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Identity Theft

INTRODUCTION ABOUT IDENTITY THEFT

You might think you will never be a victim of identity theft. But, anyone CAN have their identity stolen. How do I know? Because, in 2009, I learned that someone was trying to use one of my credit cards. Someone, somewhere had hacked into some computer system and obtained everything they needed to use one of my credit cards. Thankfully, the credit card company recognized the fraudulent activity and telephoned me to inform me that there were suspicious charges on my account. I was able to get all of the charges removed. That credit card account has been closed and I now have a new account with that company. I am one of the lucky ones as it cost me nothing more than a few minutes of aggrevation on the telephone with my credit card company. How and where my card information was comprimised will probably never be learned. But, it shows that identity theft can happen to anyone at anytime.

And even if you never are a victim of identity theft, the identity theft of others actually cost you money! How? Think about it. If a credit card company loses money due to an identity theft, they have two choices: (1) absorb the cost as a reduction of profit or (2) increase the rates on their credit cards to other card holders. Or, if you have a department store credit card, they might even increase the prices on their inventory. So, we all have a vested interest to try and reduce these crimes.  

PHISHING

A very common method of identity theft occurs through PHISHING. What is phishing? Think of a fishing trip. If you through enough lines out into the water, eventually you will catch a fish (phish). The crooks here are basically doing the same thing. They may send millions of emails looking as if it is from a legitimate business or government asking you for some information. Usually, your account number, social security number, user id and passwords. From there, they have everything they need to steal you blind. 

So, in an effort to stop this or at least attempt to reduce it, I am creating a list of email addresses for forwarding these phishing emails.

HOW YOU CAN HELP STOP PHISHING

We all can help in stopping this problem. If you know of other email addesses to send spoofing or phishing emails, please send them to me and I will add them to the list.

And, most importantly, forward the emails to the company or the various agencies.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF YOU GET A PHISHING EMAIL

1 - If it is in your "Junk" or "Spam" folder, move it to your inbox. Most email programs deactivate the links in the "Junk" and "Spam" folders.  The companies need the link to fight the crooks.
2 - Forward the email to the appropriate email address.
3 - Delete the email you received and the email you forwarded from your email program.
4 - Empty your trash from your email program.
5 - Exit the email program and go back into it.

NEVER RESPOND TO A PHISHING ATTEMPT!!!!!

EMAIL ADDRESSES TO SEND YOUR PHISHING EMAILS

Government:

Internal Revenue Service:  phishing@irs.gov

Other:

UPS (United Parcel Service): fraud@ups.com

To report SPAM that is not a phishing email (ie asking for personal information), you can forward that email to the Federal Trade Commission. Send that email to:spam@uce.gov

CREDIT CARD APPLICATIONS

Another way that thieves steal your identity is through "preapproved" credit card applications. Thieves go through trash looking for these forms. They fill out in your name and open accounts in your name. So, if you receive these, you should shred them so that they cannot be used. You can also "Opt Out" of receiving these by calling 1-888-5OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688).

OTHER HELPFUL HINTS

1 - Give your mail to a postal worker or drop it in a SECURED mailbox. Do not, leave outgoing mail in your mailbox. Thieves can obtain your statement and your checking account information from your mailbox.
2 - Use a mail slot instead of a mailbox.
3 - Shred, shred, shred. Shred anything that has your name, account numbers and other personal information.
4 - Avoid giving personal information over cordless phones. The signal can be intercepted and your conversation recorded.
5 - Avoid giving personal information over the telephone unless you are sure who you are talking too. 
6 - Avoid using links in emails to open websites. Instead, physically type the address in your browser.
7 - Check your credit reports at all 3 agencies on a regular basis. You can obtain your credit report free of charge on an annual basis. 

We all have seen the guys singing about your free credit report - remember that is in reality a PAY site. You actually are signing up for a pay service UNLESS you cancel their service. 

You can obtain your credit reports by calling the various credit reporting agencies at the following 

Equifax:  800-525-6285
Experian:  888-397-3742
TransUnion: 800-680-7289 

8 - Subscribe to a credit card or identity theft prevention service. But, do not soley rely on them to help prevent identity theft. I subscribed to such a service but my incident was on an existing account soooo, the identity theft service did not catch the possible hijacking of my credit. 

STATE OF TEXAS EFFORT

The Texas Attorney General is actively fighting cyber crime. Texas has set up the following site which has an unbelievable about of information on protecting you from identity theft.