5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Identity Theft

WideModern_IdentityTheftComposite_121813620x413In 2012, 16.6 million people fell victim, amounting to financial losses of $24.7 billion

We’re all experts on identity theft.

Not by choice – but live your life, and it’s hard not to pick up something on the topic. And odds are, you or a friend or family member has been a victim. According to a 2012 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of 70,000 people, 1 out of every 14 Americans ages 16 or older has been a target or a victim of identity theft. Last year, 16.6 million people fell victim to the crime, which resulted in financial losses of $24.7 billion, paid by consumers, companies and credit card companies.

So in the interest of protecting yourself and learning even more about identity theft, here are some things you probably didn’t know.

Military members are particularly at risk. Military veterans file more complaints about identity theft than any other group, according to Scott Higgins, CEO and founder of Veterans Advantage, a national program that partners with corporations, offering discounts on various goods and services. The Federal Trade Commission even designated July 17 as Military Consumer Protection Day to help educate the military about the dangers of identity theft.

What is it about being in the military that makes members such prime targets? Higgins says servicemen and women are conditioned to provide whatever personal information is asked of them throughout their service. “Unfortunately, this ‘conditioning’ often stays with them beyond their careers, leaving them susceptible to both ID theft and data grabbers who bird-dog veterans – offering a small perk and then selling their personal data wherever they can make the biggest buck.”

Medical identity theft is becoming a problem. Just because someone isn’t using your credit card illegally doesn’t mean you’re safe from identity theft. Someone could be using your name to get free medical services at a clinic or hospital, “possibly sticking you with the bill,” says Van Zimmerman, compliance and solutions architect at DataMotion, an email encryption and health information service provider in Morristown, N.J.

According to the Ponemon Institute, a research center devoted to privacy, data protection and information security policy, medical identity theft has increased 20 percent within the past year, and almost two million Americans have fallen victim. How does it happen? A thief with access to your personal information can create a fake ID with your name on it, and suddenly they’re you – at least as far as a hospital or doctor’s office staff knows.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to avoid this since, as Zimmerman says, so many of consumers’ medical files are managed by third parties. But it may give you yet another reason to be careful when it comes to giving out personal information.

Identity theft via computer games is a growing trend. According to Rob D’Ovidio, an associate professor of criminal justice at Drexel University in Philadelphia, video game accounts “are increasingly coming to the attention of identity thieves as they realize that these accounts hold real-world monetary value. Trends in phishing show attacks against financial services, online payments services and online auction brands decreasing, while attacks against video game and social networking brands are increasing.”

Phishing, in case you’re not aware, occurs when scammers construct a fake website with the goal of luring consumers to provide their personal and financial information. For instance, an email hits a gamer’s inbox, stating there is a problem with their account information. The gamer clicks on the link and provides information to the scammer posing as the legitimate service. Or a consumer might receive an instant message, seemingly from a friend, with a link to a gaming website – but clicking on the link brings malware, a type of software that can disrupt your computer or steal your personal information.

D’Ovidio says criminals who manage to access video game accounts through phishing and other methods can also steal virtual money and virtual goods and sell them for real-life dollars. “As well, video game and video game console community accounts are, at times, tied to the account holder’s or their parents’ credit card,” D’Ovidio says.

Click here to view our previous blog post on “Record Breaking Phishing Attack Attempts.”

Search engine poisoning is more popular than ever. “Identity thieves are increasingly using a technique known as search engine poisoning to manipulate the results that show up and bend reality,” says Hugh Thompson, a Columbia University computer science professor and the program committee chair of RSA Conference, an annual information security conference.

Thompson says identity thieves, hackers and attackers can manipulate search engines so that their fake websites “appear higher in the search results than the real thing.”

Then, if it works, you’ve just been phished. Fortunately, there are ways you can spot a fake, and some of them are pretty obvious. If there are a lot of grammatical errors on the site, for example, that may be a danger sign. Many of the rules in the next section can help you realize you’re about to be had.

Criminals like to put fake Wi-Fi hotspots up at public Wi-Fi hotspots. If you go to a hotel or airport and log onto the official Wi-Fi hotspot, generally speaking, you’re perfectly safe. The problem is that you may wind up logging onto a fake Wi-Fi hotspot that simply looks like it belongs to your hotel or the airport, says Thomas Way, associate professor of computing sciences at Villanova University in Villanova, Pa.

He says there’s no sure-fire way to identify a criminal’s hotspot, but there are red flags to look for. First, look for the SSID (service set identification), the “name you see in the list of hotspots, and see if it is the one that the hotel, airport, et cetera, has told you to use,” Way says. “Second, when you get the typical approval page, where you usually click on a button or checkbox to agree to the terms of use, you should never have to enter identifying information, only, at most, a hotel room number and last name. If it asks for more, don’t do it.”

Way adds that just to be safe, look at the URL of the first page. “It should match whatever the page claims to be,” he says. “If it is a hotspot provided by the hotel, it should either be the hotel Web address or it should match the company that is providing the hotspot. If it is a spoof page, it’ll be noticeably different.”

Despite all the talk about online identity theft, you still need to watch your wallet. According to Phrantceena Halres, CEO of Total Protection Services Global, a Charlotte, N.C.-based security services company, only a fraction of identity theft cases are related to online fraud. “The majority is made up of stolen credit cards, checkbooks and wallets,” she says.

That’s because plenty of criminals aren’t computer geniuses. Most of them are hoping you’ve been careless enough to leave your wallet, filled with cash and credit cards, lying on the passenger seat of your unlocked car.

Are you aware of our latest ID Theft Protection Services? First Financial’s latest ID Theft Protection products can easily be set up, there are options for setting up a credit score tracker, as well as a virtual vault to store your important documents and passwords online, and should an ID Theft incident occur – you’ve got an advocate on your side assisting you every step of the way. Ask us how to get started today!*

*Article by  of USNews. Click here to view the article source.

*Identity Theft Insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informal purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

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This Incredibly Common Practice Could Tank Your Credit

ccsRevolve a balance on your credit cards? It’s something many of us do, especially as the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear. But consider yourself warned: It could also be viewed as a red flag by lenders, especially if you’re paying down a smaller share of your debt each month.

Credit bureau TransUnion came out with a new product it calls CreditVision, which gives lenders a two-and-a-half year look back window at how much of your available credit you use and whether you revolve a balance from month to month.

The conventional wisdom is that as long as you keep your credit utilization — the ratio of your balance to your credit limit — under 30% and make your payments on time, it’s OK to roll over a balance from month to month. But TransUnion says people who don’t pay their balance in full every month, which it calls “revolvers,” are up to three times more likely to fall behind on a new loan within two years than people with otherwise similar risk profiles who pay off their credit cards entirely every month, which it calls “transactors.” Therefore, it might be a good idea to pay your balances in full more often than not if you’re looking to get some kind of loan in the future.

“Without the data available in CreditVision —historical balances and actual payment amount — it is very difficult, and inaccurate, to determine whether consumers are transactors or revolvers,” says Charlie Wise, vice president in the financial services business unit of TransUnion.  ”Our research has shown that consumers who are transactors are significantly lower risk on new loans than consumers who are revolvers and have lower subsequent delinquency rates on new loans.”

Although Wise says this doesn’t mean lenders avoid people who revolve balances, but serial balance-carriers should take note. “A consumer’s payment behavior on their credit cards and loan accounts may in fact impact their credit score,” Wise says, once TransUnion starts offering scoring models that incorporate this historical data later in the quarter.

With the introduction of CreditVision, all of the big three credit bureaus now give lenders the ability to take a deep dive into your past charging and payment history.

Equifax came out with a product called Dimensions in August that gives lenders a two-year look back. Among other uses, the company says lenders can pinpoint customers most receptive to balance-transfer pitches and determine how much more debt they can take on before they can’t keep up with their payments anymore.

Experian has offered something similar for a couple of years now as part of its TrendView product. It lets lenders see if people are paying off their cards in full every month, carrying balances or “rate surfing,” transferring balances from one teaser rate to another.

“It can be good or bad, depending on what they’ve been doing,” says Trevor Carone, Experian’s senior vice president of sciences and analytics. If they’ve been paying down their debt, lenders now have proof of that, which is particularly good for people who are wiping out a substantial debt quickly.

On the other hand, if your balances are growing from month to month or if your payments have dropped to just the minimum, “That’s a sign of risk, and lenders will take that into consideration,” Carone says.

It’s a double-edged sword if you’re trying to get a handle on your debt. While it’s great if you’re making strides towards knocking out a big balance, it also means you’re more likely to be targeted for new offers which could lead to temptation and we don’t need an invitation to rack up more debt.

Just over 38% of Americans revolve holiday credit card debt, according to Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO of industry site CardHub.com, and we’re on track to end this year a collective $41.2 billion deeper in credit card debt this year. For the 13% of Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports last November who were still paying off their holiday shopping bills from 2011, this new visibility into their debt could be bad news.

“Short-term changes, if they’re seasonal — lenders expect that,” Carone says. ”If your behavior is persistent for six months or more, it becomes more predictive.”

If you run up a balance around the holidays and then pay it off over the course of a few months, a lender can predict that you’ll continue to behave that way in the future. But if the amount you’re paying on those bills drops as the months go by, or if you pile this year’s Black Friday splurges onto last year’s still-existing debt, it  might not be appealing to see that — even if you never miss a payment.

Don’t forget about our free, online debt management tool, Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live. We also have our First Score Credit Counseling program; a low cost, interactive session ($30) with a First Financial expert, which simulates your credit score with various “what if” scenarios. You can email us at firstscore@firstffcu.com or call 866.750.0100, Option 2 to get started.

Click here to view the article source by Martha C. White of Time.com.

Learn How to Keep up with LinkedIn and How it can Help Your Business at this Free Seminar in May 2013

40274Are you interested in expanding your business and looking to network with fellow business professionals within your field? If so, come out to our free business seminar this month where you will be part of a live and interactive seminar that will answer your questions on how to better make use of the features on LinkedIn for your business in just minutes per week!

Attending this seminar, you will learn:

  • How to create a business profile on LinkedIn
  • How to increase SEO presence with LinkedIn features
  • How to find new business leads and expand marketing reach

Join us on Thursday, May 30th at 8:30am for our free business seminar titled, Keeping Up with LinkedIn and How it Can Help Your Business, presented by Suzanne Stingo of SMS Telecom Expense Management. The seminar will be held at our Wall Corporate Office located at 1800 Route 34 North, Building 3, Suite 302. We invite you to bring a guest but space is limited, so make sure you sign up today!

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Suzanne Stingo has worked in the Telecom and IT area of business for over 30 years. She started SMS Telecom in 1989 to help companies with Telecom projects, management and expense management of Telecom & IT expenses.  She prides herself on being able to work on behalf of her clients & help them accomplish improved results. She has assisted in expansions, mergers, downsizing, reorganizations, and has worked with marketing & sales management teams to implement and train in the use of better communication and web based tools.  Suzanne’s services are customized to each client and she partners with your team in order to bring technology solutions to business challenges.  In 2009 Suzanne added LinkedIn services to her offerings and has been helping individuals and businesses improve their presence, brand and expand their marketing reach thru the LinkedIn web based tools.  She is recognized nationally as a LinkedIn Coach and has presented seminars on this social media tool to many organizations.

FREE Online Banking, Bill Pay, Mobile Banking & Online Safety and Security Seminar this May 2013

internet-banking (1)In a society of rapidly evolving technology, many financial institutions – including First Financial – now offer new ways to manage your finances, including online banking, bill pay, and mobile banking.  However, these services will be of little help to you if you don’t know how to use them or what their features and benefits are! The experts at First Financial will show you how to use these services, their main features and benefits, provide you with some online safety tips, as well as online safety and security precautions at our FREE online banking seminar this month!

At this seminar, you will learn:

  • Step-by-step instructions on how to use our services
  • Main features and benefits of these products
  • Online safety tips to protect yourself

Join us on Wednesday, May 22nd at 6:30pm for our free Wednesday consumer seminar titled, Online Banking, Bill Pay, Mobile Banking and Online Safety & Security, presented by the professionals at First Financial. The seminar will be held at our Toms River Branch located at 1360 Route 9 South, Toms River (Corner of Routes 9 & 571). We invite you to bring a guest but space is limited, so make sure you sign up today!

Register Now!