Entries in Identity Theft (16)


3 Things You Should Never Carry in Your Wallet

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- More than eight million Americans were the victims of identity theft last year. What the personal information thieves are looking for can often be found right in your wallet -- which is why it's so important to know what's in there. Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments, talks about what you should and should not have in your wallet.

1. Your wallet can contain your life, which is not always a good thing. Let's start with what we should keep in our wallets. Credit cards? Yes, you should carry a credit card. But just one credit card. The good news is that most people now have two credit cards, which is down from three cards just a year ago. The more cards you carry, the more likely you are to over-extend yourself. Also remember even if you have a credit card in your wallet but never use it, it adds to your available credit, which affects your credit rating.

2. So you should carry some cash? It is important to carry some cash. Studies show that when people use plastic versus cash they spend 12-18 percent more. Also, you don't want to use your credit card or debit card to buy things like gum and other small purchases. If you're just paying your minimum balance, you could end up paying interest on those small purchases.

3. Should we save all our receipts, and is our wallet the right place to keep them? Receipts not only clutter your wallet, but they could contain information about you that identity thieves could use. So you should take any receipts out of your wallet every night. Either reconcile them at the end of the week online against your bank account or credit card website, or save them until the end of the month and reconcile them against your monthly statements. But don't store them in your wallet.

4. What else should you not have in your wallet? The number one thing you should not carry in your wallet is your social security card. If it gets into the wrong hands, it can be used for everything from buying a car to opening a credit card. You should also never carry your passport in your wallet. Even if you are traveling in a foreign country, leave your passport in your hotel and just carry a photocopy of the picture page. And of course do not keep a list of your PINs and passwords in your wallet. That would be a gold mine to a thief. Keep those passwords at home.

5. What else should we take out of our wallets? Don't keep anything in your wallet that has expired. This includes old credit cards or membership cards. Just because they've expired doesn't mean thieves will not try to use them. Also remember most of them have at least your name on it, and probably your address and other personal information. The more information you can keep out of the hands of others, the better. Many people carry old hotel key cards in their wallet. Although almost all U.S. hotels do not put personally identifiable information on their key cards, the cards can often be used to make purchases at the hotel spa or gift shop. My best advice is destroy them after you have checked out, you don't need to return them to the hotel.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Risk for Cyber Scams Up with Osama Bin Laden's Death

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The death of Osama bin Laden may not just mean an increased risk of terror attacks across the country, but the possibility of more cyber scams on the Web.

Following the news that bin Laden had been killed and buried at sea, computer researchers said cyber scammers were quick to set online traps for people searching for and sharing information about the terrorist leader.

In the day following the big news, Kurt Baumgartner, a senior security researcher for Kaspersky Labs, a security firm, said cybercriminals started using top search results related to bin Laden in Google Images to redirect people to pages filled with malware.

Baumgartner said if they searched for "Osama bin Laden" in Google Images, one of the highest results on the page could have taken them to a malicious website ready to infect their computers. Some poisonous pages try to convince users that their computer is already infected with a virus, and then prompt them to pay for and download fake anti-virus software.

Facebook users looking to share links and "like" stories and video face a different kind of risk.

Ads on the social network may promote offers celebrating bin Laden's death -- such as those for free tickets or free sandwiches -- but by clicking on the ads, users are just redirected to scam-filled pages that prompt them to turn over personal information, Baumgartner said.

As they "like" the ads or click on the fake links, they give online criminals a way to reach their Facebook contacts and spread the scam to their friends. They also help the crooks collect email addresses or other valuable information.

Security researchers at Sophos Labs said a "death video" scam related to bin Laden was spreading virally on Facebook. Messages leading to the video link claim there is banned video of bin Laden's final hours. But by "liking" and sharing the link (which doesn't actually point to video at all) Facebook users give cyber criminals access to their contacts while helping them collect money (Sophos says they get paid per click).

"People should understand on Facebook that when there are these great offers, usually the offers are too good to be true," Baumgartner said. "And just because something has been posted on a friend's wall it doesn't mean it's from them." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Watch Where You Shop Online

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As online shopping continues to gain popularity, so do the chances of getting hacked or scammed.  That's why consumers need to be careful where and how they shop.

When shopping online, consumers are advised to stay with a name they know and can trust.

"You shouldn't trust a search engine to pull up a trustworthy site," says Cameron Huddleston with  "Scammers, criminals will seed these search engines with fraudulent sites."

Those fradulent sites could then steal your personal information.

"If your credit card information is compromised, then you could become a victim of identity theft," he says.

And if you use eBay, craigslist or a similar site, beware of wiring money.

"If a seller is asking you to wire money, the alarms should go off," says Huddleston.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Online Identity Theft Prompts Security Guidelines From White House

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As a way to combat online identity theft in the age of digital shoplifting, the White House has developed a plan dubbed the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, or NSTIC.

"Today, we take another major step; this one to ensure that the Internet's security features keep up with the many different types of online transactions people now engage in," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said at the unveiling last week.

For the typical consumer, the plan means a partial consolidation of Internet logins, a kind of "Facebook Connect" for online shopping, with the government's stamp of approval.  Another part of the plan lays the groundwork for hand-held authentication devices.

People in the near future could verify their online identity through a cell phone or keychain.

"Today, we have lots and lots of usernames and passwords and, generally speaking, people have pretty bad habits," Aaron Brauer-Rieke, a fellow at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said.  "They don't use good passwords.  They use repeat passwords for the same username across the Internet."

Of course, too few passwords can also present a problem.

"On the flip side of the scale, if you have one username and password, that's also a bad security situation," Brauer-Rieke said.

So policy makers will aim for a balanced approach, emphasizing the need for multiple login providers as a way to combat identity theft.  Improved security could encourage consumers and financial services companies to adopt mobile payments through smartphones.

Proponents of the system emphasize that the program would be voluntary.  Industry and government want to avoid the appearance of a mandatory national online identity program.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Identity Thieves Target Tax Refunds

Ryan McVay/Photodisc(WASHINGTON) -- Tax day is less than two weeks away, and this year, for the first time ever, the Federal Trade Commission says tax refunds are the No. 1 target of identity thieves.

The FTC said complaints fall into three main categories:

Fake Tax Prep Services: Thieves offer to do other people's taxes for free. They then file fraudulent returns with Uncle Sam, and hijack the refunds for themselves.

Employment Fraud: A crook gets a real job, but gives a stolen Social Security number. The crime is revealed when the person with that Social Security number gets a notice saying they failed to declare income.

Stealing Dependents: In this scenario, crooks snag a child's Social Security number, then lie on their returns by claiming the child as their own -- all to try to score a larger refund.

"From the criminal's perspective, a little bit of money from a great number of people starts to add up," said Steven Toporoff, an attorney at the FTC.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


BBB Lists Top 10 Scams of 2010

Photo Courtesy -, Va.) – The unemployed and those in other financial straits were among the most targeted by scams and ripoffs in 2010, according to the Better Business Bureau.

“With the economy still on the mend, scammers had a field day targeting struggling families who were looking for work and trying to make ends meet,” said Stephen A. Cox, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “While some of the most popular scams are perennial problems that have always plagued consumers, some new additions to the list are signs of our tough economic times.”

The BBB on Tuesday released a list of the year’s top 10 biggest scams and schemes as carried out by everyone from hackers to crooked businesses.

Among the most widespread scams were those looking to get personal information from job-seekers and debt relief companies who left customers out to dry.

Other scams that made the list were identity theft, lottery scams and work-from-home schemes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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