Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The 4 R's of ID Fraud (part 2)

   As promised, in this post we'll wrap up the series about ID Fraud.  Check here if you'd like to see the first 3 parts of this series, and the first half of this post.

   So far we've focused on what ID Fraud is, and in the third installment, the steps you should take now if you are a victim.  As we've discussed, having the information for one of your credit cards grabbed in an attack such as we saw on Target or Home Depot doesn't automatically mean you will have other ID Fraud related problems.

   But we should all take steps to reduce our exposure and the odds that our ID and financial information will be fraudulently used... or at least increase the odds that we'll notice any problems quickly.

   We'll continue with the 4 R's: Review, Reduce, Record, Report. (unlike the 5 D's of dodge ball! :-)

Reduce - the amount of information you give out online.
  • Use care when emailing personal information.  Don't unless you need to.  Provide a minimum amount of information. Use encrypted email if it's available.
  • Choose passwords and hints that are not based on personal information.
  • Don't "click here to unsubscribe" from a spam or unwanted message - it just let's them know you exist.
  • Shop online with reputable or known vendors.
  • Delete doesn't really delete.
  • Use malware protection on your home computers and devices.
  • And a bonus tip for online - watch out for Phishing messages.  That's a big topic that I've covered in the past, and probably will revisit as scammer techniques evolve.

Reduce - the amount of personal information you share on social sites.

Reduce - the number of annoying solicitation phone calls and info you receive by using opt-out and Do Not Call.  This can be a long topic in itself, but check out these web sites for more info and to register.

Review - Keep an eye on your postal mail.
  • Pick up new checks at the bank rather than having them mailed to your home - where they can sit unattended in your mailbox.
  • Mail checks at the post office or from a postal service mailbox.
  • Pick up your mail promptly - try not to leave bills and financial or medical statements sitting in your mailbox.
Review - Know who is around you listening or watching when
  • providing personal information over the phone
  • entering a PIN or password
  • writing down personal info or filling out a form
  • You don't need to be paranoid... just aware!
Reduce - your chance of falling for Social Engineering scams.  Social Engineering is a modern term for a con, or confidence scheme or scam.  The scammer exploits a trusting person.  This can include:
  • phone calls asking for money or donations, or to join an organization or cause.
  • a letter indicating that you won something too good to be true
  • online solicitation like Phishing.
   Verify these kinds of requests by searching online or using fraud/scam sites like snopes.com or fraud.org.

ID Fraud Insurance -This is not well named.  There are a number of firms that offer this kind of insurance.  The important thing to know is that this kind of insurance does not prevent ID Fraud.  It also does not typically cover any direct loses from theft.  What it usually does do is cover your out-of-pocket expenses and can help with credit repair activities.  Many consumer advocates say that this is not worth the money.  The bottom line is that, if you're interested, you should check out the policy offerings and get more info before buying.

   Even after doing all of this, a fraudster might still get your personal information by attacking the website or server of an organization that has your information.  They want your personal information because, as Willie Sutton didn't say, "that's where the money is".  We can never control nor fully stop what the bad guys are doing, but we can put in measures to protect ourselves and to quickly detect and notify when there are problems.
  • Review your bills, statements and credit reports
  • Reduce the amount of information you carry, post or give out
  • Record copies of key info
  • Report problems or suspected fraud
   This is a lot of material!  Do you have tips you use that you can share?  What ideas do you have to help minimize these issues?

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