Preventing Senior Citizen Identity Theft

Internet fraud and identity thieves are as numerous today as they have ever been and are regularly taking advantage of the most cutting edge technology in order to steal law-abiding citizens’ money. Many of the people who get caught up in these schemes and thefts are senior citizens, and they are often even sought out and specifically targeted by experienced fraudsters. They exploit these seniors’ decline in mental quickness and their trust by befriending them and then later turning around to scam them through the use of false investment opportunities, sweepstakes, or by using numerous other tactics.

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is by understanding how these criminals operate and the methods they employ in order to get the job done. Luckily, there are many specific things to look out for that can indicate that someone is attempting to commit identity theft or fraud. If you are a friend or family member of a senior citizen, read over the following red flags to look out for in order to help protect them against fraud:

  • Large increases in debit or credit card usage.
  • Large withdrawals from savings, particularly if it’s an inactive account.
  • Overdraft fees or bounced checks.
  • New debit or credit cards that come in the mail.
  • Forged signatures.
  • Check numbers that are out of sync.
  • The senior is confused about their account balance.
  • Caregivers receiving too much pay.
  • Increases in monthly expenditures.
  • The senior speaks about a lottery or sweepstakes they’ve won.
  • The senior states they’ve provided personal info through email or over the phone.
  • While the above are some good tells that may well indicate scams or fraud being committed, it’s also important to understand the nature of the attacks themselves and take a proactive approach to guarding yourself or your loved ones against such attacks. Let’s take a closer look and see what types of scams are most common and what ways are best to guard against them.

Phishing Tactics

Phishing attacks are generally sent out in the form of an urgent message to a ton of different people at the same time. This is where the “fishing” term comes from, as even if the majority of the people who get these messages ignore them, anyone who does fall for the “lure” can net the scammer a huge profit. They’ll often be messages that will tell the receiver that there’s something wrong with their account and will ask for personal information in order to reconcile the issue. They’ll often come through email and can look very convincing. Many times they’ll use spoofed websites of banks, payment companies, or financial institutions. For example, your bank might have the website address “www.mainstreetbank.com” but a phisher might use something that looks like “www.ma1nstreetbank.com.”

Emails aren’t the only methods, as there are also scams that revolve around phone calls or even text messages. In order to avoid phishing attempts, review the following steps:

  • Be critical of any email asking for personal financial information, particularly if it says it’s an urgent matter.
  • Avoid filling out forms through the email itself. Instead, always try to put your financial information into secure sites or over the phone after calling them directly.
  • Don’t follow any links that you receive through text message or email.
  • If you’re entering any private financial data, always make sure it’s a secure site.
  • Log into each of your online accounts at least once per month.
  • Review your credit card and bank statement regularly.
  • Keep your internet browser up to date.

Common Scams

Not all identities are stolen over the internet. Some are stolen in person. If you find yourself in a situation that seems almost too good to be true, it probably is. Let’s take a look at some common scams that senior citizens and other people regularly fall for:

Charity

The victims of these scams are told to be the middleman for a donation drive. They’ll be asked to deposit large checks into their account, keep a small cut for themselves for the trouble, and then forward the rest of the money into the fraudsters account. The money they’re “depositing” into their account doesn’t actually exist or sometimes even belongs to other victims.

Working from Home

A victim sees an advertisement promising them big bucks for working an easy job from the comfort of their own home. They’ll have checks deposited into their bank account and are told to wire 90% of it back to the fraudster and keep the remaining portion for themselves. Like with the above example, this money often doesn’t even exist, so the actual money that gets sent belongs to the victim.

Dating

The victim gets involved with an online boyfriend or girlfriend who tells them to deposit a check or money order into their account and then wire them the money. These checks are bogus so the boyfriend/girlfriend ends up getting money from the victim’s own pocket.

Protecting Yourself

While the above are common examples, there are endless scenarios that a fraudster can use to steal a senior citizen’s money. It’s best to proactively protect yourself from them rather than hoping to do damage control after your identity is already stolen. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to go about doing this:

  • Regularly review your bank accounts and financial statements.
  • Sign up for security alerts through your mobile or on your email account.
  • Monitor your credit score to check it for unauthorized activity.
  • Keep private information private – use direct deposits and keep all financial records secure under lock and key.
  • If you are a victim of fraud, contact your financial services company immediately and notify them of the problem.

Senior identity theft is a very real thing that does affect countless individuals every single year. By taking a proactive approach in protecting yourself or someone you know, you will be able to minimize your risk. The most important thing is to be skeptical of strangers promising you money for little or no effort or of messages urging you to send them your personal information.

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7 Celebrities Who Have Been Victims of Identity Theft

The problem with identity theft is that it doesn’t discriminate against one demographic or socioeconomic status. In many cases, the theft is not due to carelessness on the part of the victim. Celebrities have to deal with the annoyance of identity theft as well, and they have plenty of money to steal, so they are prime targets. Here’s a list of 7 well-known celebrities that have been victims of identity theft related crimes

steven speilbertSteven Spielberg was the victim of identity theft, however he had nothing stolen besides his privacy. In the 1990s, Spielberg had his personal information used to allow an inmate in a Tennessee prison view on Spielberg’s American Express credit card purchases. The man later claimed he did it to supply the celebrity’s information to a Hollywood studio. Apparently this genius thought he could make money by getting a movie made about his small time id theft caper.  Are people just that stupid?

liv tylerLiv Tyler had a bout with an identity thief in 2011. Her hairstylist used her credit card number to help herself to plenty of merchandise and services around town. When caught, it seems the stylist didn’t use Tyler’s card alone. She used Anne Hathaway, Penelope Cruz and Melanie Griffith’s card information as well. Tips and payment aren’t enough?

 

ricky gervaisRicky Gervais was on the receiving end of a fraud in 2009. Using an insider at the bank to obtain Gervais’ information, the group of thieves transferred 200,000 pounds from his bank account. The cash was to be used to secure gold bullion. While the scheme seems fairly clever, the identification they used was a passport, with a cutout photograph of Gervais. The pic was taken off the DVD box of The Office. They needed the identification to pick up the gold they had purchased.

 

paris hiltonParis Hilton had her name used in setting up a website. The site was dubbed Paris.org. Being registered as a trademark, she informed the thieves that she wanted payment for the use of her name. Later, her run-in with a teen in Minnesota resulted in her information being posted online. Apparently the teen had hacked in to Ms. Hilton’s phone.

 

A busboy was not using his head when he stole Ms. Oprah Winfrey’s social security number, birth dates of friends and relatives and even addresses of Oprah and 200 of the Richest People in America list published in Forbes. With the use of cell phones, a library computer and people imitating couriers, the thief snagged all of this info from credit protection services and reporting through Equifax.  If you’re going to steal someone’s identity (or bank info) you might as well swing for the fences and steal Oprah’s right?

Tiger WoodsKnown criminal, Anthony Lemar Taylor, picked a good one. He obtained Tiger Woods’ information after finding his information was not that secure. Taylor purchased $50,000 in merchandise. To top it all off, Taylor procured a fake license to drive, social security card and a military I.D, all in Tiger’s name. This bright guy even misspelled Tiger’s middle name wrong on the document’s but managed to still fill a storage unit to the hilt with stolen goods.

 

Image result for Will SmithWill Smith found several fake accounts were used to grab $33,000 under his real name, William C. Smith. The 2009 incident wasn’t the first time for the thief. He had been arrested before for stealing the former Atlanta Hawks basketball player, Steve Smith’s name. He was still on parole for the prior arrest. Some folks never learn.

So what’s the moral of the story here?  That anyone can be a victim of identity theft.  You, me, Kim Kardashian or the mail man.  Identity thieves don’t discriminate.  If you haven’t started making decisions to better protect your identity, then you are just a statistic waiting to happen.  Learn how to protect yourself on a daily basis and discover what credit monitoring can do as an proactive tool to help limit the damage should be ever be a victim of identity theft.

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Your 6 Favorite Credit and Banking Myths Busted

Creditors and financial institutions are always drawing up plans to increase their revenues. Most of the time, consumers like you fall prey to their hidden charges or confusing rules. This is why a lot of you doubt whether the creditors can actually resort to such mischievous loan origination tactics or not.

To help you make smart decisions, I have discussed five of the most popular misconceptions related to credit and the banking
practices observed in our country.

Myth 1: Credit card companies cannot increase the rate of interest on my cards.

Fact: Actually, they can. However, the CARD Act has been put into place to protect you from their most horrendous abuse, i.e., they can no longer hike the interest rate on your card’s existing balances without you being 60 days late in making the payments. Still, there are certain loopholes that you must be aware of like:

  • Rate of interest on credit card’s are variable and that they are always dependant on their prime rates. So, the interest charges on your balances will not increase any further unless the interest rates go up.
  • You could be slapped with higher interest rates, depending upon your creditworthiness and payment history. If you pose higher risk to the creditors’ money, then you’ll be charged with higher rates of interest on all your future transactions.
  • Your creditors can increase the interest rates on your cards for practically any reason after a 12-month period. However, the new, increased rate will only be applied to future purchases and not on the present balances. For that too, your credit card issuer, is bound to notify you at least 45 days ahead of any change in your cards’ rate of interest.

One of the most effective ways to resolve this of kind credit problem is to get your balances transferred or to payoff your dues through a personal loan, but make sure you are never made to pay as per the purchase annual percentage rate (APR).

Myth 2: Credit card payments are always used to pay off the highest interest incurring debt first.

Fact: This isn’t always true. Creditors use different rates to charge different kinds of transactions. The rate of interest on a purchase (is high) but then, it differs from the balance transfer that is basically low. Now, with the advent of the CARD Act everything such thing has changed. The payment made by you must be applied to the highest interest rate balance first. But, your payments should be greater in value than the minimum outstanding balances.

So, if you make minimum payments every month, then your money will be used to pay back the lowest interest rate balance first. The best tip would be to avoid having balances transferred and spend money from a single credit card. Frankly speaking, banks usually get to have your balances trapped when there are multiple kinds of balances incurred in a single credit card.

Myth 3: Every zero percent offer means the same.

Fact: No, all such credit card offers aren’t. A huge difference exist between a zero percent APR credit card and a zero percent purchase financing. Former is actually a balance transfer card wherein you’ll not be charged any interest on all your purchases for certain period known as the promotional period, whereas, the latter will defer interest from getting applied to your balances in some chosen departmental or retail stores.

In case of deferred interest credit cards, make sure you’ve paid off all the balances before the expiry of the promotional period because if you don’t pay off the balances within the said period, then you’ll be charged interest for the entire promotional period. Similarly, zero percent APR credit cards either have their interest reduced or stayed during promotional period. This is one of the most suitable ways to wipe out your overwhelming credit card balances and stay financially healthy.

However, as soon as it is over, the interest on their balances increases drastically. So, be careful with your use of these offers and always make it a point to pay off all the bills before the promotional period expires, as it might take you years to repay them all.

Myth 4: Closing credit card accounts will increase my credit score.

Fact: Actually, canceling old credit card accounts or any other debt is never a good idea to promote your credit score. People have the misconception that old debts look ominous to potential lenders. But, it is a lot better to pay off your bills on time and not missing a deadline than to keep a card with $5,000 available as credit lying idle in your closet.

So, basically its foolish to wipe out old credit card balances by having them cancelled. This is because old credit card accounts will elongate your credit history that plays an important role in improving your credit score. It would help creditors to evaluate whether you can manage your financial obligations responsibly or not. However, there are certain acceptable ways to have old debts removed from your credit report, if you’re hell bent on doing so.

Myth 5: Credit card issuers don’t provide any freebie to college students for signing up for their cards.

Fact: This is not always true. Though credit card companies are barred from doling out freebies like T-Shirts in front of schools, as per the CARD Act, yet that doesn’t stop them from signing-up students for the sake of bonuses. They can even promote their services/products on campus. Still, the practices isn’t good for students, as they are asked to spend with the lure of getting a free gift on every purchase they make. This is much worse than getting a T-Shirt for signing up.

Myth 6: I am protected from any kind of credit card or debit card fraud.

Fact: Not necessarily. In order to defend yourself against a credit fraud, you must report such an incident within 60 days of its occurrence. Or else, you’d lose a lot of your rights. In case of ATM/debit cards, banks can hold you responsible for not more than $500 in fraudulent transactions, provided you’ve notified them about the incident after two days of it from happening. On the other hand, credit card companies will not hold you liable for a fraud of not more than $50. There are some banks that waive off a fraud of $50 altogether.

If you are charged and held liable for credit frauds, then you’ll have to make the payments and in turn have your credit rating damaged. However, you can work to improve your credit score after negative trade lines like payment defaults, credit frauds or bankruptcy is reported against your accounts.

Whatever be the case, it is your responsibility to avoid any kind of liability. Utilizing a credit monitoring service is a good, proactive way to prevent identity theft.  Always keep a record of your transactions and inform the concerned personnel of the bank or the creditor, the moment you detect any suspicious activity. Moreover, guard your confidential financial details and never share your Personal Identification Number (PIN) with anyone, or keep an easy, obvious one.

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Is Your NetFlix Password In The Wrong Hands?

For millions of Americans, their Netflix accounts are essential to getting through a sick day or weekend at home. Nevertheless, something most of these subscribers don’t pay much mind to is keeping basic account security that helps to keep their individual info safe. Something as easy as changing a password regularly may appear like a bit of a hassle, but it’s vital to making sure ongoing account security, particularly as it associates with current hacking attacks.

A number of major data breaches in recent months have potentially put Netflix users at risk of having their streaming accounts hacked, according to Advertisement Week’s Lost Remote vertical. In mid-October 2016 and once again previously this month, Netflix began alerting customers that it had actually been checking its own user records versus data exposed in other companies’ information breaches, indicating that while Netflix itself has actually been unaffected, user accounts were still at threat. As a result, impacted users were required to alter their passwords.

What’s the risk?

The reason for customers to change their passwords is basic: Many individuals use the very same login details for numerous or perhaps all their online accounts, according to TIME Data Security. While can make it much easier for individuals to bear in mind their passwords, it likewise makes it simpler for hackers to get access to potentially important details. Even something as easy as a Netflix password can give criminals– who can frequently buy taken login data at low individual costs– access to crucial information that can be used for fraud, including name, address, and even charge card data.

Customers can examine to see how their accounts have been accessed by making use of Netflix’s “Viewing Activity” feature, which will show info such as the IP address and place where accounts have been accessed, the news source stated. That, in turn, can assist individuals comprehend if their accounts have been subjected to these kinds of attacks, and trigger them to start altering their passwords for their other accounts if they haven’t currently.

Getting smarter

People typically know they need to utilize multiple passwords for their various accounts– ideally using an unique one for each account they develop– hackers also know that this isn’t basic practice for the huge bulk of internet users, inning accordance with KrebsOnSecurity. Hackers also understand that if they have, state, a victim’s Facebook password, they can attempt using that password for Twitter, Netflix and even savings account and have some quantity of success.

Fortunately for numerous web users is that larger business like Netflix are taking preemptive actions to make sure account information isn’t used by hackers, but there’s no single sure-fire way to prevent this from occurring. Businesses can examine their own records versus exactly what’s been dripped online, but it depends on users change their login information.

” Some Netflix members have actually received emails motivating them to alter their account passwords as a precautionary procedure due to the recent disclosure of extra credentials from an older breach at another internet business,” Netflix told KrebsOnSecurity. “Note that we are constantly participating in these kinds of proactive security procedures (leveraging Scumblr in addition to other mechanisms and information sources), not just when it comes to significant security breaches such as this one.”

In addition to keeping different passwords for all their separate accounts, it’s smart for users to make sure they take efforts to read more about the dangers they face and alter their passwords regularly. That way, even if a years– old Netflix account is breached, there’s little chance of that to affect other accounts. When passwords fail you, it’s constantly excellent to have an identity theft security plan in place.  Take proactive steps to secure your personal information and keep track of your credit by monitoring it regularly.

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What Identity Thieves Do With Stolen Credit Cards

Unless you live in a remote village on some tropical island, it’s almost 100% likely that you or someone you know has been a victim of identity theft.  Unfortunately, identity theft is a harsh reality that we all have to accept and do our best to prevent.  But have you ever wondered what’s really going on behind the scenes when your identity is stolen?  How many criminals are seeing your social security number or your credit card information?  This is a very scary thing to consider.  According to an article on CBSNews.com here’s what’s happening to your information after it’s been fraudulently taken.

If your credit card information is stolen as part of a large breach, it’s more likely that your identity and information will be sold at least once as part of a package deal. Along the path to fraudulent purchases your card will be valued based on such factors as whether it is proven to be active (typically with small purchases that may go unnoticed) and whether other information is included — such as passwords, Social Security numbers, and birthdates that make it easier to open new lines of credit in your name.

Once your card information ends up in the hands of the final “user,” the fraudulent action can take many forms. The thief may make a duplicate card, choose to open up fraudulent accounts in your name, or simply use your existing card to buy items that can be resold for cash. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-identity-thieves-do-with-stolen-credit-cards/

Once you find out that your credit card, social security number or some other personal identifiable information has been stolen, you will have to take some corrective and preventative actions. Start by calling your credit card company and let them know what has happened.  If any account were opened fraudulently, you’ll need to contact those companies as well so they can close the unauthorized accounts before more charges are made.    File police reports and consider placing a freeze on your credit for at least 90 days.  This will prevent anyone from running your credit during that time, so no new unauthorized accounts can be opened.

Use a credit monitoring service to stay on top of daily changes to your credit reports.  If any new items pop up that you don’t recognize, it’s likely fallout from the credit card or identity theft.  In the future, use some of these tips to help keep your personal information safe.

 

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Telemarketing Troubles

Identity Theft Is Quickly Becoming One Of The Most Organized And Costly Crimes Of Our Time

It all started one Monday morning when the phone rang at 9:05. I answered it only to find that there was no one there. I waited a few moments to see if the other party would pick up the line. No one came on. Instead, the “computer” which was calling tried to disconnect the call twice. This was nothing new or unusual. This sort of thing happens at least a couple of times a day at my house, where I am a stay-at-home mom. In fact this scenario seems to play itself out about every three months or so. However, this was not a usual day.

The phone that day rang not just once or twice, but all day long, at least once an hour. Once it even rang right after I hung up. Then, to aggravate matters, at 4:05 p.m. the “computer” began calling every 30 minutes. I could practically set my watch to it. I stopped answering the phone. When my husband came home from work and the phone rang (yet again, and during dinner, no less) I didn’t answer it and told him it was the computer calling. To his amazement, our answering machine picked up the call only to find (surprise!) nobody there. The last call finally came at 8:35 p.m. (Telemarketing companies are prohibited from calling after 9:00 p.m.)

I was so furious at the invasion of my privacy and the numerous interruptions to my day that I took prohibitive action. I had recently finished a book on de-cluttering your life and remembered there being a phone number I could call to have my phone number removed from telemarketing databases. I pulled out the book, hunted down the number, and called it. (See below for more information.) After walking through a series of voice prompts and “answering” various questions, I was informed that my phone number would be removed from the database for two years.

While this will be welcome change, it will take three months to go into effect (because telemarketing companies purchase their call lists quarterly). At least I’ll have some peace after that. In the meantime, I get 5 or 6 “hang-ups” a day. The ones that actually do put an operator on the line, I quickly cut off before they start into their “spiel” and tell them 1) “We’re not interested” and 2) “Please remove us from your calling list.” The second part is especially key. Depending on your state’s laws, they may be prohibited from calling you back for up to five years, or face a fine.

Why do telemarketing companies have such power over us? (You run for the phone when it rings, right? That’s power!) Because we let them! “We’re not interested” does not mean the same to them as it does to you. To them it means, “Oh, you’re not interested right now, but maybe tomorrow, or maybe next month, or maybe if we bug you enough.”

Gratefully, at least 30 states have or are working on statewide “No-Call Lists” that will allow people to opt out of telemarketing databases and will require telemarketers to transmit Caller ID information and limit “hang-up” calls. A national “No-Call” list should be in place by Fall 2003. These lists won’t prevent all telemarketing calls (charities are exempt, for example) and there are exceptions if you contact the company for information, etc. You’ll also have to sign up for both of these services so keep an eye out for more information.

In the meantime, what can you do to stop those annoying interruptions and invasions of your privacy? The first option would be to simply not answer the phone, although that really isn’t the easiest solution. You just never know when it might be someone important. And, after all, it is your home that they’re invading.

Some people have opted for a much-touted device called a “TeleZapper” fools the computer that is calling into “thinking” the number is disconnected, thus deleting it from calling lists. It costs around $50, but before you rush out and buy one, you should know that the technology already exists to circumvent this little device, so it may soon be obsolete.

Some people have the calls blocked by their local phone service with options such as Anonymous Call Rejection, Call Screening, No Solicitation messages, Caller ID, etc. In other words, you have to pay to block telephone calls that you don’t want and you must pay for this service every month. Other people record fax beeps on their answering device, which works sometimes, but is not highly effective.

The best way to stop the calls is to have your name and number removed from the telemarketing databases. There are many services available on the internet (and elsewhere) that offer to get you off of calling lists or onto no-call lists. What I did was call 1-888-5-OPTOUT, which is available 24 hours a day.

I did have to leave pertinent information including a Social Security number. That makes some people a little nervous, but you’re not really giving them any new information, and they need that number to get you off the lists issued by the national credit-reporting organizations (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union). While you’re at it you might want to write to DMA Mail Preference Service, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512, and include your complete name (and any others at your household and their various spellings), address, ZIP code, and a request to “activate the preference service.” This should prevent about 75% of your junk mail for up to five years. Be aware that doing this may opt you out of receiving catalogs and specials you would like to receive.

In the end, you are the one who has to take a proactive stance to prevent something you didn’t ask for in the first place. What a shame! However, with just one phone call and one letter, you will be able to put an end to most of those calls and maybe even save a forest as well! Now, if I can just put up with the phone ringing for 2 ½ more months…!

Also consider taking the time to research some of the popular credit monitoring companies and select a free trial to keep track of your credit reports on a daily basis.  It’s a great way to stay alerted of potential identity theft & fraud threats which can devastate your credit rating.

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How To Permanently Delete Files From Your PC

When You Delete Hard Drive Files, Are You Sure They Are Really Deleted?

Your personal computer is often a starting point for the crime of Identity Theft, this is where the bad guys look for bits of your personal information, passwords or even credit card numbers. They often look through your deleted files, that’s right the files that you though were no longer there could still be accessible. The good news is that there are software programs available that will permanently erase deleted files, One of these programs should be part of every computer users tool kit.

When you send a file to the recycle bin, use the delete button to delete a file a photo or anything else. All that really happens is that the attribute that calls that file is changed so that it does not load; the file itself is still intact and accessible on your hard drive. If the attribute is for some reason changed back to again instructing the file to load, it will. This is a simple explanation of what happens when you use the restore command.

Operating system software keeps lists of various files in a variety of places on your computer, while the actual file is stored on your hard drive, your backup hard drive, or even on removable media. Until all of those copies of the original file have been scrubbed and actually overwritten by other text they can be resurrected by simple, readily available data recovery software.

Many files that you would like to delete are sensitive in nature, you want them to be for your eyes only. Records of websites you have visited are retained in various places on your computer. Pass word files, credit card numbers, records of your online transactions. These are all things that when you finish with them, you do not want other people to see.

This should send a chill up your spine. A recent study of over 100 old computer drives (many of them still formatted) revealed more than 5,000 credit card numbers, medical correspondences, love letters, pornography, and banking information. These old hard drives could have been recovered from discarded computers.

Why should you be concerned? Identity Theft is the fastest growing crime in our society. Many times the information needed to start an Identity Theft crime is gathered from an unprotected computer.

How does this information get found?

Anyone who has access to your computer; friend, spouse, boss, co-worker can find deleted information on your computer. They do not have to be a tech wizard.

Hackers constantly cruise the Internet looking for computers that they can gain access too. And with the proliferation of wireless hotspots there are thousands of vulnerable computers online 24/7. When they find one they will use software that will decode passwords, find user names, and look for any bits of information they want to use. The victim, could be you, may never know that their information has been compromised, until they start getting declined for credit or loans, or until they get a credit card bill with charges they did not make. Sometimes the thieves will even submit an address change to your credit card issuer; you will not even get a bill until it is too late.

When you delete an email, no one else can ever read it and when you close your web browser, the sites you’ve been surfing disappear forever – right? Wrong

Here are 5 defenses every security conscience computer user needs to employ.

An updated virus suite, and this does not mean the free version included in your operating system. You need a commercial package that will update your computer automatically to new threats, scan your email, and include protection from spyware and adware. Many of the best credit monitoring services available offer antivirus as well as anti keystroke encryption to keep your pc safe

You need to have the absolute discipline to never open an email message that is not from a trusted source, or that you do not recognize the sender.

You need to perform regular backups, some of the current security/virus suites also offer automatic scheduling of backups.

You should also be using software dubbed shredder programs that permanently erase deleted files. These programs will ferret out all mentions of the files and information you want to delete, and scrub them from your system, and even overwrite deleted hard drive file with random information.

And finally you need to stay abreast of developing threats to computer security, new ones are hatched daily. Occasionally read a computer magazine or at least search for articles that discuss computer security.

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How To Receive Free Credit Reports

Nothing in life is free right? Well in fact you can get free credit reports annually and it won’t affect your credit score. By law, you are entitled to get one free report from each of the big three credit reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian each year thanks to a ruling by the FTC.

Why should you care? Credit reports have an enormous impact on your ability to get credit and at what interest rate. Insurers, landlords, and employers routinely check credit ratings in evaluating whether to insure, rent to or hire people – Is trusting you a good risk? It is important to know as early as possible if there are errors in the report that need to be fixed. You will want to know well in advance before you really need the extra financing, a new home equity loan, extra credit cards or that small business loan. Do you know your credit rating or FICO score? Ensuring that the credit agencies aren’t giving you a bad rap can make or break you and save you thousands over the life of a loan. Doing your own credit check ahead of time to know what is being reported about you is your first step in setting the record straight and protecting yourself.

The formats of the reports from each agency differs slightly, but for the most part they each provide a very detailed account of your credit history, including: the names of your creditors, how much credit they are extending to you, your current balances, whether you have always paid on time or been late and if late, how late, a list of prior addresses, your employment history and employer addresses, any other names you have used, and public records of judgments or liens against you. They even give out your birthday.

The Equifax Credit Report is the cleanest and easiest to read. It has a very concise “Credit Summary” that makes it easy to see at a glance where your credit stands: how many accounts are active, if there has been any negative account history and total balances you are carrying in installment debt on things like your mortgage, auto loan or student loans versus your revolving debt on credit cards or with specific merchants like Nordstrom’s. How to get your free reports from Trans Union, Equifax & Experian:

The rollout has been completed. They are now available to all US residents.

They rolled out by state:

December 1, 2005 – for residents of Western States: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
March 1, 2005 – for residents of Midwestern States: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin
June 1, 2005 – for residents of Southern States: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas
September 1, 2005 –  for residents of Eastern States: Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Puerto Rico and all US territories.

Requests for the free reports can be made by phone by calling toll-free: 1.877.322.8228, through snail mail by writing to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281, or the easiest way through the official website set up expressly to handle these free requests: annualcreditreport.com. Be forewarned – they will ask a lot of nosy questions and you will need to know or have fast access to your account numbers, old employer addresses, and how much your typical payments are to your regular creditors.

If you don’t have all your private information on hand, it costs about $10 to buy a report directly from TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian. You may also want to inquire with the credit bureaus about their credit monitoring service plans, as a way to protect your credit from identity theft & fraud.

Even if the rollout hasn’t reached your state of residency, you are entitled to a free report if:

  • you have been turned down for credit or employment in the past 60 days, based on something reported on your credit report
  • you have reason to believe your credit report has fraudulent information
  • you are a recipient of public assistance
  • you are unemployed and plan to apply for unemployment within the next 60 days

If any of the above situations apply to you it is easiest to get your reports for free by contacting each credit bureau directly toll-free by phone: Equifax – 1.800.685.1111, Experian – 1.888.EXPERIAN (1.888.397.3742), or TransUnion – 1.800.916.8800.

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A Closer Look at the FICO Score

It may be just a little number, but the ubiquitous FICO score has considerable influence on every consumer’s life in the United States and Canada. If you are in need of credit, housing, or a job, the higher your FICO number, the better will be your results. As a good part of your credit worthiness will be judged by this number, you need to be aware of how the FICO system operates and how you can improve your score.

Background of the FICO Score

The FICO score is the most well known and widely used credit score in the United States. It owes that honor to being the first one developed by two visionaries. Bill Fair, a mathematician, and Earl Isaac, an electrical engineer, created the FICO score to help department stores and banks evaluate the creditworthiness of their customers. Fair had been working on investigating mathematical techniques for predicting behavior, and thought they could be applied to the then cumbersome process of loan approvals.

When the first credit cards began to be used in the 1950s, granting credit was entirely a subjective transaction, depending on the personal judgments of the people involved. Credit was largely unavailable to large segments of the population because of biases based on age, marital status, sex, and ethnicity. In 1956, to overcome these barriers and make the process more streamlined, Fair and Isaac started a management consultant company with their new formula.

The scoring system was slow to catch on. The banking institutions were resistant, as they are not known to be acclimated to change. However, the advent of computers allowed credit applications to be fully automated and the flexibility proved to be an advantage to creditors who could now easily work with the score. The IRS boosted the use of the scoring system when they asked Fair and Isaac to devise a system to catch tax evaders which worked very well. Today, the scores of the Fair Isaac & Company, Inc. predominate in the credit world.

A Different FICO Score at Each Credit Bureau

Most people believe that they have only one FICO score, and that it is passed mysteriously around between creditors. In fact, every consumer with a credit card will most likely have a different score at each credit reporting bureau. The Fair Isaac Company only produces the software which is used by the credit reporting agencies to calculate a consumer’s credit score. As each bureau will vary in the information contained in a consumer’s credit file, the scores can be different at each bureau.

FICO Scores Change Monthly

Each consumer’s credit file must have at least one account which has been active in the last six months for a score to be computed monthly. New financial information is constantly added in most accounts due to the complex financial affairs of the average consumer today. Your credit score will be changing along with all the additional information being recorded. If you have been late with a payment, paid off a loan early, or filed for bankruptcy, etc., your credit score can move substantially.

Improving Your Score

For consumers who are trying to improve their credit scores, the following are helpful tips:

Check your credit report at each of the three credit reporting bureaus. In order to improve your score, you must know what is on your report. You can obtain a free report at each of the three bureaus every year. Visit website: www.annualcreditreport.com

Make timely payments on your accounts, as this is one of the biggest influences on improving your credit score. Late payments can lower your score considerably.

Reduce your credit balances. As your balances decline in relationship to your credit limits, your credit score will go up.

If you feel overwhelmed by your financial affairs, seek the help of a reputable financial counselor whose expertise can be invaluable and well worth the investment. Know your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Take a proactive approach to your credit and identity.  Sign up for a credit monitoring service that offers monthly or annual FICO scores as well as daily social security number monitoring.  You will be alerted of changes on your credit reports or if suspicious activity is detected.  This is the first step for securing your identity from fraud.

References:

1. Funding Universe, Fair, Isaac and Company,  http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Fair-Isaac-and-Company-Company-History.html2. My FICO, How to Repair Your Credit and Improve Your FICO Credit Score,http://www.myfico.com/crediteducation/improveyourscore.aspx

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Avoiding Online Auction Fraud

Despite the increase in reports of cyber bulling through Facebook and other social media sites, the number one cybercrime that is reported is by far auction fraud. In particular, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has reported that they have especially seen an increase in auction fraud related to international car auctioning.

An auction that is run is internationally is one of the key signs that you are about to be tricked into giving a fraudster your money. Most of the time when a buyer falls for these tricks, the money is unrecoverable.

In some cases, this can be devastating, but there is nothing that the authorities can do. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is made up of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

They reported that the reports of internet crime made up 62% of the all the complaints that were called in. Undelivered merchandise or payment, credit and debit fraud, check fraud, investment fraud, computer fraud, and confidence fraud were the other categories in which the IC3 received complaints.

This center also stated that the second thing people should watch out for besides international auctioneers is what is called a “second chance auctions.” Second chance auctions are auctions in which the auctioneer contacts the second runner up and tells them that the first buyer fell through and that they can now purchase the item.

Often, the auctioneer will request the buyer to transfer the money to them through an unreliable method. Buyers should only agree to transactions that take place through reliable methods such as an escrow service.

An escrow service is one through which the money is transferred to a third party who is trust worthy that will hold the money until the transaction is completed, upon which the money is given to the seller. The escrow service transfers the money based on pre-determined specifications.

There are several things you should keep in mind as you try to avoid online fraud. The first thing you should do is learn about online fraud.

Learn what kinds of things can give a fraudster away so that you can avoid giving your money to them. You will also want to learn how the auction works, what the rules are, what kind of regulations you must hold to as the buyer, and what the seller’s is responsible for.

These things are all vitally important to know before you bid. In addition, you will want to research the seller.

This is vital to avoiding fraud and you will do it thoroughly every time you consider a bid if you are serious about avoiding fraud. Sometimes the only information placed online by a bidder is his or her email address.

Send a message to the seller requesting more information. If the seller is not forthcoming, do not place a bid as the seller is almost for sure a fraudster.

If the seller happens to be a business, look up the business on the Better Business Bureau. In addition to reviewing the personal information on the seller, you should read the reviews on the seller.

If there are not very many reviews, even if the reviews are good, you probably will want to find another place to purchase the goods. The seller should have long history with 95% positive reviews for you to trust him or her enough to make the purchase.

Remember that even with these precautions, a fraudster can still manipulate the review system on occasion. Be wary and watch out for other signs that you are deal with a fraudster.

Next, you will want to check and see what kind of payment the seller is asking for. Remember that if it is not a reliable, traceable way of payment, you will want to find another way to make the purchase.

You will also want to look at the auction’s policies. Learn what the auction site does when problems arise and warranties are requested.

It is also good to know what their policy is on delivery times, exchanges, and defective merchandise. By the time you are done you should also have a thorough understanding of how shipping and delivery works and how much it costs.

The costs of shipping and delivery are often expensive and this cost is often a surprise to buyers. Do not let this cost be a surprise to you.

Take a proactive approach to keeping your identity safe from fraud, on and offline.  Read who we ranked as the top credit monitoring services this year and sign up for free 30 day identity monitoring & protection. Get free alerts when fraud or suspicious activity is detected so you can take action

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