We are very excited to begin yet another venture in our mission to reach consumers and educate them about identity theft. This Thursday, December 6th ITRC will be hosting our first ever identity theft Twitter chat. It is our hope that this will help people who are concerned about and interested in identity theft connect with one another. Be it an organization working on identity theft issues, victims of the crime, or service providers these conversations have proven to produce wonderful ideas in the past. The ITRC is optimistic the weekly identity theft chat will do just that.

The first identity theft twitter chat will take place on Thursday, December 6th 2012. Those who would like to participate can RSVP via online invitation. The ITRC will be hosting the identity theft twitter chat every week on Thursday at 11:00 am PST.

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Questions will change every week and December 6th 2012 questions are as follows:

Q1: What do you think is the best way to protect against ID Theft?
Q2: Who do you think is the most vulnerable to ID Theft right now?
Q3: Have you ever been a victim of ID Theft? What happened?
Q4: Would you know what to do if you become a victim of ID Theft?

Following each weekly identity theft twitter chat, users will be able to suggest questions for the next week’s event. In order to participate, users should follow the hashtag #IDTheftChat and include it in all of their responses.

The ITRC hopes that everyone with interest in the issue of identity theft is as excited as we are and that this weekly event will help centralize twitter talk regarding identity theft. This weekly event should also help produce great collaborative thought and perhaps even some unique and novel solutions. Other entities which are interested in becoming a guest host for a weekly chat can contact ITRC’s Social Media Manager at nikki@idtheftcenter.org. We hope you will join the conversation and bring your friends!

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/itrc-launches-anyone3-campaign.

One of the first steps a victim or likely victim of identity theft should look to complete in order to protect their financial well-being is issue either a fraud alert or initiate a credit freeze. At the ITRC call center our advisers regularly receive calls from consumers confused as to what exactly each of these protections do and how they work. In an effort to reduce confusion, what follows is an explanation of what each protection does and doesn’t do, and which one will best fit what type of consumer or victim. For more detailed information, review fact sheet 100 in the document catalogue of the ITRC website at www.idtheftcenter.org.

Fraud Alert – A fraud alert heightens credit issuer’s awareness that they need to authenticate and verify the applicant before issuing credit. Most security conscious banking and financial institutions as well as major credit issuers will take notice of a fraud alert. However, it is not 100% reliable and not always heeded. They don’t affect your credit score but may slightly slow down the application process. When you initially place a fraud alert as a potential victim of identity theft, you will be offered a free credit report as part of your federal rights. This is not the same as the free federal annualcreditreport.com

Security or Credit Freeze – With a freeze; a company may not look at your credit report for the purposes of establishing new lines of credit. Companies you already have an existing relationship with (example: a credit card, loan or utility service) may view your reports but only to review your credit-worthiness. Placing a freeze is a strong step to take and will affect your ability to get instant credit since it can take up to 3 days to thaw a report. However, it also locks out thieves. In those states with freeze laws, most state that victims with a police report get this service for free. Most states also allow the consumer to buy a freeze. You may thaw your freeze anytime you wish to apply for credit but you will need to plan ahead. At the time a freeze is established, the victim or consumer is given a pin number as a way of confirming their identity. Anyone considering a security freeze needs to be very careful not to lose this pin number as it can be extremely difficult to thaw (unfreeze) your credit report without the issued pin number.

The difference between these two options is the level of security. A freeze will place a higher degree of assurance to a victim that new accounts will not be opened, but leaves much less flexibility than a fraud alert. Whichever tool a victim of identity theft chooses, they should continue to be conscientious of what is going on with their credit file and know that the Identity Theft Resource Center is always here to answer questions and assist victims.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/itrc-launches-anyone3-campaign.

Major security breaches often occur over the Internet. As hackers learn to break into corporate – and even government – networks, it can seem like the Internet is the only source of identity theft. However, old-fashioned burglaries are still common, and these thieves are now after more than your wallet or jewelry. They want your identity.

Professional burglars can make money by selling passwords, credit cards, billing statements and identification cards. These burglars often have connections with organized criminal enterprises who know how to milk the information for all its worth. A home security system is the best way to deter criminals from breaking into your home, but if they do get inside, your personal information will need to be secure.

  1. A Safe: A common misconception home owners have is that if they own a safe, they are protected. Some safes offer protection against fire or water and are not designed to protect your valuables from theft. Also, some safes are light enough to be carried away. To protect your valuables and sensitive documents and data from burglars, you will need to choose a safe that is very difficult to break into. You also need to opt for the safe that can be bolted to the floor. A thief can violate a safe in two ways: by carrying it out the door or by breaking into it. Make sure you choose a safe that resists both.
  2. A Shredder: A thief doesn’t even have to break into your home to steal your identity. If you leave sensitive information in the trash, a clever burglar will find it. A simple way to protect yourself against identity theft is to shred all financial statements, paystubs and sensitive documents that you no longer use for tax purposes.
  3. The Trio of Computer Protection: Many of us store information in our laptops and computers, and theft or hacking of these items can have drastic consequences. To protect information from being accessed during a burglary, you can equip your computer with a BIOS password. BIOS stands for Basic Input Output System. This password will prohibit a burglar from booting your computer. However, a computer savvy burglar can remove your hard drive and read the information using another device. To protect against this type of information theft, you can encrypt your files. If a burglar wants to physically remove your laptop, you can deter him with an anti-theft PCMCIA card that sounds an alarm and shuts down the computer when removed from a certain perimeter.

A Few More Tips

Never leave sensitive information in plain view, filing cabinets, dresser drawers or obvious places like a purse or coat pocket. Always remember to set your alarm system and lock doors and windows. It is important to remain daily vigilant as burglars are always on the prowl, and be sure to ask a neighbor to check in on your house if you are gone for a long period of time.

Silvia Brooks is a former real estate agent who works with homeowners to find the best security system for their needs. You can read more of Silvia’s advice at homesecurity.org.

FBI’s Law Enforcement Executive Development Association (FBI-LEEDA) has partnered with LifeLock, an industry leader in identity theft protection services, in order to provide cutting edge seminars on identity theft to law enforcement around the nation. These seminars cover current identity theft laws, the various technologies used in identity theft crimes, and proper identity theft awareness and protection strategies. In addition, this program provides access to databases to assist law enforcement in identity theft investigations.

In the last three and a half years, the FBI-LEEDA/LifeLock Identity Theft Summits have reached more than 7,000 law enforcement officials representing more than 2,500 agencies around the United States. The Summits have been hosted by police chiefs, sheriff’s offices, universities and state attorneys general across 32 states. More than 100 Identity Theft Summits have been held so far, with more than 30 taking place in 2012 alone. LifeLock has been recognized for its Corporate Social Responsibility by both the American Business Awards and Communitas Awards for its work with the FBI-LEEDA program.

Based on a recent Javelin study, the FBI-LEEDA program picked a strong company to partner with to educate and assist law enforcement in the field of identity theft. The study, titled 2012 Identity Protection Services Scorecard: How to Deliver Customer and Market Value in a Regulated $4B Market provides insight into the different companies and services available to consumers who want to protect themselves against identity theft. The Javelin report ranked LifeLock number one, tied with the company Intersections, in overall identity theft protection service when compared with 15 other top companies in the industry.

Based on Javelin’s criteria, LifeLock was the only company to receive a 100% score in the category of detecting breaches to your identity due to their multi-faceted approach of triple-bureau credit monitoring, internet scanning, public records scanning, Social Security Number tracing, and offering a child and family option for the consumer. LifeLock was ranked number two in the category of resolving identity breaches for providing consumers with a certified fraud specialist, 24/7 access to LifeLock’s multilingual 24/7 resolution team and a large identity fraud insurance and service guarantee provided by a third-party insurance provider.

FBI-LEEDA/LifeLock Identity Theft Summits for the rest of 2012 will be held in Prescott Valley, Arizona and Baltimore, Maryland.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/itrc-launches-anyone3-campaign.

Prescription fraud occurs when an identity thief, using your personal information, has a prescription issued and possibly filled under your name. Prescription fraud is just one consequence of medical identity theft, where a thief obtains enough of your personally identifying information to be able to assume your medical identity. Prescription fraud affects the victim in many ways, including their finances, ability to get necessary health care and possibly their ability to check their own health records.

An identity thief using your identity to be prescribed restricted medications, may also use your health insurance to purchase the medication. This means that you, the victim, will often get left with the bill for any unpaid expenses the identity thief incurs while using your identity and medical insurance.

Prescription

It is important to be alert for any explanation of benefits (EOB) you receive from your health insurance provider or bills for medical services you did not seek or receive. This may be your best warning that an identity thief is abusing your medical identity and insurance.

Unfortunately, there are worse consequences to being a victim of prescription fraud than bearing the brunt of fraudulent medical bills. When an identity thief uses your medical identity to be prescribed medication, this information will be incorporated into your health record. Any subsequent medical personnel looking at your record will see the new prescriptions and make medical decisions based on this fraudulent record. Prescription fraud victims have discovered they were victims of identity theft and prescription fraud after their pharmacy refused to fill their current, valid prescription because it conflicted with another medication prescribed to the identity thief.

Lastly, it can be exceedingly difficult to set your health records straight after an identity thief has received services or prescriptions under your name. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, strict rules prevent access to patients’ medical records by unauthorized entities or individuals. Sadly, this very same rule prohibits victims of prescription fraud from accessing their personal health records in order to correct it because health care providers fear it may be a violation of the identity thief’s rights to confidentiality of their medical records.

The best defense to prescription fraud or any identity theft is to be keenly aware of your personal information. Any documents that contain personal information such as your birth date, Social Security number, driver’s license number, or insurance plan information, should be stored somewhere safe and secure or shredded when no longer needed. Do not carry your Social Security card, military identification, or Medicare card on your person as they have your Social Security number on them and are extremely helpful in the hands of an identity theft. New military identification cards no longer have Social Security numbers on them, so if you have an old military ID you can always renew your card to reduce your risk of identity theft.

“Prescription Fraud and Identity Theft” was written by Sam Imandoust, Esq. He serves as a legal analyst for the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to and linking back to the original post.

SC Department of Revenue Reports Record Setting Data Breach

It was admitted publicly by state officials yesterday that the tax and banking information from millions of South Carolinians may have been compromised in a recent exploitation by hackers of the Department of Revenues servers.

What Happened: On October 10, the South Carolina Department of Revenue (DOR) was informed by the South Carolina Division of Information Technology (DSIT) of a potential cyber-attack involving the personal information of South Carolina Tax Payers. On October 12, the state hired an outside IT security firm, Mandiant, which on October 16, determined the intruders accessed state systems in early and mid-September. It wasn’t until eight days later, on October 20, that the suspected security hole was actually closed.

Who It Affects: In the aftermath of this discovery, it was determined that approximately 3.6 million Social Security numbers and 387,000 credit and debit card numbers of South Carolina Tax Payers may have been exposed (The entire population of the State of South Carolina is approximately 4.7 million), making this the largest breach of its kind in state history.

What’s Being Done: “We are taking immediate steps to protect the taxpayers of South Carolina, including providing one year of credit monitoring and identity protection to those affected,” Governor Nikki Haley said in a statement. In an effort to mitigate the potential damage, taxpayers in South Carolina who might have potentially been impacted are being provided one year of credit monitoring. Haley said the state was negotiating to offer protection at about $8 per person, which would cost the state about $29 million if every taxpayer affected registered.

South Carolina Taxpayers that have filed returns in that state since 1998 are encouraged to call the toll-free call center established by the DOR, 866-578-5422.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/itrc-launches-anyone3-campaign.

Almost everybody has heard the horror stories and nightmare scenarios of an identity thief gaining your personal information and using it to establish credit card, loans and other lines of credit that you would not have applied for yourself. But what these scenarios rarely talk about are the steps you can take to prevent such an event from occurring, or what to do to clear your name should you find yourself in this situation.

Something that anybody can do, at any time, is to place a free 90-Day Fraud Alert on their credit reports. This requests that credit issuers (credit card companies, cell phones, etc) contact you first before they approve of any applications for credit. This will not affect accounts you have open or your credit score. As well, you can replace the fraud alert every 91 days at no charge, or extend it to seven years with a police report. The fraud alert can be applied for over the phone or going to each credit agency’s website directly. It’s always a good idea to place the fraud alert with all three companies yourself to make sure that possible fraud doesn’t get in the way of your protection.

Once you place the 90-Day Fraud Alert the credit reporting agencies will send to you a letter with instructions on how to gain a free copy of your credit report. This way you can make sure that everything is ok with your credit reports and fraud isn’t taking place. This report does not count towards your annual free credit report, allowing you to save that one for later.

But what should you do if there is something on your credit report? The first step is to file an Identity Theft Report through the Federal Trade Commission.

Once you have filed an Identity Theft Report, contact the companies that are reporting fraudulent accounts. Request to speak to their fraud or identity theft department and inform them of the fraudulent account. Fill out these documents, get them notarized, and send them back to the company/s with a copy of your Identity Theft Report. Some companies will ask for other things like a photocopy of your driver’s license. Make sure you send these documents with your packet. Make sure you send it Certified Mail Return Receipt so that you get proof of when they received your paperwork.

Continue to talk to these companies and, if need be, send them any documents they may request. If all goes well, they will recognize this was identity theft and they won’t hold you responsible. Make sure you get this in writing. Computers can error and humans make mistakes. These letters of clearance come in handy when this happens.

For more long term/permanent options for protection from identity theft (especially after you have already been victimized) look into freezing your credit reports with the three credit reporting agencies. The process is slightly different for each state, but all states offer the freeze for free to victims with a police report.

For more information, check out the ITRC victim assistance page here: http://www.idtheftcenter.org/knowledge-base.


If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.

I’m an old guy, and have been quite a few places, and done quite a few things. So, not much surprises me anymore. And, along with life’s lessons, I acquired over 25 years of business experience before retiring and ultimately ending up at the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). But one thing that has continued to surprise me for the past 6 years is hearing the details of hundreds of new identity theft cases each and every month. I have found these cases to be constantly changing and evolving, and ranging from simple to very complex. Although I am not a victim advisor, I have been constantly surprised at what ITRC Victim Advisors do each and every work day to help this unending stream of victims.

A victim advisor for the ITRC never knows what the next call will bring. The phone rings according to your position on the phone queue, and now it becomes your call, your turn to listen, assess, question, analyze, discuss, and plan. Hopefully you can make some sense and order out of a victim’s pain and suffering at the hands of an identity thief. The training and preparation to become an identity theft Victim Advisor is by itself daunting. Each person I have seen trained for the job soon shows the signs of “information overload” as they begin to understand the breadth and depth of the information that must be understood and retained in order to appropriately answer that ITRC Call Center phone.

ITRC provides information and help on a wide variety of identity theft cases, scams, and related topics. Identity theft cases can be financial, government related (SSN and DMV), medical, criminal, child related, or Internet/account takeover types of cases. Each of these types of cases will require different actions to correct. In many cases the appropriate response, that will actually do some good, may vary depending upon the laws of the state of residence. And, as if that wasn’t enough, a significant percentage of these callers will have more than one type of identity theft to resolve. In the period January through August 2012, 28% of the victims reported governmental identity theft, usually meaning the illicit use of their SSN in some manner. Approximately 6 out of 10 reported financial identity theft. It is relatively common for a single victim to have financial identity theft at the same time they are a victim of governmental identity theft. Since there are many “sub-types” to each of these major categories, the Victim Advisor has the task of sorting out all the facets of these cases, and determining the appropriate course of action for each.

In addition, victims of identity theft are often very emotional and upset with this unexpected and serious invasion of their privacy. Some need to vent, and most have also been frustrated with endless phone trees, conflicting website information, and probably have found little coherent help with their specific problem. The Victim Advisors deal with a wide variety of personalities, including a few that simply don’t want to help themselves, and expect “someone else” to fix the problems. It is a saving grace that for most of the victims who contact the ITRC this will be their first time to speak with a live person, who is interested in their specific case, and has the knowledge to provide a good roadmap of actions to begin mitigating the problems.

So, I continue to be impressed by what the ITRC Victim Advisors do, and how they do it. In the field of identity theft, they are “in training” every day as exploits used by the criminals are constantly evolving. And it is always a great payback when a victim calls or emails, thanking our advisors for what they do.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/itrc-launches-anyone3-campaign.

When most people think of identity theft they think of a thief opening up fraudulent accounts under their name and information, charging huge amounts of money. What a lot of people don’t consider is the possibility of a thief gaining access to their own credit reports and learning about where they have credit. If you find that somebody has pulled your credit report without your permission, don’t panic. Stay calm, there are things you can do to protect yourself.

The first is to get a copy of your credit reports yourself if you don’t already have one. This can be done by placing a 90 day fraud alert on your credit report by phone, by visiting the three credit reporting agencies’ websites, or by writing to the three credit reporting agencies if you are having problem with the phone or internet. Credit report

Once you have your credit reports you can see all of the companies that currently have accounts under your social security number, and if the thief has started any new accounts.

For lines of credit that are your own, call or physically go to these companies and talk to them about precautions and protections that can be placed on your account to prevent fraud. Most companies will offer a password or pin code for you. In cases of credit cards and some bank loans, you might want to consider changing the account number to make it more difficult on a potential thief. If you have any credit card accounts that you do not use regularly you may want to consider closing them. Make sure you have documentation showing when you have closed any line of credit reported with the CRAs.

If a fraudulent line of credit has been opened by the thief, read Fact Sheet FS 100 on the Identity Theft Resource Center’s website. It will walk you through what to do. After you have secured all of your accounts, consider freezing your credit reports. This will prevent the thief from viewing them again as well as establishing new accounts under your information. You can read about freezing from the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Website., Fact Sheet FS 124.

For continued vigilance, keep track of all statements (mailed or electronic) and watch everything for new activity or charges. Make sure all accounts that are supposed to be closed stay closed. Check your credit reports every year to make sure that everything remains ok and when in doubt, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center at 888-400-5530 for a free phone consultation.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/itrc-launches-anyone3-campaign.

With all the high-tech ways that hackers and identity thieves can help themselves to your money, it’s easy to forget that the “old school” methods are still a very real threat. Things like dumpster diving for your discarded credit card offers or stealing your mail from your curbside mailbox still carry the possibility of a crime.

One viable method of wreaking havoc with your identity is to have your purse or wallet go missing, either through loss or theft. If that occurs, your checkbook can provide an opportunistic thief with a short-lived but still hefty payday.

If you notice that your checkbook is missing, there are some important steps you should take:

1. Is it lost or stolen?

This can be hard to determine, but if you’re able to tell whether it was just misplaced (maybe your wallet fell off the roof of your car when you drove away) versus actively stolen, your next appropriate steps can change. If you’re certain it was just dropped or left behind somewhere, call your bank and have those check numbers invalidated. If you aren’t certain about the numbers in your checkbook, they may be able to help you trace back which numbers you’ve already spent, and go from there.

2. Placing a freeze

If you can’t figure out the numbers or if you aren’t certain this was an accident, your bank might put a freeze on your account. It’s temporary but immediate, and it can prevent a thief from spending money in your name. That’s why it’s important to contact your financial institution as soon as you know something’s wrong.

3. Closing the account

Ultimately, your bank may decide that closing the account is the best option, especially if someone got a lot of checks or your bank cards. They will usually meet with you to determine which pending transactions are valid, such as any automatic bill pay items like your power bill, and help you establish a new account.

4. Transfer those draft payments!

If you do have to open a new account, make sure you think about all of the automatic draft payments you have, such as utility bills, gym memberships, or other recurring items. You don’t want a constant reminder of this headache every time your electricity is shut off or your membership expires for non-payment.

5. Decide if a police report is warranted

If you think you might have just lost your wallet, you might not need a police report. However, it’s a good idea to contact your local law enforcement office anyway and let them determine if you need to file any paperwork. After all, the person who finds your missing wallet might not be honest and could use your identification or your cards for fraud. If you do know that it was stolen, then you definitely should alert the police and file a report.


If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.