Keep up to date with news and articles about identity theft from Consumer Federation of America and other sources.
05/15/2013- Slam the Door on Phishing Scams
Consumer Federation of America (CFA) has released new tips, Slam the Door on Phishing Scams, and a short, funny video to help you spot and avoid phishing. It’s when crooks, pretending to be from well-known companies, organizations, or government agencies, contact you and try to trick you into revealing your Social Security numbers, financial account information, passwords, or other personal information. That information is then used to make unauthorized purchases, take over your accounts, open new accounts in your name, get tax refunds and other government benefits, and even apply for jobs.
It seems like a day does not go by without being inundated by radio and TV advertisements or unsolicited mail and email to sign up for some type of an ID Theft protection program. This article will serve as a crash course in understanding the ID Theft industry and how to choose the right ID Theft service provider for you and your family.
Identity theft is a serious problem – the Federal Trade Commission estimates that there are 9 million victims each year so it’s important for organizations to know there are free resources that they can use to help individuals they serve who have problems resulting from identity theft, even if they have limited professional experience dealing with this issue.
4/04/2013- Don't Be Mislead by Fake IRS Websites
As the deadline looms for filing your taxes, there is a heightened identity theft risk, with many tax schemes designed to steal identity information, tax refunds, and more.
3/27/2013- Watch Out for Affordable Care Act Scams
If you get a call or an email from someone who claims to be from the government and asks for your personal information in order to send you a new “national medical card” or sign you up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, beware!
On February 11, the Social Security Administration (SSA) published a Request for Comments on proposed changes to its policy for assigning new Social Security Numbers (SSNs) to children age 13 and under in the Federal Register (78 FR 9765). Comments are due on April 12th.
We read with interest a report earlier this year from Identity Theft 911, an identity theft service provider, concerning complaints that it received from subscribers about unauthorized purchases made through the online Apple store. The fraudsters apparently took advantage of an offer to provide consumers with “instant credit” through Barclaycard.
Every tax season brings news stories about thieves filing fraudulent tax returns and getting refunds using stolen personal and financial information.
Other than being concerned, is there anything taxpayers can do? The answer is "yes". And they can do so with help from the IRS which has instituted a number of processes for combating identity theft and assisting taxpayers who are, or may become, identity theft victims.
2/26/2013- Do You Know a Scam Website When You See One?
Jamie May, VP of Customer Support and Chief Investigator, AllClear ID
There are literally thousands of scams and misleading websites out there, with new ones created every day. As a consumer, a key to protecting your identity is to learning to identify these scam websites so you can protect yourself when online.
Raul Vargas, a Fraud Operations Manager at IDentity Theft 911′s Fraud Resolution Center
Tax day is months away, but take steps now so you can file your return early—before identity thieves beat you to the punch.
Many victims of tax-related identity theft uncover the fraud after they have filed their returns, leading to delayed refunds and additional problems with the IRS and Social Security Administration. One way to stay ahead of the bad guys is to file your taxes early.
A funny thing happened on my way from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. – I found myself on a flight without Wi-Fi. The prospect of being unplugged for more than four hours on a flying machine without the ability to communicate with (or distract) colleagues, with zero information from the outside world – let's just say I almost lost it.
I had two newspapers and a book by my favorite fiction writer, Vince Flynn, but I was not connected. And somehow, the thought of being alone (even though I was on a full flight) for a large chunk of time was daunting. And, let's face it, the fact that we've all become so co-dependent – with MACHINES – is kind of pathetic. But here we are.
By Robert Greg, CEO, ID Experts, and Robin Slade, Development Coordinator for the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance and CEO & President of the Foundation for Payments Fraud Abatement & Activism (FPF2) and FraudAvengers.org
Medical identity theft is among the most devastating and dangerous of identity-related crimes perpetrated against consumers. It occurs when someone misrepresents who they are in order to obtain health-related services. Or alternatively, a healthcare provider, either real or someone just using a valid provider number, bills for medical goods and services never rendered using someone’s fraudulently obtained medical ID. When someone steals your medical identity your protected health information (PHI) can become contaminated with the thief’s medical information. This can lead to misdiagnosis and potentially put your life at risk.
What if you’re given the wrong blood because your records indicate another person’s blood-type? What if you receive a drug you are severely allergic to because the records are incorrect? What if your appendicitis goes undiagnosed because your medical records state your appendix has already been removed?
1/18/13- Seniors Beware! Latest Medicare Scam
By: Debra N. Diener, J.D., CIPP/G; blog at Privacy Made Simple
Scammers are shameless and prey on anyone and everyone.
So this alert is for seniors so you can protect your private personal and financial information. If you’re not a senior, please share this alert with any seniors you know so they can protect themselves.
By: Joanna Crane, Federal Trade Commission.
Child identity theft has seen an increase in public awareness, legislative activity, and research in the past few years. The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime’s 2011 forum, Stolen Futures: A Forum on Child Identity Theft, identified several unique challenges around the prevention and detection of, and recovery from, child identity theft. Yet no reliable metrics were available to help understand the scope of the problem. Three studies were discussed, but they were non-scientific reports, so the data they provided could not be projected to the general population or used to estimate the total number of child identity theft incidents.
ITAC, the Identity Theft Assistance Center, a nonprofit supported by financial services companies, and Intersections, Inc., a provider of identity management services, commissioned Javelin Strategy & Research to conduct a survey to get more accurate statistics about the crime. The goal is to share the information with others in government, child advocacy, and financial services to help stakeholders develop solutions to protect children.
By Mark Pribish, Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader, Merchants Information Solutions, Inc.
Now here is some information you may not know:
12/10/12 - Watch Out For Holiday Scams
By: Jamie May, VP of Customer Support and Chief Investigator, AllClear ID
The holiday season is quickly approaching, and it can bring with it a variety of online, email, and social media scams. This year, retailers aren’t the only ones who want us to spend our money, so do scammers. To ensure you don’t fall victim to any scam or gift-purchasing hoax, watch out for these 2012 holiday scams:
Craigslist/eBay Purchases – Typically, if you’re careful, it’s safe to purchase on these sites. However, during the holiday season, since the hottest toys and gadgets for will sell out fast, scammers will “claim” to be selling these items at an extremely high price on sites like eBay and Craigslist, only to take your money and run. To avoid this, try to shop locally on Craigslist and to meet the buyer in person. Don’t ever wire a payment (wired payments are tough to trace and even tougher to get a refund on). On eBay, research vendors extensively. If your gut tells you that something isn’t right, then listen and find a better way to make your purchase.
11/21/12 - Top Tips From Itac For Safe Online Shopping
Online shopping is easy and convenient, but fraudsters take advantage of shoppers who are eager for a bargain or exploit security vulnerabilities in your computer’s software. The best way to stay safe is to put security measures in place before connecting and by understanding the consequences of online actions. The Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC) offers these tips on how consumers can stay safe while shopping online this holiday season...
By: Carri Grube Lybarker, Administrator, and Juliana Harris, Communications Coordinator, South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs
Every year, thousands of consumers fall victim to telephone scams. While there are legitimate companies who use the phone to offer their products and services, con artists use it as a tool to commit fraud. Telephone scams can take many forms, but they share the common element of trying to separate you from your money or compromise your personal information.
We have received an increasing number of reports from South Carolina consumers about imposter telephone scams. Fraudsters pose as different businesses or government agencies to try to trick people. For example, a caller may pretend to be a debt collector and ask you to provide your financial account information over the phone to settle a debt for less than the full amount. You may not be sure you owe the debt – and in many cases you don’t. But the offer is time-sensitive; you must act now for the debt to be forgiven! Sometimes these scammers pretend to be from state or federal agencies, including law enforcement agencies, to gain your trust or intimidate you.
By: Sean Naron, Administrative and Advocacy Associate, Consumer Federation of America
According to a Javelin Strategy & Research survey, identity fraud (the actual misuse of illegally obtained personal information) in the U.S. increased by 13 percent in 2011, with more than 11.6 million adults becoming victims. What’s even more frightening is that the personal information that you store on your smartphone is now a tempting target for ID thieves.
In fact, the survey found that smartphone owners were a third more likely than the general population to be victims of identity fraud. This may be due, at least in part, to consumer behavior: according to Javelin, 32 percent of smartphone owners don’t update to a new operating system when it becomes available, 62 percent don’t use a password on their home screens, and 32 percent save their login information right on their devices.
How should you protect yourself and your phone from identity thieves?
By: Gail Cunningham, Vice President of Membership and Public Relations, National Foundation for Credit Counseling
Being in first place usually brings with it bragging rights, but not if it’s the top spot in the Federal Trade Commission’s annual complaint report. For the 12th year in a row, identity theft has held that dubious distinction, as ID theft complaints once again topped the 2011 list. Of more than 1.8 million complaints filed in 2011, 15 percent were related to identity theft.
By: John Sours, Administrator, Cathy Mendelsohn, Media Specialist, and Lauren Simons, Legal Intern, Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection
Recently our agency received a question from a Georgia consumer about whether the text message she had received claiming she’d won a Walmart gift card was legitimate or not. The fact is, it is highly unlikely that this kind of text message is legitimate.
Scams involving purported “free” gift cards have been reported throughout the country. In March, the Better Business Bureau reported a scam in which many people received text messages promising “free” Walmart and Best Buy gift cards. One such message read, “Walmart $1,000 gift card for the first 1000 users to go to [link] and enter code 2938.” Another said, “You have been randomly selected for a Best Buy gift. Get your $1,000 gift card at [link].” Neither of these offers panned out.
By: By: Steve Toporoff, Attorney, Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, Federal Trade Commission
As back-to-school time approaches, children may be thinking about meeting up with friends to share stories about their summer adventures. But when it comes to personal information, parents and kids need to be careful about sharing too much. These days the casual use of sensitive data (like a Social Security number on a registration form, permission slip, or health document) can lead to child identity theft, a serious crime that impacts thousands of kids each year. Parents can take steps to protect their children from ID theft with free resources from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
By John Breyault, National Consumers League
08/09/12 - Gone Fishing?
By: Guest Author Debra N. Diener, J.D., CIPP/G. Privacy and Identity Management Expert, Blogger at privacymadesimple.net
Becoming a victim of identity theft is terrible enough but then you have to figure out what to do --- and that can become a complex process. The criminals often use the stolen identity information themselves for multiple crimes and then may sell it to others. The multiple crimes make it even harder since you may have to deal with more than one office or agency to untangle and repair the damage that's been done
6/22/12- On Twitter? So Are Scammers.
By: Guest Author, John Breyault, National Consumers League
Many consumers find the popular social media site, Twitter, useful for staying in touch with friends and family and getting updates from organizations or famous people. Unfortunately, scammers see the millions of Twitter users very differently: as potential targets.
Scams on Twitter usually involve some kind of link or promise from either a user you don't know or a user whose account has been compromised.
That’s the question the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is asking as it plans its law enforcement agenda, policy work, and public education efforts for the coming months. Seniors may be particularly vulnerable to identity theft. For one thing, they tend to be trusting, which could make them more susceptible to “phishing” scams in which identity thieves, pretending to represent familiar companies, organizations or government agencies, ask to confirm their personal information.
Today Consumer Federation of America (CFA) released Best Practices for Identity Theft Services: How Are Services Measuring Up?, which analyzes how well identity theft services are providing key information to prospective customers. The study is based on CFA’s Best Practices for Identity Theft Services, voluntary guidelines that CFA developed with the help of identity theft service providers and consumer advocates. Released last year, the best practices resulted from CFA’s first study of identity theft services in 2009, which raised concerns about misleading claims about the ability to protect consumers from identity theft, lack of clear information, and other troublesome practices.
Guest Post by: Nikki Junker, Social Media Coordinator, Identity Theft Resource Center
Social networking has become a mainstay in the everyday lives of many consumers, with over 800 million people reportedly using Facebook on a monthly basis. The risks of privacy intrusions and identity theft, however, may not always be apparent to social networkers. At the Identity Theft Resource Center, we have become concerned about a correlation between identity theft and Facebook use. Recently the ITRC conducted a survey to measure Facebook users’ understanding of the possible risks and threats.
Guest Post by:Bloomberrg BNA Privacy and Security Law Report
Good communication with customers, regulators,and others is critical following a data breach, panelists emphasized March 8 at the International Association of Privacy Professionals Global Privacy Summit. Sixty-three percent of the cost of a breach is attributableto lost business, according to a 2010 study by the Ponemon Institute (10 PVLR 418, 3/14/11).
That percentage includes both lost customers and the failure to acquire new customers, Joanne B. McNabb, chief of theCalifornia Office of Privacy Protection, explained. Lisa J. Sotto, partner and head of the Privacy & Information Management Practice at Hunton & Williams LLP, in New York City, added that the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure guidance urging companies to include data security risks and security incidents in their reports to the SEC (10 PVLR 1495, 10/17/11) could hurt a company’s stock value.
By: Matt Cullina, Identity Theft 911
Of all the things you pray you never lose, I’ll bet your library card isn’t one of them. What’s the worst that could happen?
Last summer, a California woman found out – to the tune of $643. Someone used her card to check out books, and never brought them back. Since the woman didn’t cancel the missing library card, she got slapped with the lost-book fines.
Those missing books can teach us a powerful lesson: Our personally identifying information—or PII—is everywhere, and identity risks exist in situations (like a lost library card) that we’d never think twice about.
1/30/12- Zapping Identity Breach Problems
The recent announcement by online shoe-seller Zappos that a hacker may have gained access to some of its customers’ data is a reminder that our personal information can be vulnerable even if we shred our documents, put our bill payments in public mailboxes, use firewalls and anti-virus and anti-spyware on our home computers, and take the other recommended steps to protect it. When we provide our data to others, it’s up to them to keep it safe.
1/19/12- Don’t Let Skimmers Steal Your Cash
By: Bo Holland, Founder & CEO, Debix | AllClear ID
Identity thieves are placing credit card skimming devices everywhere, but particularly on gas pumps and on outdoor ATMs. These devices are small and hard for the typical person to detect, but they can be financially lethal. Skimmers are designed to capture credit and debit card information when one is scanned through for a purchase, and then they either transmit the information via a Bluetooth device to a nearby laptop, or store it locally for the thief to pick up at a later date. This information can then be used online or uploaded onto a counterfeit card for making purchases.
The start of the year is a good time to get organized and take care of all those little things that you’ve been meaning to get done. One easy thing you can do is request your credit reports. Just like a physical check-up, it’s a good idea to check your credit reports regularly to correct any errors that could affect your credit health and spot signs of possible identity theft.
By Guest Author Mark Pribish, Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader, Merchants Information Solutions, Inc.
The holiday season is prime time for identity theft criminals. Your name, address, and phone number, your date of birth, your Social Security number, driver’s license number, health insurance number, student ID number or employee ID number, your financial account numbers, your passwords – these bits of information can be like presents under the tree for identity thieves who know how to use them for their own fraudulent purposes.
11/10/11- An Apple a Day Keeps Identity Theft Away
When you go to a doctor for the first time, you’ll be asked to fill out forms with all kinds of personal information. Sometimes that will include your Social Security number. Patients often want to know: do I really have to give this information to the doctor’s office? This is not an easy question to answer.
10/14/11- Stolen Innocence: Child Identity Theft
By: Guest Author Matt Cullina, Chief Executive Officer, Identity Theft 911
Identity theft doesn’t just strike adults – kids and teens are prime targets for identity thieves. The Federal Trade Commission reported that victims age 19 and under accounted for 8 percent of the identity theft complaints that it received in 2010. And a Carnegie Mellon University report issued earlier this year provided disturbing evidence that children are deliberately being targeted for identity theft. Why are children vulnerable and how can they be protected?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the interactive map of medical identity theft occurrences in the United States recently created by the World Privacy Forum paints a vivid picture of the hot spots for this crime.
Consumers who applied for health insurance coverage through WellPoint/Anthem Blue Cross before March 10, 2010 may be eligible for court-ordered benefits under the settlement of a class action lawsuit.
Hurricane Irene was a jarring reminder that communities in the United States can be vulnerable to devastating damage from wind and rain. Irene destroyed roads and homes and left hundreds of thousands without power for days. Texas has been plagued by wildfires that have blazed across thousands of acres and demolished more homes than any other single fire in Texas history. Even while the victims of these natural disasters are in dire need of assistance, they could be at risk for another, man-made disaster: identity theft.
9/7/2011 - Consumer Federation of America Unveils New ID Theft Website IDTheftInfo.org Features Best Practices for ID Theft Services, Other Resources.
Washington, D.C. – Today, Consumer Federation of America unveiled a new website, www.IDTheftInfo.org, which features CFA’s Best Practices for Identity Theft Services and other resources for consumers and businesses. “IDTheftInfo.org is an easy-to-use gateway for information about identity theft from Consumer Federation of America and other reputable sources,” said Susan Grant, CFA’s Director of Consumer Protection. Visitors to the site can take quizzes to test their ID theft savvy, learn how to protect themselves, and find information about what to do if they become ID theft victims. Advice for businesses about data security is also provided. The “Latest News” section of the website will keep people informed about identity theft-related issues and developments.
3/11/2011 - CFA Issues Best Practices for Identity Theft Services to curb misleading claims about how identity theft services can protect consumers and encourage clear, accurate information about the help they provide.
With security breaches and identity theft cases frequently in the news, consumers are worried about becoming identity theft victims. Responding to this concern, dozens of companies offer identity theft services. In 2009, Consumer Federation of America (CFA) took a critical look at for-profit identity theft services and identified some serious problems, including misleading claims about preventing identity theft, unclear information about how services worked, and exaggerations about what guarantees or insurance provided. Today, CFA released Best Practices for Identity Theft Services, which were developed with a working group consisting of identity theft service providers and consumer advocates…