With the advancement of modern technology, identity thieves have become more ingenious and more proficient in executing their crimes. Let’s talk about the two most common schemes identity thieves used to steal information.
Skimmers are hand held scanners which can scan credit information from your credit card’s magnetic strip. When you hand over your credit card to a clerk or to a waiter, you may be unaware that in just a matter of seconds, a skimmer has already been used on your credit card. They may use this device to skim through a hundred credit cards a day and later download all these credit card information in a computer. You’ll never know that you’ve been a victim of skimming until your creditors starts calling you about your past due bills or until you receive huge charges in your statement of account.
The best way to protect yourself from this tactic is to always keep an eye on your credit card. If you’re in the restaurant, don’t just hand over your credit card to the waiter. You may choose to bring the credit card yourself to the cash register and watch closely as the clerk swipes your card. In fact, some restaurants use portable devices so customers can pay their bills from their tables. This way, customers can be assured that no skimming takes place without having to go over the cash register.
Phishing is another common strategy used to steal identity. Confidential information such as credit card numbers, usernames or passwords can be acquired through e-mail, instant message or a fake website. A person may receive an e-mail disguising as an e-mail from a bank or a credit card issuer. It may be a note requiring the recipient to provide his Social Security Number or the last digits of his credit card number for “verification purposes” .
The e-mail may also contain false links that may appear to be the bank’s URL but is actually directed to a phisher’s website. The recipient may be asked to click on this link and fill-up an online form that includes all his personal information. When the recipient clicks on the link, he may be directed to a site that looks similar to the bank’s website. A person may provide the information requested unaware that he is already falling victim to identity theft.
Phishing scams can also be done over the telephone. You may receive a phone call disguising to be from one of your lenders, asking your personal information for “verification”. Others may claim that you won cash and they would need your Social Security Number to confirm your identity. Those who make phishing calls are good at encouraging people. They sound professional, polite and friendly. If you’re not careful, you may find yourself giving out the information without much thought. By time you realize what just happened, you might have already given these identity thieves what they need.
These are all methods of phishing. Despite the warnings, there are still many who make the mistake of giving out confidential information to the wrong people. In order to avoid falling victim to phishing scams, never provide your confidential information over the phone, instant message, websites or e-mails. If you must, call the company yourself and confirm if they have sent such e-mails for verification. If you must make an online transaction, make sure that the website is secured. Check that the lock icon on the bottom of your browser is locked and that the URL of the website begins with https://. You may also use spam filters to lessen the phishing e-mails you receive from your inbox.
For more information on id theft, check out FTC’s official website at http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/con_steps.htm
If you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft, contact the three major bureaus at these contact details:
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790