Friday, August 3, 2007
Edit 1: The official website is now up and open! Click here to check it out.
Identity theft is always on the rise by people who think nothing of stealing your identity and hard earned money to better themselves. Why would a person do this, and what can be done to protect yourself?
There are some people who are just lazy and have no morals. They spend more time and energy getting out of work, and trying to find ways to avoid work then the normal person does working. They dumpster dive, intercept mail, setup online scam sites, phish, and even hack networks.
One of the more popular ways to steal your identity or scam you is with a phish attempt. An email arrives supposedly from your bank or credit card, asking you to login in and update your personal information. The link looks legit, even the email is formatted in the correct format. You follow the link and see what appears to be your banks website. After your login, you come to a page that still looks somewhat official, but notice there is some questions being asked that make you feel uneasy. Questions such as your check/credit card number, your pin number, and your social security number. Unless you are aware of this a lot of people simply enter the information, click submit and go on their merry way, completely unaware that somebody now has their information. How to spot these? What protection can you use? Firefox will inform you if the website you are on appears to be a phish attempt; I believe IE does as well. But some things to remember, if your bank/financial institution are asking you for your card number, pin number, password, or social, never, ever give it online. Odds are it is a scam.
When you click the link, examine the address in the bar very closely, unless it matches your financial institute of question, do not continue. Contact them by the phone number listed on your card, inform them of what is going on, and ask if you can forward them the email. They take this very seriously.
Dumpster diving and trash sniffing is another popular way to get your information, but it is so easy to protect against this. The sad thing is most people do not do it. Buy a shredder that cross-cut shred. A quick Google search will turn up makers of these products. Cross shredding is more efficient then normal shredding. And when you shred a document, put your hand in the trash and stir it around to further disorient the scraps. What should be shredded? You should shred everything that comes in your mail box, old credit cards, statements, credit card offers, and basically anything with your name or address on it. It takes minutes to do this, and offers lots of protection to you and your identity. When mailing bills, or anything with personal information, don’t use your roadside mailbox. Take it either to the post office, or a big blue postal drop off. This reduces the risk of somebody intercepting your outgoing mail with checks or personal information as well.
As technology improves so will the need for vigilance and increased identity security. Thieves and scammers always look for new ways to steal your money, but by being wary of everything, following these tips for protection, and learning more about identity theft, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to these financial predators.