Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ID Theft - True Life Story

Okay, here is a true life story. The other day a friend of mine answers the phone. I hear him say to the caller, "No, I didn't make that purchase, nope, that one wasn't mine either." He talks for a few more minutes and then hangs up the phone. I asked him who called and he told me that his credit card company called because they noticed some irregular purchases on his account. Apparently, someone had gotten his credit card number and began to go on an online shopping spree. Luckily, the credit card company was on top of it, they notified my friend, put a stop on his card and notified the bank. After speaking to the bank, my friend decided to put a fraud alert with the major credit bureaus and file a complaint with the FTC. After an hour or two all of the work was done, and major damage to his credit was avoided. He does not know how his credit card account got into the hands of criminals, but he is very thankful that the credit card company was able to identify the issue and move quickly to stop it.

Identity theft rose by 22% in 2008, according to an article from A report on id theft was released last in February by Javelin Research. In the report it shows that electronic identity theft accounts for 22% of of reported cases. This data only reflects case of identity theft in which the victims know how their identity was stolen. Low tech methods of identity theft are still the most prevalent, with lost or stolen wallets the top method of identity thieves.

What can you do to protect yourself from electronic identity theft? Eric Esteves, from TechBoston sent a link to an article by Hiawatha Bray, who is an excellent technology reporter from the Boston Globe. He wrote this very helpful article about keeping your computer safe. The article explains antivirus software and how to keep Windows up to date. One piece of advice we never hear enough is not to download any software online unless it is from a reliable source! There are places online, such as, that test programs for malware before they offer them to the public.

Sometimes, as is the case of data breaches, you have no control over if your personal data is stolen. Therefore, it is always a good idea to regularly monitor your credit report, and if you do see a problem, to contact your bank, credit card companies and credit bureaus immediately. The FTC website has a lot of great resources about identity theft and what you can do if you are a victim.

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