College Tip 5- What’s in a credit report- Public Records

This is the fourth post in a series about how college kids can help protect themselves from ID Theft. Feel free to visit Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

The public records section of our credit report shows information such as bankruptcy filings, court records, tax liens and other monetary judgments. Most college kids shouldn't have much (if any) information on this section of the report, but it's important to make sure that there aren’t any inaccuracies here.

Posted by Mike

College Tip 4- What’s in a credit report- Credit Inquiries

This is the fourth post in a series about how college kids can help protect themselves from ID Theft. Feel free to visit Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Our credit inquiries section of our credit reports gives a chronological account of which companies have performed inquiries in the past 2 years. This particular page is important to college kids for 2 reasons:

1- It's important to understand that every time you sign up to possibly gain a credit card, the inquiry can have a negative impact on your credit score. At school, many credit card companies will offer promotional giveaways of all sorts, and trying to take advantage of as many as possible can be detrimental to your overall credit health.
2- New account fraud is most often caught here.

Posted by Mike

The Importance of an Accurate Credit Report

CreditCards.com has a worthwhile read talking about the importance of making sure information on a credit report is accurate. This is exactly what we mentioned in our piece on the Personal Profile the PrivacyGuard provides.

Posted by Christine

College Tip 3- What’s in a credit report- Account History

This is the third post in a series about how college kids can help protect themselves from ID Theft. Feel free to visit Part 1 and Part 2.

The account history that we provide as part of our credit reports take each of the account found in the credit summary, and breaks them down in-depth, showing the type of account, the remaining balance and additional history of an account. If you spotted a discrepancy on the previous page, this page will give you an opportunity to delve into where that may lie.

Posted by Mike

College Tip 2- What’s in a credit report- Credit Summary

This is the second post in a series about how college kids can help protect themselves from ID Theft. Part 1 can be found here.

The Credit Summary we provide gives an overview of what types of account are open under a person’s name. There are 5 pieces of information on this page:

• Real estate accounts (this is any payment a person is making in the form or a mortgage).
• Revolving accounts (this is a summary of how many credit cards a person has in their name).
• Installment Accounts (this is a summary of recurring payments a person has in their name, such as a car payment).
• Other accounts.
• A derogatory summary (this highlights anything that might be driving your credit score down).

Each of the first 4 categories has Count, Balance, Current and Closed as subcategories. This shows how many of each type of accounts a person has, what their outstanding balance might be, how many are still open, and how many have been closed.

The Derogatory Summary shows recent inquiries on a person's credit, any places that a person has been in collections, and current or prior delinquencies.

This page is a great snapshot of a person's overall lines of credit (both open and closed), and you can quickly look to confirm that information is accurate here.

Posted by Mike

College Tip 1- What's in a credit report- Personal Profile

In our last post discussing college data breaches and ID Theft, we said something like:

College kids might not know what to look for in their credit report

The first section of a credit report (and we'll be using the credit reports that PrivacyGuard puts together as a basis) is personal info.

The first section is your "Personal Profile." This contains a summary of the information that the credit bureaus have on you about your current address, date of birth, and employers.

For the Credit Bureaus to be accurate in determining your credit score, it is important that this information is correct.

Posted by Mike

And Summer Vacation Hasn't Even Ended Yet

In last week's Data Breach Roundup, we saw a couple of universities being breached. It isn't the first time, that there have been multiple schools breached, and if we had to guess, it won’t be the last.

One of the bigger concerns when it comes to breaches of students (and really, anyone who is young), is that thieves become able to cause long term, significant trouble for the demographic.

Usually, college is when a kid gets his/her first (and maybe second or third) credit card. However, we've found that most kids don't really understand the process of how they are approved, just that they think they have a few hundred extra dollars available.

Where it becomes tricky is when a thief takes advantage of this, and opens a concurrent line of credit. It's entirely possible the thief will actually take steps to build up the youngster's credit history, paying on time and generally doing everything a college kid should in order to build strong credit.

This can go on for years.

After a while though, and once a credit history is strong enough, thieves can make major purchases (like cars or even homes), flip their purchase for a significant dollar amount, and then simply walk away.

The "college kid" (who at this point is much older), would never even have an idea that the theft has taken place until

1- Years later
2- A collection agency calls asking them about a mortgage.

So, now more than ever, college kids needs to protect themselves. Over the coming month, we'll be providing regular tips on how they can do so, as we get ready for back-to-school season.

Posted by Mike

New Account Fraud

Credit.com covered a survey that had some scary findings: namely that roughly one of out 5 Americans has been a victim of ID theft, and that credit card fraud only comprises about 20% of ID Thefts.

We obviously can't speak to the accuracy of those numbers, but they do seem to go along with what Javelin Research and Strategy has pointed out this year; other types of fraud, specifically new account fraud, are on the rise.

So: What is new account fraud and why, as Javelin points out, is it so hard to detect?

New account fraud happens when a thief opens up a new line of credit in someone else's name. Usually, any correspondence between the credit issuer and the "account holder" goes to a different destination than the actual victim. In other words… the victim doesn't know that they aren't receiving a statement from a bank, because the victim doesn't know there's a relationship with the bank.

One way to prevent this type of fraud from becoming damaging is to regularly check your credit report. It will show you each query performed on your personal credit (after all, in order to open a line of credit, these queries must be performed).

If you see a query that you aren't aware of, that can be a clue that someone might have your personal information. (and if you're a PrivacyGuard member, this means it's time to call us to make sure everything is as it should be).

Posted by Darragh

Remember when the biggest cost associated with gaming was the cost of a game?

Video game companies have been under assault, with multiple networks being attacked by hackers looking to gain access to gamers' personal information. (I'm old enough to remember when the biggest cost of player a video game was actually going to a toy store to buy it, and it was usually around $40-$50).

People don't necessarily think of their online gaming accounts as a hub of personal information, but let’s briefly consider the information that a gamer stores there:

• Name
• E-mail
• User Name (online handle)
• Password

That's a lot of information in and of itself, and thieves gaining access to it can have a substantial impact.
For example, we believe that a majority of consumers don't use different password for many of the sites they interact with. Ask yourself this: How many sites do you log in to with the same e-mail/password combination?

• Social networking sites?
• Banking sites?
• Online retailers?

In addition, think of the other information stored in your online gaming account:

• Credit Card Information?
• Date of Birth?
• Address (to verify credit card)?

When you add it up, it's an awful lot of information that a thief can go after, and it's why we believe that gaming destinations have been such a target lately.

Posted by Mike

Don't let paying your taxes cost you (again).

Tax scams seem to crop up every year, both before taxes are filed (here's a list of ID theft tips we published before Tax day) and after, as Forbes has reported.

The latest scam (which has made the rounds over the years in different varieties), has thieves sending e-mails out to potentially unknowing customers, directing them to click on a link to rectify a problem with their return.

Of course, you may ask yourself why scams like this are recycled year after year, but the scary answer is the simple one:

Because they probably work.

Posted by Christine

Data Breach Roundup

• SC Magazine reports a Codemasters breach.
• The NY Times says Bethesda Gaming softworks and the Senate website were hacked.
London Health Programmes lost information, according to ComputerWeekly.javascript:void(0)
• The AP reports that Automated Data Processing, Inc suffered a breach.

Posted by Darragh

A guide to common ID Theft Terms

Patch.com has an excellent list of terms that are common to the ID Theft world. I thought this makes an excellent glossary.

Posted by Darragh

Data Breach Roundup

• The Wall Street Journal says Nintendo was breached.
• Forbes says the FBI wasn't immune from being breached.
• Alabama's Trinity Hospital suffered a breach, according to BeckersHospitalReview.com

Pass the Word

In April, Darragh discussed what Phishing is, and a couple of things that you can do to protect yourself. Well now, with GMail being hacked, it seems like a good idea to bring that up again, as a refresher, as well as to point out a great article in the Wall Street Journal about how to protect your Gmail account.

One of their tips is to use a "strong password." It's a tip that's been given in hundreds of locations, but what exactly does that mean? Well, a strong password is generally more than 12 characters, and uses capitalization, numbers and symbols. It also shouldn't be something that's connected to your life (for example, your dog's name).

Using strong passwords should be your normal course of action for every site you log in to, as should using a different password for every site you log in to. I suspect that a majority of people don’t do this.

Posted by Mike

Tips from the Street

Last week, TheStreet.com did a great job pulling together 9 tips for protecting your Online Identity.

There are 2 more I'd like to add to the list though.

First, I'd like to borrow one more from my bio to compliment this list: Beware of free public wifi. Don't use anything labeled as "free public wifi" to log into your email, social networking or online banking accounts. Thieves create and use these unsecured networks to swipe your logon credentials.

Second, there is seemingly an endless amount of quizzes and/or apps on social networks that ask you for personal information (find your Royal Name, or some such thing). Many of them divulge personal information that can be used to retrieve your account information. So please, be careful what you're sharing.

Posted by Christine

Data Breach Roundup

• According to CryptoZone, Square Enix had a breach.
• The Boston herald reports that the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development had a breach.
• The Financial Times details challenges faced by Android Phone owners.
• Government Executive says around 4,000 federal employees have been victimized by a breach.

Lost your Debit Card?

Signal News has some tips on what to do if your debit card is stolen, so we thought it was worth passing along. Having a debit card stolen can be more difficult to rectify than having your credit card stolen, because banks can have 2 different sets of rules for who is responsible for fraudulent activities. With credit cards, the bank is responsible to cover any losses. However, this isn't the case with debit cards, and it can end up being the responsibility of the card holder to prove that theft has occurred.

Of course, it doesn't help that according to Javelin Research and Strategy, the use of debit cards is up.

Posted by Darragh

Data Breaches

Each week, we think it important to highlight data breaches that may have occurred.

• The New York Times reports that Sony had a breach.
• According to the Chicago Tribune, another large company, Michaels, the arts and crafts store, had a breach.

Tuesday May 3

We've recommended using a shredder at least, oh, a bazillion times (as a note, our consultant Frank Abagnale, recommends using a micro-cut shredder, like the ones you can find at Staples, OfficeMax, Walmart or any other number of places). And, for a majority of those times, we’ve said you should do so with any important documents you're getting rid of, as well as anything that has your address on it.

It seems like most people understand why shredding a document with information such as a credit card number of social security number is important, but many wonder why they need to shred junk mail.

The answer is actually pretty easy:

Identity thieves can strike while only having your name and address.

In one somewhat common underground scam, thieves will file a change of address form, moving all of your mail to a new address. Once this is completed, all important mail, including your credit card statements (which *do* have important account information on them) can be sent to a thief directly. At that point, a thief can take over pretty much whichever account they please.

Sounds too simple to be true, right?

Well, according to Javelin Strategy and Research, changing the physical address was the most common type of account takeover method in 2010

So remember, shredding each and every document that comes into your home with any personally identifiable information is important. Also, remember, the post office will send a change of address confirmation to both the former and "new addresses." If you see this form come to you, and you believe it is in error, contact the post office immediately.

And you can help us out by taking steps to become your own identity theft protector.

Posted by Mike

Gone Phishing

Yesterday, Christine discussed a couple of reasons why folks in certain states may be more susceptible to ID Theft, and she mentioned specific types of people being more vulnerable to Phishing. As such, I thought it might make sense to discuss, in a little more depth, what exactly Phishing is, and hoe you can take steps to prevent being caught on the line.

Wikipedia opens it's page on Phishing with the following:

Phishing is a way of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

So, how does it work?

Thieves will create communications (perhaps an e-mail) that appears as though it is from a bank, and then send it to a load of people. Sometimes, it is very obvious that the e-mail shouldn't be handled (if, for example, you get an e-mail from a bank that you aren't a customer of, you likely won't read it or enter too much information).

However, when a thief hits his or her mark, the message that they send might go to a customer of the bank they are spoofing. In that case, how does a bank customer know if the e-mail they are receiving is from their bank or from a thief?

Here are a few things to keep an eye out for (I'll be discussing tips for e-mail phishing, but these apply to other types as well):

• Typos- many phishing schemes tend to come with grammatical errors or typos.
• Requests to verify information- Often, these e-mails come as some sort of request to verify account information (usually, there is a link asking for everything from your account number and password to your address). Note: Your bank should never e-mail you with this type of request.
• Blurred logos- Because thieves may have copied the logo from a bank’s website (or used a screen capture technology), it's possible that the logo they use in an e-mail phishing scheme will look slightly blurry or distorted.

Ultimately, the most important tip I can offer regarding phishing is this:

If you're not sure it came from your bank, call your bank using the phone number on the back of your credit or debit card, and ask them if the request is valid.

Posted by Darragh

Where ID Theft Occurs Most

On Monday, we discussed some statistics about identity theft, citing which states had the highest incidents of ID Theft. We mentioned Florida, Arizona, California, Georgia and Texas as the top 5.

There are dozens of reasons and theories as to why these states could be so high, so we thought it made sense to discuss a couple of our theories today.

• Thieves prey on the elderly. It is entirely possible that thieves look for communities with a higher percentage of elderly people, or seek out elderly people in communities. First off, elderly folks are less likely to be utilizing e-banking of some sort, meaning that there is potential for a few weeks for thieves to operate before being caught (those who log in to their bank accounts online often are more likely to catch a thief early, as opposed to someone who only looks at direct mail statements). Additionally, it is possible that elderly folks who have retired may have large amounts of money in their bank accounts (nest eggs can be particularly appealing to a thief)

• Thieves prey on those who struggle with English. The states listed above tend to all have high immigration rates. It can be much easier for thieves to "trick" someone who doesn’t speak English very well and phishing schemes can be particularly devastating.

It's something to keep in mind, whether you live in these areas or not.

Posted by Christine

An Easter Egg No One Wants to Find

The Palm Beach Daily News points out that once again, Florida is the number 1 state for ID Theft. This is the 3rd year that Florida has been number 1 according to the FTC report cited.

Round out the top 5 were:
Arizona
California
Georgia
Texas

Later this week, we’ll discuss some of the reasons this might be, as well as some tips to protect yourself.

Posted by Mike