Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Identity Theft Glossary

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Understanding the many terms related to Identity Theft can be difficult. We have put together an Identity Theft Glossary to help you understand some key terms used when talking about Identity Theft.

Account Takeover: Account takeover is what an identity thief does, using your personal information to coerce a financial institution into giving him full control over your account.

Affidavit of Factual Innocence: An Affidavit of Factual Innocence is a legal document issued by a court, stating that you’re innocent. You may need one of these if you’ve been wrongfully arrested as a result of identity theft.

Affidavit of Forgery: An Affidavit of Forgery is a legal document that states that a certain signature is not yours, but a forgery.

Butterfly Pouch Laminate: Butterfly pouch laminate is a type of plastic that identity thieves use to make a counterfeit license. This plastic allows the thieves to print a logo or official seal on it, which is then laminated onto a driver’s license.

Check Reporting Agencies: These agencies report on consumer’s check writing histories, specifically highlighting incidents of fraud and bounced checks. Lending institutions use these reports to determine whether or not to open checking accounts for individuals.

Check washing: Check washing is another method identity thieves use to steal from you. They dip your check in acetone, which washes the ink off so they can write it for a higher amount.

Consumer Statement: A consumer may add a statement to their credit report explaining certain adverse situations appearing on their credit report including ID Theft. These statements are seldom considered in financial transactions and have no effect on an individual’s credit score.

Credit reporting agency (CRA): There are three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. They keep track of your credit records, and issue credit reports to those who have a legitimate reason for needing to know your credit history.

Creditworthiness: Creditworthiness is the likelihood that you’ll pay back a loan, based on your past credit history. An identity thief uses your creditworthiness as a weapon against you.

Data Encryption: The reversible transformation of data from the original (the plaintext) to a difficult-to-interpret format as a mechanism for protecting its confidentiality, integrity and sometimes its authenticity. Most web sites employ data encryption to protect your information during e-commerce.

Dumpster diving: Dumpster diving is another method identity thieves use to obtain your personal information. They go through garbage bins, looking for people’s personal information. That’s why it’s very important to always shred your important documents before throwing them out.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA): The FCRA is a U.S. federal law that gives everyone the right to see what the CRA's have on file in their credit report. It also outlines permissible purposes for obtaining a periodic free copy of a credit report. And if there are any inaccuracies found, they have the right to dispute them.

Fraud alert: A fraud alert can be put on your credit report at the CRA's if and when you become an identity theft victim. It’s intention is to let everyone know that someone may be trying to obtain new credit in your name, so the process will be very closely scrutinized. In practice, however, this safeguard accomplishes very little as it is often ignored or missed.

Identity fraud: Identity fraud differs from identity theft in that the thief uses personal information that he’s made up, rather than information he’s stolen from a real person.

Identity theft: Identity theft, one of the worst crimes in the world, occurs when a thief uses someone else’s personal information as his own, thereby creating a new identity of an existing person. The new identity then applies for any form of credit he can get. The most common things an identity thief steals are: your name and address, your Social Security (Insurance) Number, your driver’s license number, your employee ID number, your mother’s maiden name, and any account information, including bank accounts and credit accounts.

Identity Theft Passport: Identity Theft Passport programs, are available in a few states such as Ohio and Virginia. The “Passport” is a method of demonstrating to law enforcement and creditors that their identity has been stolen, and of rehabilitating their credit history and identifying any fraudulent criminal charges.

Mail fraud: Mail fraud is a method identity thieves use to obtain your personal information. They steal your mail, which may include pre-approved credit card applications or any other information that will help them get credit in your name.

Opt-out: When you opt-out, you notify a financial institution, insurance company, CRA, or any other company that sells your personal information, that you don’t want your information shared. This is your right, and it protects you from unwanted junk mail and phone calls, not to mention identity theft.

Permissible Purposes: Permissible purposes are guidelines set out in the FCRA that outline the allowable reasons for requesting a copy of a credit report. One of those reasons is if you’re a victim of identity theft.

Phishing: The act of tricking someone into giving them confidential information or tricking them into doing something that they normally wouldn’t do or shouldn’t do. For example: sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft.

PIN (Personal Identification Number): A PIN is your unique personal password that you punch in to an ATM to alert the machine that it’s actually you depositing or withdrawing money. Never write down your PIN where it can be stolen by an identity thief.

Consumer Sentinel Database: Consumer Sentinel is a unique investigative tool, available to law enforcement officials, that allows its members secure, online access to hundreds of thousands of consumer complaints dealing with internet, telemarketing and other types of distant selling fraud.

Shoulder Surfing: Shoulder surfing is the name given to the procedure that identity thieves use to find out your PIN. They either hang around close to the ATM, or wherever you may be entering your PIN, or they can even watch from a distance, using binoculars. Once they have your PIN, you’re in trouble.

Skimming: Skimming is another method identity thieves use to get your personal information. It’s usually done by an employee of a restaurant, a gas station, or any other place where you swipe your card. They have little swiping tools of their own, which they use to quickly swipe your card. A good way to prevent skimming is to always swipe your own card.

Terrorist Watch List: The U.S. master terror watch list is used to stop suspected terrorists from entering the country. Many terrorist groups have been known to use ID Theft as a method to elude authorities and enter the country.

Truncated Credit Card Number:
A truncated credit card number is what you see on many receipts and other papers that have your credit card number on them. All the digits, except for the last four, are x’d out. This is done to protect you from identity theft.

Street term used to describe meth-amphetamine addicts. These addicts often form ID Theft rings to finance their illegal drug habits. Tweakers are drawn to ID Theft because of its relatively low conviction rate and because of the hours they can spend falsifying documents while “on a tweak”.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Tips Offered On How to Prevent Identity Theft

The following is courtesy of:

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Identity theft is a growing trend in the United States. It is a crime that can net the thief a tidy sum of money and runs a low risk of being caught. But to commit identity theft, the perpetrator has to have information, such as a social security number and driver’s license number.

So, how do the criminals get your personal information? According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, they get the information in several ways:
  • by going through the trash to find straight cut or unshredded papers,

  • by stealing an individual’s mail or wallet, by listening to public conversations,

  • by tricking the victim into revealing the information over the phone or by e-mail,

  • by buying the information on the internet or from someone who has already stolen it,

  • by stealing loan or credit applications that an individual has filled out, from personal computers, or

  • from friends or relatives who work with the victim and has easy access to the information.
Businesses and consumers are facing identity theft every day. Many credit card companies warn their customers that their company will never ask for personal information by phone or e-mail and that any suspicious activity should be reported immediately to the proper authorities. Paypal, a subsidiary of E-Bay, warns consumers, on their customer service phone line, that they do not request personal information by phone or e-mail.

After thieves have a person’s personal information, they use it in several different ways. According to www.IdentityTheftPrevention.com, they change the mailing address on credit card accounts to prevent the victim from realizing something is wrong for a while. During that time the criminal is running up large bills.

They open new credit card accounts using the victim’s social security number, date of birth and name. They establish phone or cellular phone service in the victim’s name. They open checking accounts in the victim’s name and write bad checks. They file for bankruptcy to avoid paying debts that they have incurred un-der the victim’s name or to avoid eviction. They drain the victim’s bank accounts. They even take out auto loans in the victims name.

In order to prevent identity theft, the Identity Theft Resource Center offers these tips:
  • Check your credit reports with all three major credit agencies at least once per year.

  • Guard your social security number and when possible don’t carry your social security card with you.

  • Don’t put your social security number or driver’s license number on your checks.

  • Never give your personal information to anyone unless they have a good reason for needing it.

  • Watch out for people trying to eavesdrop on your conversations.

  • Carefully destroy papers that you throw out, especially those with sensitive information.

  • Be suspicious of telephone solicitors.

  • Delete suspicious e-mails without replying to them.

  • Use a locked mailbox to send or receive mail.

  • Reduce the number of pre-approved credit card offers you receive by calling 888-5OPT-OUT.
Identity theft is a growing problem. It hurts the victim and the companies involved. Report any suspicious activity immediately.

For more information, click here.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Note: Change in Publication Frequency

As much as I enjoy researching, compiling, bringing to you daily entries, its time-consumting nature has led me to adjusting my schedule.

Effective next month, and starting on March 1, 2006, I shall move to a once-weekly format.

I would love to receive your comments, either by direct email or posted entries here.

Respectfully submitted,

Etienne A. Gibbs, MSW
The Master Blog Builder

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