Electronic Fraud and Identity Theft

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Human beings are pretty sensible when presented with an

imminent threat or risk. That is, if it’s staring us

directly in the face. Many threats and risk are presented in

subtle ways, and it is these subtleties we tend to

overlook.

It’s The Little Things We Tend To Overlook

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Thousands of years ago, it was the subtle things that caused

us to take action, to error on the side of caution and

protection. A good example, the reports regarding animals

seeking refuge early on during the tsunami that claimed the

lives of over 300,000 people this past January. Over time,

most people have lost the ability to identify the signs,

determine the probability, validity, and impact of certain

threats and risk.

Making Assumptions vs. Staying Vigilant

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At home, my family has given me the nickname “Safety Dad”. I

tend to be hyper-vigilant when it comes to the safety and

protection of my family, probably to a fault. I take a

similar position on the security of my computer systems and

my financial well-being. On the other hand, I tend to make

assumptions about things when I should not. For the most

part, I like to think that people are good natured. I

believe the majority of people would like to think this way.

The sad fact is, this is an assumption that can impact us

greatly, and not in a positive manner.

The purpose of this article is to share with you my thoughts

and position on some of the basic things you can do to

protect yourself from several types of threats. Particularly

those that involve electronic fraud and Internet fraud.

Although some of these items are not directly related to the

Internet, the moment someone has your private or financial

information (identity theft), the Internet will be one of

the first places they visit.

(Protect Yourself Against Electronic Fraud)

Automated Teller Machines (ATM) & Skimmers

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Have you ever heard of a “Skimmer”? If you haven’t, you need

to be aware the risk this presents you. Skimmer’s are

devices that appear to be a legitimate part of an automated

teller machine but are in fact, fake card readers. They

capture all the information stored on the magnetic stripe on

the back of the card. Skimmer’s have been around for quite

some time but their use is on the rise again. The following

link will show you what a skimmer may look like and how it

is used.

Links

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http://www.defendingthenet.com/Newsletters/ATMSkimmerFraud.htm

Did you know the cost to a bank or ATM vendor is minimal if

their machine is compromised, but to you it may be severe?

The company that owns the ATM only has to worry about the

cost to replace the machine, plus the amount of money

inside. You, on the other hand, stand to loose not only your

bank account funds, but possibly your identity.

Phishing and Web Site Redirection

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This type of electronic fraud comes in many forms, and is

one of the most popular ways of collecting private

information, and money from the masses. Why? Because it is

simple to do and very effective.

If you receive an e-mail from your bank, credit card

company, or other online merchant like, Ebay.com or

Amazon.com, requesting information such as passwords and

financial info, delete it and report it immediately. Many of

these e-mails link you to web sites that look exactly like

that of the real company but are in fact fakes. Take a look

at Ebay’s Online Security and Protection section to get an

idea of what you need to do in order to identify scams like

these.

Links

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http://pages.ebay.com/help/confidence/index.html

If you receive an e-mail from someone promising you millions

of dollars if you assist them with their finances, delete it

immediately!. Some of these scams have been running for

years and new ones surface frequently. I recently saw one

supposedly from the wife of the late Yasser Arafat,

promising millions of dollars if someone would help her

establish a trust fund in the US. The reasons these types of

e-mail scams are so wide spread is because they are highly

effective and relatively easy to do. Thousands of people get

ripped off by these scams every day. To see examples of

several recent scams, take a look at the following Phishing

Scams page.

Links

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http://www.defendingthenet.com/NewsLetters/RecentPhishingScams.htm

Another good source of information on these types of scams

can be found at the State of NY Banking Department.

Links

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http://www.banking.state.ny.us/index.htm

Credit Card Fraud

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Never place your credit card face up when paying for

something. Many people will simply place their credit card

on the table, face up, when paying for a meal, for instance.

In the time it takes for the server to pick up your check,

someone walking by can visually scan your card for

everything they need to go on an Internet shopping spree.

There are thieves that specialize in this type of fraud.

When paying for something, particularly at a restaurant,

check to see if the full or partial credit card number is on

the merchant receipt. In most cases, only the partial number

is visible. However, when the full number is there, I cross

out all but the last four digits with a pen. The merchant

has already scanned the card at this point, they should not

need a paper backup of the number.

If your credit card is stolen, lost, or used fraudulently,

you can call your card company and speak with the fraud

department. However, I recommend you contact your card

company’s credit line department first. This is the

department that can extend your credit almost

instantaneously. They can also decrease it within seconds

as well. If you have a limit of $5,000, they can reduce it

to $100 immediately, then pass you to the fraud department.

Call your card company and request the direct number to this

department and make a record of it.

If you notice someone swiping your card more than once when

paying for an item, ask them why. Regardless of how sensible

the answer is, call your card company and request a list of

the last few transactions, you might be surprised what you

find.

If your card company sends you checks to use for cash

advancements and you don’t plan on using them, don’t keep

them around, shred them immediately. We get these all the

time in the mail. As far as shredders go, everyone should

have one. You can pick up a small one for under $30 and it

is well worth the investment.

Any statements or correspondence you have regarding your

credit cards should be in a secure place or shredded.

Credit Reporting & Monitoring

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Thoroughly review your credit report at least every 90 days,

more frequently if possible. It’s better to find out sooner

than later if someone else’s actions are negatively

impacting your credit report, trust me. There are three

major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and

TransUnion. They all have reporting and monitoring solutions

available. Some of these services may be free of charge.

Links

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http://www.transunion.com

http://www.experian.com

https://www.econsumer.equifax.com

If you find something strange on your credit report, contact

the credit reporting agency immediately. In addition to

calling them (if possible), send them a certified letter

describing what you have found. It’s very important to

document any and all correspondence on these matters.

Conclusion

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I am sure this information may be old news to some.

However, if just one person reads this article and learns

something new, then my objective has been met.

One of the best ways to protect yourself from electronic

fraud and identity theft is to ask questions. Primarily, ask

yourself whether or not the particular situation you are

faced with makes sense? Why would your bank request

information from you via e-mail? Why would someone in

another country be willing to give you millions of dollars

to assist them with their banking woes?

There is a certain percentage of our population who has

absolutely no morality when it comes to the acquisition of

wealth. These people know the risk of getting caught is

minimal. In many cases, even if they do get caught, they are

willing to deal with the consequences given the potential

monetary payoff. Stay vigilant and educate yourself on these

matters. It really is the best way to protect yourself

against the myriad of threats and risks we are presented

with everyday.

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Electronic Fraud and Identity Theft-----------------------------------Human beings are pretty sensible when presented with an imminent threat or risk. That is, if it's staring us directly in the face. Many threats and risk are presented in subtle ways, and it is these subtleties we tend to overlook.It's The Little Things We...