What’s the Most Dangerous Kind of Identity Theft?

6a0154366bdf49970c017d4230dc0a970c-800wiLike the thieves behind the crime, identity theft can take on many disguises depending on the information stolen. When identity theft goes undetected, these crimes can not only cost victims their money, but also their health and well-being.

It’s nearly impossible to avoid identity theft, but awareness and vigilance are key to fixing the problem if you do get hit. As each kind of identity theft could be more deadly than the next, here are three particularly dangerous types of identity theft.

Child ID Theft

  • What makes it dangerous: Thieves often go after children’s identities through stealing data from schools or even taking their relatives’ information. Children will likely not know they were victims until they grow older and are denied for their first loan, credit card or even housing – because of a poor credit history. This blemished credit report could cause them to be denied new lines of credit, which could stunt their financial wealth.
  • How to avoid this identity theft: Check your child’s credit by requesting a free credit report (you can get your own credit reports for free once a year) and dispute and close any unauthorized accounts that were opened.

Medical ID Theft

  • ​​What makes it dangerous: Although consumers may think their medical information is not a target for cybercriminals, healthcare companies are becoming increasingly targeted. Data breaches in the healthcare sector could result in your information falling into the hands of thieves who could then use this data to take advantage of medical services. A report by the Ponemon Institute found medical identity theft has risen 22%, resulting in patients’ health information potentially being mixed up with thieves’, which could lead to potentially deadly medical mistakes.
  • How to avoid this identity theft: Always read the data privacy statement your healthcare provider gives you before agreeing to the terms and monitor your accounts in case of fraud.

Tax ID Theft

  • What makes it dangerous: Tax fraud through identity theft is an easy way for criminals to make money. The Internal Revenue Service has been known to give out billions in fraudulent tax refunds.
  • How to avoid this identity theft: File your income taxes early each tax season and shred any and all documents with your personal information on it.

While medical identity theft is dangerous in almost every aspect of your well-being – from a health to a financial standpoint – these other types of identity theft could also pose a threat to your or your loved ones’ futures. By protecting your personal information, you could help curb this crime and keep yourself from becoming a victim. Any large, unexpected changes in your score could signal new-account fraud and a sign that other serious forms of identity theft are on the way.

Be sure to enroll in our Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa – don’t wait until it’s too late! The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – click here to enroll today!

*Original article source written by Patricia Oliver of USA Today.

Warning: Children Can Be Exposed to ID Theft Through Data Breaches

Saving money in a piggybankAdults aren’t the only ones who can have their identity stolen. Tens of millions of American children had their Social Security Numbers, dates of birth and health care ID numbers stolen in the data breach at health insurance giant, Anthem Inc. Criminals can now use those stolen Social Security Numbers to open accounts, get medical treatment, commit tax fraud, and so on.

Because the children’s information was linked to their parents’ data, it can also make it much easier for cybercriminals to commit fraud against their parents as well, said Tim Rohrbaugh, chief experience officer at Identity Guard.

The Social Security Number was never supposed to be used as a national identifier, but it’s become that. For an identity thief, that nine-digit number is the key that unlocks your life. A child’s SSN is even more valuable. Here’s why: for most minors, their number is pristine – it’s never been used and is not yet associated with a credit file. That means there’s very little chance that the credit reporting agencies are monitoring it.

A criminal can take that stolen number, combine it with someone else’s name, address and birth date to create a fake ID that can be used for fraudulent purposes. All too often, this fraud is not detected until the child reaches legal age and applies for a student loan or tries to get a credit card. By that time, their credit history is ruined and it could take years to undo the damage.

Parents need to be on guard.

“Now it’s really all about detection,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). “Parents need to keep an eye out for any red flags that signal their child’s stolen Social Security Number has been used by a thief.”

Those warning signs include:

  • Collection calls or notices for a debt incurred in your child’s name
  • Mailings that would generally be for someone over the age of 18, such as pre-approved credit card offers, jury duty notices, or parking tickets
  • An insurance bill or explanation of benefits from a doctor listing medical treatments or services that did not take place
  • A notice from the IRS that your child’s name and/or Social Security Number is already listed on another tax return

Fraud experts encourage all parents to check to see if their underage children have credit reports. All three of the major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, allow parents to do this at no cost.

“If they have [a credit report], it could be an indicator of fraud. If not, you probably don’t have anything to worry about,” said Experian spokesman Rod Griffin. “If your child has a credit history and you don’t know why, you should be very concerned.”

In that case, you should put a “freeze” on any fraudulent credit files – it’s free, so that those files cannot be used to commit more financial fraud using your child’s stolen identity. Then you’ll need to work with the credit bureaus to remove the false information from that account. The Identity Theft Resource Center can help guide you through the process. Be advised that once your child becomes an adult, you’ll need to contact the bureaus to get the freeze lifted or they won’t be able to get any credit cards or loans.

Parents should do this fraud check once a year until their children become adults and can then check their own credit history. Finally, don’t think you’re safe because you don’t have Anthem. Remember, there are many other ways a crook can snag your child’s Social Security Number.

Article Source: Herb Weisbaum for NBC News, http://www.nbcnews.com/business/personal-finance/millions-children-exposed-id-theft-through-anthem-breach-n308116

 

 

 

Debit vs Credit Cards: Which is safer to swipe?

holiday-credit-or-debitDuring a data breach where fraudulent transactions occur, debit card users could face much bigger headaches than credit card users.

That’s because debit and credit cards are treated differently by consumer protection laws. Under federal law, your personal liability for fraudulent charges on a credit card can’t exceed $50. But if a fraudster uses your debit card, you could be liable for $500 or more, depending on how quickly you report it.

“I know people love their debit cards. But man oh man, they are loaded with holes when it comes to fraud,” said John Ulzheimer, credit expert at CreditSesame.com, a credit management website.

Plus, if someone uses your credit card, the charge is often credited back to your account immediately after it’s reported, Ulzheimer said. Yet, if a crook uses your debit card, not only can they drain your bank account, but it can take up to two weeks for the financial institution to investigate the fraud and reimburse your account.

“In the meantime, you might have to pay your rent, your utilities and other bills,” said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. The organization recommends that consumers stick to credit cards as much as possible.

Whichever card you decide to swipe, here are ways to protect yourself from scammers.

Be vigilant with your accounts: The Target hack is just the latest in a long history of data breaches, and it likely won’t be the last.

As a result, you should check your debit and credit account activity at least every few days and keep an eye out for any unfamiliar transactions. If you notice anything fishy, notify your financial instituion or credit card company immediately.

“Waiting until the end of the month to check out your credit card statement for fraudulent use is a relic of the past,” Ulzheimer said. “Fraud is a real-time crime, and we as consumers have to be constantly engaged.”

Set your own fraud controls: Financial institutions have their own internal fraud controls, but some transactions can slip through the cracks, said Al Pascual, senior analyst of security risk and fraud at Javelin Strategy & Research.

Many financial institutions will let you set alerts for account transactions. Even better, some allow you to block transactions that are out of the ordinary for you, such as for online purchases at a certain kind of retailer or for any purchases over $500.

“We believe that consumers are going to know best as to how to protect their account,” he said. “They know their own behaviors.

Watch out for fraud hotspots: You should be especially wary of using a debit card online and at retailers more vulnerable to fraud.

Gas stations and ATMs are hotspots for so-called “skimmers,” or machines that scammers install to capture your card information. Watch out for ATM parts that look unusual and always cover your hand when typing your PIN in case a camera is watching, said Shirley Inscoe, a senior analyst with the Aite Group.

Don’t let your guard down: If you think your information has been compromised, don’t assume everything’s fine after a few months. Stolen card information is often sold to a variety of groups on the black market who may hold onto it for months or even years.

“Many times these fraud rings will wait until the news dies down and people have forgotten about it before they use that data,” Inscoe said. “It may not be used until next winter, so it really is a good idea for people to monitor their activity.”

If you fall victim to ID Theft, don’t panic – First Financial is here to help! Report the incident regarding any of your First Financial accounts immediately, by calling us at 732.312.1500 or emailing info@firstffcu.com

*Article by Melanie Hicken of Yahoo Finance – click here to view the article source.

Protecting Yourself From Holiday Fraudsters

HolidayMailTheftThe holiday season is here and you’re beginning to spend your hard-earned money while shopping online, by phone, or in stores—and fraudsters are on the prowl, ready to steal your cash and personal information. Don’t let these criminals get away with ruining your financial security.

We encourage you to protect yourself against fraud now before it’s too late. Below are some easy strategies you can use to help better detect and avoid falling victim to fraud and identity theft.

  • Review Credit Reports at Least Once a Year. This will help ensure fraudulent accounts have not been opened using your personal information. Additionally, the Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles consumers to a free credit report once a year from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies. You can receive your report by contacting the credit reporting agencies directly or by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • Shred Documents with Personal and Financial Information. Financial statements, credit card offers and billing statements are examples of documents you should be shredding. Consider going to a local shred day in your area so you can safely discard your personal and financial records.
  • Monitor Financial Statements and Online Banking Regularly. You should get into the routine of checking your statements and periodically reviewing your account transactions and online activities. This will help identify unauthorized account activities early, preventing potential losses to your personal accounts.
  • Ensure Children Understand What Information to Provide Online. Fraudsters will often use a game or a free offer that will request personal information, or will include spyware to track and steal information from your computer or mobile device. Protect yourself by encouraging your children to limit online contact to friends they actually know, setting privacy controls to restrict access to private information, and enabling parental controls that allow access to only trusted sites. It is also a good idea to talk to your children about not giving out their name, address, date of birth, or any other personal information online without talking to you first.
  • Beware of Downloading Sneaky Apps. Smartphone or social networking applications may provide application developers with access to your personal information, such as messages, contacts, emails and photos. Often, this information isn’t related to the application’s purpose. Instead developers may share the information with marketers or other third parties. Be sure to read the privacy policy of each application before downloading to understand what private information you’re sharing.
  • Look Out for Scams Involving Social Engineering. Fraudsters may impersonate a credit union (or other legitimate organizations) to trick you into giving out personal account information. This social engineering tactic is often utilized as part of an elaborate scheme involving phone calls, emails, text messages and other forms of communication. Keep in mind that you should never reply to unsolicited telephone, email, text or pop-up messages asking for personal account information. It is important to understand legitimate organizations never ask for sensitive information over unsecured communication channels. Click here to view some important articles with tips and advice about how you can protect yourself from fraud. Remember, a fraudster’s greatest advantage is your lack of knowledge and awareness – so get educated!
Don’t wait until it’s too late – to learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!

new%20ncua%20disclaimer-resized-600

Identity Theft is Growing and Becoming Costly to Victims

2282_identitytheftYour credit-card data is out there and criminals are buying and selling it in bulk. Credit card data theft is exploding, increasing 50% in a five year period, according to the figures from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Millions of card numbers are for sale. A single number might go for $10 to $50; a no-limit American Express card number for a consumer with good credit can sell for hundreds of dollars, said Monica Hamilton, marketing director at cyber-security firm McAfee Inc. in Santa Clara, California.

As a result, identity theft has become big business. The number of malicious programs written to steal your information has grown exponentially to an estimated 130 million, Hamilton said. The most successful identity thieves have learned that it’s more lucrative to hack into businesses, where they can steal card numbers by the thousands or even millions.

Losses suffered by the businesses they hack can be staggering — an estimated $150 to $250 for each card number stolen. Those costs come in the form of legal settlements, fees for consultants hired to remove malware, and personnel hours spent notifying customers. The costs are passed on to consumers in the form of higher retail prices and credit-card fees.

Identify theft, defined as the successful or attempted misuse of credit card, bank account or other personal information to commit fraud, is expected to surpass traditional theft as the leading form of property crime. Security analysts say everyone should prepare to become a victim at some point. Yet identity theft often goes unreported, and the crimes that are reported are rarely investigated.

Most local law enforcement lacks the personnel and expertise to investigate smaller identity crimes, and the FBI is only interested in massive cases involving hundreds of victims or more, Rasch said. According to some police, it is often impossible to locate the perpetrators of identity-related crimes, which makes them among the most difficult cases to solve.

“In identity theft cases it is difficult to identify the suspect(s) as they often use inaccurate information such as addresses and phone numbers,” Rasch states. “Frequently the investigator cannot find evidence to prove who actually used the victim’s name and/or personal information over the phone or Internet.”

A study by the Washington, D.C.based Identity Theft Assistance Center, found that child identity theft is even more difficult to detect and resolve than adult identity theft. One problem is children often don’t find out until years later that their identities were stolen and their credit histories damaged.

Another disturbing aspect of child identity theft is the prevalence of “friendly fraud,” in which a family friend or relative — steals the child’s identity, using the child’s pristine credit history to open credit card accounts and take out mortgages and loans. According to the study, more than 70% of reported child identity fraud is friendly fraud.

Challenge for retailers

Individuals can have their identity stolen in a number of ways, including while swiping credit or debit cards at the cash registers of trustworthy retailers. Identity thieves use computer programs to infiltrate retail systems and begin siphoning off bank card numbers when purchases are made. Point-of-sale system hacking is a serious and growing problem, according to business-security expert Kim Singletary.

Singletary, director of technical solution marketing at McAfee, said the security software company has discovered about 130 million unique malware programs from across the Internet. Many of the programs are designed to infiltrate point-of-sale systems and steal customer data that can be sold or used to make fraudulent purchases, Singletary said. The fact is, no retailer can protect customer data with 100% certainty because every store, from huge chains to small mom-and-pops, relies on computer systems that are inherently vulnerable, she said.

“Software is fallible, and software can be compromised,” Singletary said.

Little enforcement

Merchants, who usually incur the greatest losses from identity theft, often don’t pursue an investigation because it’s expensive, and the chances of solving the crime are slim, former federal prosecutor Rasch said. As a result, identity thieves usually get away with their crimes. “They get to do this with impunity,” he said.

The upshot is that it’s easier and safer for an identity thief to steal $100,000 worth of credit card numbers than it would be to shoplift an inexpensive item from the store. “These crimes are going to become more numerous, and they’re going to become more sophisticated,” Rasch said.

What thieves want

According to cyber security expert Mark Pribish, identity thieves look for specific pieces of information:

  • User names, passwords and PIN numbers.
  • Social Security numbers.
  • Phone and utility account numbers.
  • Bank and credit account numbers.
  • Employment and student identification numbers.
  • Driver’s license and passport numbers.
  • Professional license numbers.
  • Insurance identification numbers.
  • College or university financial aid form information.
Identity Theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States. It can happen to anyone, anywhere – regardless of how careful you are, your age, income, or where you live — so don’t wait until you become a victim. To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!

*Click here to view the article source.

new%20ncua%20disclaimer-resized-600