Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Identity Theft Prevention Fall Tune Up

With Labor Day almost upon us, this is a time of
the year when summer vacations are mostly done and the
kids are starting back to school.

It's also a time of the year, however, when identity
thieves become even more active. Knowing parents and
students will be busy working to fill out last minute
forms requesting personal information, now is an
important time to guard against id theft by utilizing
two simple strategies.

We've learned last Fall of identity theft rings which
place phone calls to un-suspecting consumers
requesting the social security number (SSN) of the
student to "complete our school records". Be wary of
these calls and always call the school back directly.
Most legitimate institutions have no reason to request
that sensitive personal information over the phone.

But, verify your existing credit and personal
information is correct and does not show any evidence
of prior identity theft or fraud.

A quick and very cost effective way to do this is to
simply order the free credit report you are entitled
by the FACT Act. Under the Fair and Accurate Credit
Transactions Act (FACT Act) consumers can request and
obtain a free credit report once every 12 months from
each of the three nationwide consumer credit
reporting companies.

As such, there exists only one service authorized by
Equifax, Experian and TransUnion for this purpose

That service known as can be
reached via their website or through their toll free
phone line at 1-877-322-8228.

The service, as a security precaution, will not
solicit consumers via email, telemarketing or direct
mail solicitations.

You can utilize this source to order your credit
report for inspection from only one or up to all three
of the major credit bureaus.

Note, you are only eligible to receive 1 credit report
every 12 months from each of the credit bureaus.

We'd recommend you space out your requests over a
year's time to the three individual credit bureaus
listed above to maximize your identity theft
protection and prevention strategy.

Check back with us later this week for more late
breaking news, tips, & resources to aid you in with
identity theft protection and prevention.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Identity Theft Prevention & your Driving Record

Did you know the full impact an identity theft can
have on your driving record?

Since an identity thief can use your personal
information to obtain a driver's license in your name,
we recommend you should check your Department of Motor
Vehicles (DMV) file annually.

Here's why we urge you to take notice.

Driving records are state driver's license reports
containing details about a driver's history including
accidents, violations and suspensions.

Driving records can be obtained by insurance companies
to determine your rates as well as by companies during
their employment screening procedures when hiring.
Some employers may even require that you submit your
driving record along with your employment application.

A single typo on your driving record can cost you
hundreds of dollars in insurance rates. It can even
cost you a job.

Also, if an identity thief has impersonated you it
could ultimately cause your driving privileges to even
be suspended or subject you to an arrest.

For example, an imposter (the id thief) is cited by
the police for a speeding or some other misdemeanor
traffic violation and is released from the arrest. The
imposter signs the citation and promises to appear in
court. If the imposter does not appear in court the
judge can issue a bench warrant for the arrest of that

Since the arrest warrant, however, is under YOUR name
you now are subject to being arrested and jailed for
the identity thief's traffic violations.

You, may not even know there's an outstanding arrest
warrant for you until an unexpected routine traffic
stop by the police results in you being taken to
county jail and booked.

Even though you're an innocent victim, guess what, you
have the added embarrassment, the court time, attorney fees,
& potential job loss to deal with while attempting
to clear your good name from the criminal records

So, today's tip is we recommend for you to review your
own driving record report to verify its accuracy,
especially since an employer or insurance company may
access your driving record and use it to make
decisions that affect you livelihood. You wouldn't
want to lose your chance for a job or have your
insurance rates increase unfairly because of
inaccurate or false information on your driving record
report, right? Or, be forced to go to jail unfairly?

While you can choose to visit your local DMV office,
here's an on-line resource we found which points to
all fifty states request process. (select your state
from the drop down field located in the top center of
the page).

Thursday, August 11, 2005

ID Theft Prevention using Opt Out with Acxiom

Most states still do not yet have disclosure laws
requiring financial institutions and lenders to
notify consumers when their personal information has
been compromised by identity thieves.

Months after the typical identity theft has occurred, the
consumer who's been victimized may find out only
when the bill collectors start calling. So, we inform
consumers to take proactive action such as
regular monitoring of credit and billing statements,
monitoring credit reports, & opting out of the
numerous marketing lists.

Here's one major reason why.

According to a AP story, a conviction was just
rendered Friday in a court case involving a Florida
man that was "claimed by prosecutors as the largest
federal computer theft trial ever."

"Prosecutors said Levine and his Boca Raton, Fla.
based Internet marketing firm,, stole
1.6 billion customer records - the equivalent of 550
telephone books filled with names, e-mail and postal

"In July 2004, Assistant U.S. Attorney General
Christopher Wray said the case 'may be the largest
intrusion of personal data ever

Back in 2002, programmers for Snipermail illegally
accessed the data on an Acxiom, one of the largest
data compilers in the United States, server.
Acxiom, the Conway, Arkansas based firm, serves
financial services, insurance,& telecommunication
companies by compiling and managing consumer
information used for marketing campaigns.
Acxiom claims to maintain information on 176 million
Americans and is the most comprehensive available,
collects information from public records, private
companies, the Postal Service and product warranty

Due to the relationship Acxiom maintains with its
clients, the company was not required at that time in
2002 to disclose the breach to the effected consumers.
"Because the information belongs to Acxiom's clients,
we are not authorized to answer questions from
individuals about whether their information was
accessed in the breach
. "

Further, it was publicly reported that no confirmed
identity theft cases occurred from the Acxiom data
breach resulting from the unauthorized access by
employees of Snipermail. Acxiom publicly acknowledged
their security procedures were tightened after the
Snipermail incident.

Now that its been over 3 years later and the sheer
magnitude of the data breach, do you feel comfortable
that you know what data actually could be
maintained about you at Acxiom.

To find out you can request a consumer report.

"Access to any background screening reports we may
have on file about you will be provided at no charge
in the form of a consumer report as prescribed by the
Fair Credit Reporting Act. To inquire about whether we
have any reports on you call 1-800-853-3228, option 3.
After receiving your report, you may contact us to
correct or dispute any inaccurate, incomplete or
obsolete information."

Additionally, you have the right to have your personal
information removed from Acxiom's files. To take
action, you can contact Acxiom's Opt-Out Hotline (877)
or e-mail

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

7 ID Theft Prevention Tips for Job Boards

When searching on-line for new employment, be aware
you're also increasing your risk of identity theft
unless you follow a few basic, but vital tips.

When utilizing the various on-line resume posting
boards, a few areas to pay attention to protect
yourself from identity theft such as not including:

  1. Social Security Number (SSN)
  2. Driver's License Number
  3. Date of Birth (DOB)
  4. Marital Status
  5. Age
  6. Gender
  7. The school & year you graduated from

Did you know and
have affiliations and linkages to other on-line
data providers?

Criminals who specialize in on-line identity theft
know this.

Id thieves can easily use any of the above data to
retrieve your personal identifying information from
on-line reverse search directories.

Plus, some of those data items such as age & gender
are illegal for an employer to request from you in the
first place.

A truly interested prospective employer can always be
provided this information by you in person when you
gain an interview.

The major on-line resume posting & job boards such as allow you to anonymously post your resume.

We urge you to stick with those major sites because
they not only contain the majority of prospective
jobs, but usually are known for tighter screening of
potential employer listings and for following up on
reported scams.

Remember, finding a new job can be a rewarding goal;
especially when you utilize identity theft prevention

Friday, August 05, 2005

Preventing ID Theft using Convenience Checks

Continuing with our theme of specific identity theft
prevention tips, we expose one of the easiest methods
id thieves can use to commit fraud against you.

"Convenience checks" are the checks sent usually from
your credit card company to you via USPS mail. These
"convenience checks" were historically intended to
help consumers pay off an old credit card they're
transferring the balance to a new account.

Thus, the "convenience" is really for the new credit account
company to receive the transferred balances faster
than if you the consumer just paid off the old card
balance owed by writing your own personal bank check.

Identity thieves unfortunately also know how easy it
is to commit id fraud against you using these same
"convenience checks" .

But "how" did the identity thief do this? How
did they get your personal information?

The first step is they steal the "convenience checks"
from your unlocked mail box and even sometimes from
within the post office itself with the aid of an

Convenience checks, in the hands of id thieves, would
be even easier to use than having a credit card
account number. With a convenience check, there would
be no need to make a counterfeit card, change an
address, or even create a new account. The thief could
simply sign your name on the face of the check and
present it to any merchant.

That's because convenience checks:

  • Are shipped via USPS mail without your specific
  • Are shipped on un-predictable time frames so you can
    not watch for the checks to arrive in your mailbox and
    take action if they do not arrive.
  • Do not require you to call the issuing lender to
    activate them - the id thief can just sign them and
    fill in the requested amount to charge to you.
  • Give you no opportunity in advance to "opt-out" from
    receiving the checks like you can with pre-approved
    credit card offers.
  • Include enough of your personal identifying
    information necessary to not only cash a single check
    but also can be combined with your other information
    publicly available to open up more new accounts in the
    your name.

Furthermore, the id theft exposure problem is
compounded for you because while convenience checks
can only be used once, they often are shipped in
packets containing three or more separate checks.

We know this from personal experience two years ago, when
an identity thief quickly ran up over $800 in
fraudulent charges on our account in less than a week.
In addition, a credit card issuer that offers credit
through convenience checks generally does so from
on an unscheduled cycle, not on a one-time basis with only one
opportunity for the consumer to use only a single
convenience check during the entire life of the
account. So, it's a re-occurring identity theft
exposure problem for you.

Once a fraudulent transaction appears on a credit card
account, you would generally have no easy way to
distinguish when viewing your regular monthly
statement that a theft resulted from unauthorized use
of a convenience check.

Want to know how to protect yourself against
unauthorized use of convenience checks

Want to take back control?

The good news, though, is if an identity thief has
stolen your mail for access to new credit cards, bank
and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers
and tax information or falsified change-of-address
forms, they have committed a serious crime.

Report it to your local postal inspector.

You may contact the United States Postal Inspection Service online.
Also, immediately contact the fraud department of your
credit card and banking institutions if you believe an
identity theft has been committed against you.

So, our tip for today is to contact all of your
credit card providers and request them to eliminate
your account from those who would automatically
receive the unsolicited "convenience checks".

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Your Right to Prevent ID Theft using GLB

As the old saying suggests for fighting identity
theft, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of

You have to protect your own personal and credit
identity, because no one else is going to do it for


Because unless national and state laws change some
time in the distant future, most consumers simply do
not find out when their personal information as been

While we do not pretend to be lawyers or even
financial experts, in the spirit of providing relevant
informational tips, reviews, & resources, the GLB is
another key tool at your disposal for identity theft

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, otherwise known as the
Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, is an
important law which protects consumers right to
protect their personal information from being shared.

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act requires financial
companies to tell you about their polices regarding
the privacy of your personal financial information.

With some exceptions, the law limits the ability of
financial companies to share your personal financial
information with certain non-affiliates. A
non-affiliate is a company that is unrelated to your
financial company, and may include:

  • Service Providers: companies hired by your financial
    company to perform a specific service, such as
    printing your checks.
  • Joint marketers: companies that have an agreement
    with your financial company to offer you other
    financial products and services.
  • Other third-party non-affiliates which could
    include companies that may want access to your
    financial companies mailing list to tell you about
    other products and services.

Under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act your financial
company can provide your personal financial
information to non-affiliated service providers
including joint marketers. But, before it shares your
information with other third-party non-affiliates
(outside of these exceptions), your financial company
must tell you about its information sharing practices
and give you the opportunity to "opt-out".

What "Opt-Out" means: If you opt out, you limit the
extent to which the company can provide your personal
financial information to non-affiliates. If you do not
opt out within a "reasonable period of time" generally
30 days after the company mails the notice, then the
company is free to share certain personal financial

If you didn't opt out the first time you received a
privacy notice from a financial company, it's not too
late. You can always change your mind and opt out of
certain information sharing. Contact your financial
company and ask for instructions on how to opt out.
Remember, however, that any personal financial
information that was shared before you opted out
cannot be retrieved.

So, today's tip from ID Theft Secrets blog is to call
each of your financial institutions and lenders this
month as your receive your regular account

Request your name and personal information be changed to "opt-out".