thieves to attack. It doesn't matter whether you’re traveling to another state or another country, it can happen. 

Here are some ways to help protect your identity while traveling:

1. Be careful when using ATMs. 
One technique used to steal identities at ATMs is called skimming. Here, thieves have the ability to attach a device that scans the magnetic strip of the card. This obtains the information they need to copy it. They can also use a hidden camera to record the PIN so they can pretend to be you and open your account. 

To avoid this, consider using ATMs located inside banks as they are less likely to be tampered with. Before using any ATM, you may want to inspect it first. If anything seems wrong, try calling the bank to check before using it.

2. Use cash or credit instead of debit.
There have also been cases where skimmers have been found installed in gas pumps. Using cash or credit can be safer than a debit card (where you’ll have to enter your password). A PIN number is just another element that can make the process easier for identity thieves, as they can use a “keypad overlay” to gain access to your four digit password. Using cash or credit can help eliminate this risk. 

3. Get a chip-and-PIN card.
Chip-and-pin cards don’t have a magnetic strip that can be easily copied. Instead, they have a microchip that often requires a PIN before it can be used. 

These cards are popular in Europe and Asia, but not as much in the US. So if you want to use one card for both domestic use and traveling, consider getting a combined ‘chip’ and ‘strip’ card. Ask your bank if they have one that has both a strip and a chip. These can be a safer and more convenient option.

Skimmers are on the constant lookout for victims, but being aware of their existence and their common tricks can help prevent the chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.

How To Detect Identity Theft With Your Credit Report: Part 2

Continued Post: Steps 4-7

4. Check the public records information. This section contains information from government agencies such as the federal district bankruptcy filings, state and county court records, judgments, tax liens, collections and even overdue child support in some states for the past seven years. If any information has been altered, added or deleted without your knowledge and consent, someone may have accessed your information. Consider contacting the government agency concerned to get full details on what has gone on.

5. Check the inquiries section. This contains a list of creditors who requested a copy of your credit report within the past two years. Credit inquiries are part of standard background checks that lenders do prior to the approval of a credit request. If you notice that there have been requests from companies that you’ve never heard of or you don’t seek to do business with, this could be a cause for concern.

Having mysterious inquiries suggests that there has been someone who’s been trying to apply for loans or credit cards using your name. If you see something like this, consider seeking assistance immediately.

6. Place a fraud alert on your credit report. By doing this, lenders will have to call you to verify your identity before they issue you a new loan or credit card. This gives lenders a hint that they have to completely verify your identity before they take positive action on any requests made under your name. 

7. Consider identity theft protection services. To make sure you’re always on top of your credit status and identity, you can sign up with an identity theft protection service  (such as PrivacyGuard or others). One of the powerful features of this type of service is the daily scanning of your credit reports. Whenever a new account is opened, you’ll be alerted. If the account’s creation is unauthorized, you can request for its quick shutdown before any financial damage is incurred.

All in all, not all lending companies report your credit information to all three credit bureaus. Some report only to one. It’s normal if your credit report slightly differs from one credit bureau to another. Consider devoting some time to reviewing your credit reports. This could save you money, time and trouble in the long run.

How To Detect Identity Theft With Your Credit Report: Part 1

Identity thieves can steal personal information from you in a number of ways. They can pretend to be you and use the illegally obtained information to open new credit card accounts, apply for loans, or order subscription-based services . 

Getting your identity compromised is a frightening situation that can’t always be prevented. Fortunately, there are ways to detect this and stop the domino effect from happening by catching identity theft  in the early stages. This helps keep damages to a minimum.

If you feel that sensitive information relevant to your finances has fallen into the wrong hands, you’ll want to review your credit report  immediately. This document contains data on a wide array of financial activities performed under your name and allows you to spot the actions that were done without your knowledge or permission.

To review your credit report, consider the following steps:

1. Check the identifying information. This part of your credit report contains your name, previous and current addresses, Social Security number, year of birth, home ownership, employment history and income. Consider contacting the credit bureau that sent the credit report immediately to inquire if there is any change in any of this information. Identity thieves may have changed, deleted or added details to get your money or to receive deliveries from things they ordered illegally.   

2. Check the credit information. The information on this portion of your credit report is gathered from different sources such as banks, credit card companies, loan firms, insurance companies and landlords. It contains details on all your past and current accounts such as date opened, loan amount, credit limit, balance, monthly payments and recent payment history. 

3. Review the accounts carefully. If you do not remember opening an account or applying for a loan from a certain company on this particular date, consider contacting the credit reporting agency. If a credit card account was opened without your knowledge and was immediately maxed out without being paid, chances are someone may have used your identity. 

Disputes should be made in writing and sent together with copies of supporting documents as proof that the information in your credit report is incorrect.

Be sure to check out Part 2!

Identity Theft: Where Can You Turn To?

You think it’s never going to happen to you until it does, but identity theft can cause a lot of damage -- not just on your personal finances but to the rest of your life.

While taking steps to prevent identity theft seems like the best way to protect yourself, what happens when you become the victim? Do you know where to turn to?

Here are a few institutions that can help you get your identity back:

  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
    The FTC is the government agency tasked to protect consumer rights and promote fair business practices. The agency maintains a database of all ID theft cases reported to them that can help authorities gain valuable insight in their investigations. They support victims of identity fraud by providing resources such as documents, forms, and other critical information.

    You can obtain the ID Theft Affidavit from the FTC, which is an all-in-one form you can use to report the identity theft to credit bureaus and other companies. A copy can be downloaded from their official website. You may also fill out the form online and print several copies. Call and report the ID theft incident to the FTC at 877-ID-THEFT (438-4338).
  • Your Local Police Department
    Report the identity theft to your local police department as soon as possible. Consider asking for a copy of the police report to keep for your reference with the ID Theft Affidavit. Help the investigators by gathering all the facts about the case. Sometimes, the key to a case lies in the fine details, so try to recall everything and write down every tidbit you can think of.
  • Credit Bureaus
    Consider calling any one of the 3 major credit bureaus  to report that your identity has been compromised. It may be necessary to call all three to make sure all of them are aware of the situation. They can activate a Fraud Alert that can then take effect on your credit report. This means that lenders would be required to contact you and verify your identity before opening an account. Contact numbers for the 3 bureaus are:

    Equifax: 1-800-525-6285

    Experian: 1-888-397-3742

    TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
  • Lenders’ Fraud Department
    Consider calling all of the credit card companies and various lenders where your identification was used so you can dispute the fraudulent activity in your name. Send them a formal letter of dispute, your identity theft report (ID Theft Affidavit and Police Report), and any other paperwork that supports your claim.
It's no easy task to clear your name, but taking the right steps can help you restore your good credit. Consider learning about identity theft protection services that can help safeguard and restore your identity should you become a victim.