Tag Archives: Identity Theft

Legitimate debt collector or fraudulent data colletor?

Data collection scams and debt collection scams have risen dramatically in the last few years.  Mal-ware at point of sale terminals has been used to steal customer data. Emails that phish for information have been used to steal consumer information and fake debt collectors who threaten victims with lawsuits and arrests have used information gained to exploit consumers.

“Unscrupulous scams hurt consumers and unnecessarily impedes legitimate debt collection efforts,” said ACA International CEO Pat Morris. “The recovery of consumer debt is vitally important to our local, state, and national economies. Those who purposely violate the law to exploit consumers should be held fully accountable for their actions.”

Consumers need to protect personal data and they need to know the difference between a legitimate debt collector and a fake scam being conducted to steal personal information.

ACA International recommends several important items in discerning a legitimate attempt to recover a debt. The first item is that a debt collector may not contact a consumer at times known to be inconvenient. Generally, a legitimate debt collector may not contact a consumer before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in the consumers’ time zone.

Another item is that a debt collector must disclose its identity to the consumer and notify the consumer that the communication is from a debt collector, and (in the initial communication) that any information obtained will be used to effect collection of the debt. Debt collectors are not allowed to make false representations and may not threaten to take action against a consumer if it doesn’t actually intend to seek such action. Consumers also need to be aware that they can dispute the validity of the debt and during the time the debt is being dispute the debt collector must cease collection activity until verification of the debt has been provided. More guidelines can be found at ACA International.

Consumers can protect their personal data by checking credit and debit cards vigilantly and reporting any charges that appear questionable, even small amounts. Consumers can also monitor their credit profiles along with their card activity and consumers need to keep in mind that phishing scams for information don’t just happen via email and the phone. Phishing scams can come through snail mail also.  Shred paper with personal information before throwing it away, make online passwords stronger by using a mix of capital and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers, and take great care when giving out credit or debit card numbers, Social Security numbers or other personal information online and offline.

As Target breach grows, retailer embraces security options

Target’s data breach over the holiday season turned out to span far wider than the original numbers estimated.  The major retailer said the breach that happened between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013 compromised the financial information of approximately 40 million shoppers shortly after the breach occurred. Recently, the company informed consumers that it had uncovered an additional 70 million to 110 million customers who may have had their names, mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses stolen.

The data stolen from Target was originally thought to come from the terminals where customers swipe credit and debit cards. The retailer said originally that the only information affected was the information stored in the magnetic strips on the back of customers’ cards. The retailer learned shortly after that customers’ encrypted PIN data had also been obtained. The latest revelation by Target is raising more concerns because personal information isn’t stored on the magnetic strips on credit and debit cards.

Target’s data breach has severely impacted the company and will continue to as long as more information about the breach becomes known. The retailer has apologizes to customers for the broadening violations of customers’ private information.

“I know that it is frustrating for our guests to learn that this information was taken, and we are truly sorry they are having to endure this,” Gregg W. Steinhafel, Target’s chief executive, said in a statement to the New York Times.

Target is now offering free credit monitoring and identity theft protection to customer’s for one-year free.  The one-year offer includes a credit report, daily credit monitoring, identity theft resolution, identity theft insurance and ProtectMyID ExtendCARE, personalized assistance from a highly-trained Fraud Resolution Agent after the one-year period expires.

Target has listed tips for customers who wish to protect their information:

“Never share information with anyone over the phone, email or text, even if they claim to be someone you know or do business with. Instead, ask for a call-back number. Delete texts immediately from numbers or names you don’t recognize. Be wary of emails that ask for money or send you to suspicious websites. Don’t click links within emails you don’t recognize.”

A FAQ page has been set up on Target’s website to deal with information regarding the data breach and information related to other scams.

White House Not Inclined to Place Restraints on NSA Activities

The National Security Agency isn’t going away any time soon and the White House isn’t planning on placing new restraints on the agency. According to the Washington Post, “the Obama administration has decided to preserve a controversial arrangement under which a single military official is permitted to direct both the National Security Agency and the military’s cyberwarfare command despite an external review panel’s recommendation against doing so.”

A group of top U.S. intelligence officials got together and decided that the two divisions (NSA and Cyber Command) should be placed under separate leadership. The argument for the division is that it would ensure greater accountability and prevent investing too much power in one individual.  The two divisions also have different missions. The NSA mission is spying and the Cyber Command’s mission is to conduct military attacks.  Both divisions work closely together since the Cyber Command depends on the NSA’s ability to hack into the computer systems of enemies for intelligence and to conduct potential operations.

According to the Washington Post, an email from Caitlin Hayden, White House spokeswoman, said, “Following a thorough interagency review, the administration has decided that keeping the positions of NSA Director and Cyber Command commander together as one, dual-hatted position is the most effective approach to accomplishing both agencies’ missions.”

There have been over 40 recommendations made by the intelligence panel. Currently, the White House appears not to want to add constraints onto the surveillance agency.  The NSA is working toward making changes within the organization to combat any leaks that could be comparable to the leak committed by Edward Snowden.

The leak committed by Snowden informed the public that the NSA was conducting surveillance and collecting virtually all phone calls of Americas through a metadata collection process. NSA still claims that their collection of billions of phone records was for counterterrorism purposes and that the content of the calls is unknown, the agency purportedly only collects where the calls were made and how long they lasted.

What do you think?  Is this collection of data necessary? Doesn’t it put us at an even greater risk?

5 Credit Card Safety Tips for Travel during the Holidays

credit card scamsTraveling during the holidays should be fun. It shouldn’t be filled with worry and stress. Using a credit card instead of cash or a debit card can make travel during the holidays less stressful and less risky. Use these five tips to keep from becoming a victim of credit card fraud.

Pick One Card

Pick one credit card to take with you. Make sure you have a copy of it, but store this copy in a safe place. Carrying multiple cards can lead to the loss of one or more of them.  When you pack for traveling remember to remove all other cards and store them in a secure location.  If your wallet or purse get stolen while you are traveling it is much easier to deal with one stolen card instead of six.

Separate Your Credit Card from Purse or Wallet

Don’t keep your credit card in your purse or wallet. Purses and wallets, particularly  Continue reading 5 Credit Card Safety Tips for Travel during the Holidays

Personal files containing financial data mistakenly sold at Goodwill stores

As the holiday approaches I begin to clean out my house.  I do this for several reasons.  First, I know that with the holidays there is going be some presents underneath the tree that are going to need so space to be stored in when they are not being played with.  I also know that especially during the winter months and holiday season charitable organizations are in big demand and can use all the help they can get in the form of monetary as well as physical donations to help meet the needs of the hundreds that call upon them.  Last but not least, I don’t like anything to go to waste and the coat my daughter wore four times (it doesn’t get really cold here in Houston) and has now outgrown doesn’t belong in the trash, but it does belong on another little girl who could use one.  But with all this peace on Earth and good will towards man, it’s important to pay attention to what’s going out the door and into the hands of others.

We have talked before about the importance of clearing your electronics like cell phones and computers of information, personal data and stored information and images.  But what I never imagined I would find is that important papers could be lost and then found again, but quite possibly the wrong person as many of us clean out closets and make donations.

NBC News recently reported about a purchase made at an Indiana Goodwill Outlet Store.  Edith Watson purchased a box during a bulk sale not knowing what it contained, but they were selling it for pennies per pound.  Hoping to find something good, she realized after she got home that if she was an identity thief she definitely would have “struck it rich” as the entire box contained document after document of financial information, social security numbers, credit card bills, medical records and more. After reporting it to her local televisions station a look at other Goodwill locations occurred, finding that this was not a singular incident.

Yahoo News reports:

Goodwill’s Marketing Vice President Cindy Graham admitted their mistake and told WTHR, “We do take this very seriously…They don’t want us to have it and we don’t really want to have it either.” Policy changes are on the way after the charity completes their internal investigation. Cindy Graham said, “We’re going to take a look and see how we can prevent that from happening. Our process would have been and should have been and will be, ‘Let’s shred this.’” She also adds that Goodwill encourages all donors to be cognizant of what they are donating so that sensitive documents do not mistakenly end up at their retail stores.

How did this happen?  Several different ways including cleaning out the home of a deceased family member and the cleaning service not properly disposing of or passing the information on to the family. In another case boxes marked for storage were sent to Goodwill instead of storage.  Apparently theses boxes were never inspected by Goodwill, simply placed in the outlet stores.

Graham told the Indy Star, “We’re looking at every one of our processes,” she said, “and seeing what needs to be done differently so that there isn’t a gap and that material that was donated doesn’t get into the wrong hands.”

I think it’s happened to everyone. You are cleaning out drawers and dressers, closets and desks and make stacks of to go, to stay to donate.  I know in our home one of my daughter’s beloved characters for her homemade videos were accidentally donated.  Not exactly on the same level as letting my personal documents out of my hands, but it’s just a small example of how anyone can make a mistake.

So, keep in mind this holiday season as you show goodwill toward men to double check your boxes, computers, cell phones and other items for anything personal.  It’s one thing to be charitable, it’s another thing to have your whole identity stolen.

U.S. Senate Launches Anti-Fraud Hotline

Victims of fraud are increasing on a daily basis. Everyone is a target, but some people are more at risk than others. Elderly people, lonely people, and immigrants are often targets of fraudulent activity. Scams to get credit card and other financial information include email scams for moving large amounts of money, phone calls asking for financial information because a loved one is in trouble, and online matchmaking gone horribly wrong.

People have lost their livelihoods by falling victim to these scams and schemes. The United States Senate wants to put a stop to them and wants to help victims of fraud, especially elderly victims.  A new anti-fraud hotline has been unveiled to make it easier for senior citizens to report suspected fraud and to receive assistance.

“If you Continue reading U.S. Senate Launches Anti-Fraud Hotline

College, credit and identity theft

credit card scams

Disclosure: This post may include affiliate links, which help to support this site. However, all opinions expressed are 100% my own.

This post will be a little more personal in nature.  Recently I went shopping with my 25 year old son, who is getting ready to embark on the grand adventure of marriage.  Together we visited the jewelry stores.  He was hoping to find the perfect engagement ring to give to his soon to be fiance (we were pretty sure she would say yes) and I was there to negotiate the best price.  Finding the perfect ring we discuss the price.  Once we get the price the store was ready to accept we now have to find out the best way to pay for this item.

Like many college students (he graduates this December as he worked full time his way through college) he didn’t have the amount saved because every penny counts.  Having never had any credit since his car was paid for (thank you grandma and grandpa), as was his housing and other expenses we thought now would be a good time to begin to build it.  After all the cost of the ring was not that bad and it would be a good way to get started on the way to responsible credit use. Getting his bonuses over the next six months and each of them could pay for the expense, he decided to fill out the application.  After all, who knows a few years from now the next thing I hope to help him find is a new house (somewhere closer than 1900 miles away).

“I’m sorry, you weren’t approved,” the salesperson tells us.  Crushed, he quickly becomes curious, and asked to see the denial.

Lesson no. 1 If denied credit always ask to see the written response, you may be surprised.

The denial says he has unpaid credit card bills and outstanding credit (not outstanding as in really good either!).  But how can this be he asks.  Other than his monthly cell phone bill he has not had any credit cards, no monthly payments.  Not even student loans, because although he took one out his first year they are deferral because he is in school.   “Mom! What do I do?”

Lesson no. 2 Run your credit report immediately.  He can start with his free credit report, but considering these circumstances he may want to use a service like CreditSesame because they also offer additional services to help him stay on top of his credit rating.

We ran his credit report and now the work really begins.   It’s time to clean it up.  There are a number of different problems with it, from fraudulent use of his name, Social Security Number, creation of a new identity using his old address and of course the big problem, unpaid items of credit, whether it was a fast cash item or credit card.   “How did this happen?” he wonders.

Lesson no. 3 It can happen a number of ways from old mail, credit card offers in the mail, his Social Security Number used at the college or even a so called friend or roommate which had access to his information.  Stolen wallets, filled out forms, responding to spam messages, there are a whole number of different ways that this happens.  Maybe he was just unlucky.  Most identity theft takes bits and pieces of the true to create a “new you.”  That’s where this gets messy.

What can you do?  Now it’s time to take action.  Either file a dispute through the credit monitoring service that you are using or grab some pen and paper and do it the old fashioned way.   Either way you need to contact the credit reporting agencies with the information that is incorrect, correct it and include any proof that you may be able to provide.

Lesson. no 4 Some say you can file with just one agency and that all the information will be sent to all three.  However, to be safe I recommended that my son send the information to each of them if he didn’t want to file it online.

Here are some sample letters to use when filing your dispute.

Should you take the snail mail route here are the mailing addresses for each of the three reporting agencies.

TransUnion
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834

Experian
P.O. Box 9530
Allen, TX 75013

Equifax
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374

Remember mistakes can be made on anyone’s credit report but it has been reported that identity theft is on the rise for college students, so pass this information on to them so that they know what to do.

 

Credit Card Fraud Getting Smarter With Security Code Calls

credit card scamsGenerally speaking, credit card fraud is a pretty straightforward crime. Information is stolen and the card is used fraudulently. These days, however, scam artists are getting smarter. Now, they need only get part of your information. The rest they are getting right out of our own mouths. A recent credit card scheme in Boulder, Colorado is actually using the victims themselves to get the final piece of the puzzle.

Criminals are obtaining partial credit card information and then calling the victims posing as members of the Security and Fraud Department of your credit card. After giving you the information they have for your card, they then ask you about a suspicious purchase that never happened. When you say you did not make that purchase, they then promise you a credit to your account to make up for the fraud.

They confirm your address and then they claim they are starting a fraud investigation. They advise you to call the 1-800 number if you have questions and give you a fake control number. Finally, they have you “verify” that you have the card and ask for your security code on the back of the card. For the exact wording the criminals use, you can go here.

Most victims that have followed up with the real credit card companies quickly realize that they were had. Almost immediately, fraudulent purchases will show up and the gig is up. What folks don’t realize is that real security would never need information off your card. They were the ones that produced the card and gave it to you. They would have no reason to ask you for it.

What this particular scheme tells me is that people need to realize that phone calls from companies are not to be trusted. The bottom line is this. If you get an unsolicited phone call from a bank, credit card company or solicitor of any kind, hang up and call the company directly. Nothing good can come from a phone call that is instigated by someone other than you for business.

Of course, the scary part of this scam is how they got the information off your card in the first place. Perhaps they used a slider, skimmer or simply saw it when you were paying for something. The ways in which information can get stolen these days is amazing, so keep your information close to the vest. Doing so will ensure that you don’t have to worry about this in the future. This is only the newest thing that is happening but they will continue to evolve and change. Keep on top of things and protect your information like gold.

What You Should Know About Chip-and-PIN Credit Cards

chip and pin technology credit cardsIn a world where keeping your information safe has become the number one priority, it is amazing that the United States has not moved wholesale to chip-and-PIN technology where credit cards are concerned. This chip system eliminates the old fashioned magnetic strip technology and is considered much more secure. Here are some things to consider about this wonderful way of doing business safely:

The primary thing to know about chip-and-PIN technology is that it uses a chip rather than a strip. The difference is that the chip is impossible to get to with readers. You have to stick the card into the reader to actually glean the information. Today’s magnetic strips are being read through our pockets, at gas stations and even at ATMs throughout the United States. This means that our technology is far outdated. Banks now are realizing this stateside and changing over slowly to chip technology. You should ask for one now if you haven’t already.

Another disadvantage of magnetic readers is that most of the world is on the chip now. Europe uses the chip almost Continue reading What You Should Know About Chip-and-PIN Credit Cards

Why We Need To Pay Attention To Medicare Fraud

It is hard to imagine, but our seniors are being unwittingly used in a Medicare scam that is costing taxpayers billions. In fact, the numbers are staggering. Medicare fraud has numbered 27 billion over the last four years. The latest method, however, stoops to lows that most people never think about. Home medical supplies, scooters, wheel chairs, diabetic supplies and countless other materials are being billed under senior citizen’s names but they are never ordered or asked for.

These medical supply houses will hound a Medicare recipient sometimes up to three times a day to try to get their information or help. There are a ton of warning signals that jump out where these fraudulent companies are operating. Keep an eye out for:

  • Companies offering low or no deductible even though you know you generally owe one.
  • Companies offering a free scooter or wheelchair
  • Equipment being billed for you that you never receive
  • Companies that will not leave you alone even after you have asked them to do so
  • Something sounding too good to be true.

These are some good general guidelines but the key is to go with your gut. If you think something feels fishy, then check it out with your doctor or call the Medicare office at 1-800-MEDICARE and find out.

Many of these companies are being investigated and will soon be answering for some of these crimes. The fact is that there are some good companies that offer good services to our seniors. The key is that they need to be transparent. If a product is billed to Medicare and to the American people, then they need to make absolutely certain that it is legitimate. The government and the taxpayers deserve to know that is being followed.

If we continue to let these types of thing go, we will not even have Medicare when our kids are older. That is a risk we are already undertaking, but allowing things such as this to slide without stiff punishments are what forced us into this position in the first place.

Medicare fraud is a very serious issue and it needs to be addressed not only by Congress, but by the American people through information and our votes. If our representatives are not going to take this seriously, then perhaps we should change who we are voting for.