Identity Theft

October 22, 2019

7 Ways You Can Keep Your Children Safe From Identity Theft this School Year

Are you doing all that you can to keep your children safe from identity theft? Learn tactics for protecting their identities this school year.

Children raising their hands within a classroom.

As our world gets ever more present online its important, now more than ever, to not only teach your children about the dangers that lurk online but also protect them until they can begin to protect themselves. 

Child Identity Theft

Child identity theft occurs just like most cases of identity theft does. However, children are one of the most at-risk groups when it comes to identity theft.

To a cybercriminal, obtaining a child’s information is like hitting the jackpot. Why? Well, there are two main reasons

  • They are a clean slate. A child has no past credit or debt. Obtaining this information allows the cybercriminal free reign.
  • The long game. When cybercriminals get their hands on a child’s information, they will have that information for years before it goes noticed.

A child drawing with crayons.

Because of these perks, during major data breaches, children are often impacted the most. During an average breach, 39% of fraud victims will be children whereas only 19% will be adults

When committing this fraud, criminals will steal double the amount they would steal from an adult. Due to this, families end up paying an average of $541 in out-of-pocket recovery fees compared to the average adult fraud victim who only pays an average of $104.

Clearly, child identity theft is a massive issue that needs to be addressed. To stay on top of identity theft threats, know the signs and situations that may put your child at risk.

A situation where a child is extremely vulnerable is while they are in school.

School and Identity Theft

For all of the reasons we mentioned above, schools are the perfect place for the cybercriminal to obtain a child’s personal information. And, by hacking into school systems, they can obtain the information of numerous children at the same time.

That being said, identity theft does not always result from a hack or a cybercriminal. In some cases, physical documents are raided and stolen by a criminal.

There is no way to tell if and when your child’s identity will be stolen. The best way to safeguard your child is by learning tactics to protect their personal information.

 

7 Ways to Protect Your Child’s Identity this School Year

#1 – Keep Their SSN Private

When enrolling your child in school, and for every school year after, you will have to fill out paperwork for your child. This paperwork typically asks standard questions. However, some will ask for very personal information, including your child’s Social Security Number. 

Asking for an S.S.N. will range from school district to school district. Most of the time, the S.S.N. is used as an identification number for the child. If they are asking for this number, the school must:

  1. Inform you and your child that providing it is voluntary and that refusing to provide it will not bar your child from enrolling in or attending school
  2. Explain for what purpose the number will be used

The outside of a school with bikes.

The school district can not turn you down for not providing the Social Security Number or require you provide it for your child to enroll.

If you do not want to provide your child’s Social, you do not have to. If you feel as though the school is pushy or will not accept the application without the S.S.N., that school may not be the right school for you.

#2 – Educate Your Child

The best way to prevent identity theft is through education. When it comes to children, they may not always know what kind of information they should and should not be sharing with their school friends or even strangers. 

Children are trusting by nature, so be sure that whether they are just starting school or are going back to school after a long summer, your child is keeping their personal information to themselves online and in class.

Some ways you can teach your child more about what identity theft is are…

 

  • Teach them what personal information is. A child may not know the things that they should not be sharing. Teach them that things like their full name, address, and Social Security number are not things to share with others.
  • Explain what identity theft is. Identity theft may be a hard concept for younger children to grasp. However, it is still important to explain to them why it is so harmful. Simplify the crime in your own words and include some things a cybercriminal can do with their personal information.
  • Provide ways to protect personal documents. Depending on the age of the child, they may be transporting personal documents 

 

#3 – Manage Copies of Personal Information

When enrolling your child in a new school, you may be asked to provide copies of things like your child’s birth certificate. If you are being asked to create these copies, be sure to manage the copies you create and ask the school what they will be doing with the copies. 

A collection of writing utensils that would be used at schools.

If you do not feel safe making copies of these documents, opt to bring in the original copy of the document for the school to view. Simply seeing the document should be enough for them to verify your child’s information.

#4 – Review Their Online Accounts

Children are creating social media accounts younger and younger. If your child is on social media, review their account to ensure that they are not leaving their identity unsecured.

When reviewing the online account, look for

  • A strong password. Children may not have the ability to create a secure password on their own. Create an account password that adds a variety of uppercase, lowercase, number, and symbols.
  • An anonymous username. We know that no username is fully anonymous. However, you can make sure that your child’s full name or personal information is not included in their username. 
  • Personal photos. If your child has any personal photos posted on social media, delete them. Personal photos revealing pets, street names, friends, and more can give more ammunition to a cybercriminal.
  • Public personal information. Be sure that no personal information is posted online or on their social media account. If there is a social account that requires some personal information, be sure that their privacy settings are up-to-date so that the information is not visible to the public.

We just wrote a whole blog about keeping your social media account secure. If you’d like more information on this topic, read How to Protect Your Identity on Social Media!

#5 – Protect Sensitive Information

Keeping sensitive information protected is very important. Depending on the age of your child, you will be protecting their information differently. 

Students raising their hands in an auditorium.

For children still living in your home, keep their information where you keep your own personal information so that you know exactly where it is. If, for some reason, they need to bring paperwork containing personal information to school, transfer the information in a sealed envelope and instruct them to deliver the information right away to eliminate the risk of it being lost.

For children living at college, buy them personal a lockbox or safe where they can keep sensitive documents in.

For children of any age, be sure that any devices are password or pin protected.

#6 – Opt-out of Child ID Kits

Have you ever heard of a Child ID Kit? This kit was created by the National Child Identification Program to help identify your child faster if they ever go missing. The completion of this kit is sometimes encouraged through your child’s school. 

This kit requires:

  • Inkless fingerprints
  • Cards for detailing your child’s physical descriptions including a body map for pointing out scars, birthmarks, and other identifying features
  • Current photos
  • An easy-to-use swab to take and store a small DNA sample

Now, this is not a kit that you send back to the FBI for them to store. This kit is stored in your home or your child’s school. This kit may seem like a good idea now, but, what if this information somehow falls into the wrong hands?

If a criminal somehow acquires this information, it can be used for malicious things. 

A report on a table

#7 –  Request a Child Credit Report

As we mentioned at the beginning of the blog, child identity theft may go unnoticed for years. One way you can check in on your child’s identity is by requesting a child credit report.

Much like credit reports for adults, this report will list any loans, debts, or accounts listed under your child’s name.

In order to obtain the report

From Experian, you can use Experian’s free Child ID Scan service or submit a written request via Experian’s website. Information you will need to include with the written request is:

  • A copy of your government-issued ID, such as a state ID card or driver’s license
  • A copy of a bank statement or utility bill for proof of address
  • A list of any previous addresses where you’ve lived in the past two years
  • A copy of your child’s birth certificate with his or her full name, including middle initial and suffix
  • A copy of your child’s Social Security card

From Equifax, you will need to contact the Minor Child Department. You will need to submit:

  • A letter of explanation detailing why you believe your child’s personal information was obtained or used fraudulently
  • A copy of your child’s birth certificate
  • Documentation of your child’s Social Security number
  • A copy of your driver’s license or state-issued ID as proof of your current address

From TransUnion, you can email childidtheft@transunion.com or use a secure online form to request the information.

 

Now that you’ve learned how and why it’s important to protect your children on line what step are you going to implement to make sure they stay safe?

Any questions or concerns? Leave them in the comments below!

October 8, 2019

How to Protect Your Identity on Social Media

 Are you doing all that you can to protect your identity online? Learn how to protect your identity on social media.

Girl taking photo

With 78.2% of the United States population regularly using the internet and social media platforms it’s incredibly important, now more than ever, to stay safe.

 

Social Media Identity Theft

80% of those over the age of 18 in the U.S. have at least one social media account. Of those of us who have a social media account, we are all guilty of following or friending someone who we may not know. 

The danger of this is that you don’t always know everyone’s intentions. Inviting someone into your world means that they can use the information they gather against you.

Social Media identity theft occurs just like other forms of identity theft.

However, in the case of social media, your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft isn’t always determined by the frequency that you post, but the actual content of what you post.

Based off of what you share, identity thieves can easily use the information for fraud and identity theft.

On top of the regular social network breaches that affect your security!

 

Regardless of the circumstances, here are some tactics you can use to minimize the amount of personal information you share online. And help protect your identity on social media.

 

How to Protect Your Identity on Social Media

You can protect yourself now on social media by:

Limiting What You Share

Your downfall might just be your temptation to share every aspect of your life on social media. 

Cyber-criminals are looking to use your personal information against you. Hackers can use the family photos, pet names, recent purchases, and more you share online as ammunition against you. Why, you ask?

Because it is common for people to use personal things as part of your password or an answer to a security question.

 

woman hushing

Some major things hackers will look for on your personal profile include:

  • Payment information. Cybercriminals will be on the lookout for the types of credit cards you may use or the name of your bank. This is sensitive information that you should never share on social media.
  • Personal phone number. If you share your personal phone number on social media or on your social media profile, it can be used against you. Information such as your home address can be accesses through your wireless carrier that is attached to your phone number. Cyber-criminals can then gain access to other personal information such as private accounts using verification processes that require your phone number.
  • Home address. Revealing vague information about your neighborhood is generally okay, but posting specific information, like your street name or house number, leaves your door wide open to all criminals, not just cybercriminals.
  • High School and/or College information. Most of the time, high school or college names are used as security questions for your accounts. Don’t make this information public on your profiles.

Using Different Passwords and Usernames

Passwords and usernames are things that people often forget about. It is easy to fall into the cycle of using and reusing the same username and passwords for every one of your accounts.

When it comes to usernames, using the same username across the internet leaves you wide open to directed attacks against you. It can also leave the doors open for hackers to easily find your email based off of your username, as they are usually the same or similar.

As for account passwords, always use a different password for each website you are on. When creating your password, make sure to use a combination of words, numbers, upper- and lowercase letters, and special characters. Opt not to use common password elements that include personal information that can easily be guesses.

 

Woman typing on the computer

 

 

For keeping track of your passwords, memorizing them is the best thing you can do. You should never write passwords down on any devices. Criminals are constantly looking to hack or steal them to easily access your accounts.

If you don’t feel as though you can memorize them or avoid writing them down, use a secure password manager like LastPass, 1Password, or Keeper. However, make sure to keep in mind that no site is immune from being breached. This means that if someone hacks the site your passwords will also be leaked.

 

Stop Using Third Party Apps

While on social media, have you ever encountered a promotion for a new game or quiz?

These are created by third-party apps and powered through the social media platform you are using. However, just because they are on the platform does not mean that they are always safe.

Social Media on Phone

 

Most of the time, playing the game or taking the quiz gives the third party application access to your personal information. This includes name, location, age, gender, friends list, and more.

Keep an Eye Out for Fake Friends

We are certain that you’ve seen this happen once or twice – you are already friends with/following a friend or family member when suddenly you get a new friend/follow request from the same person.

They have the same name, profile photo, and profile information, so you accept. You believe that it must have been a simple mistake. But, in reality, it is a cybercriminal that has created a fake account to now impersonate your loved one.

This account may then message you, starting a normal conversation. However, they have the goal of obtaining personal information about your life as well as theirs.

If you notice a fake account for you or a loved one, bring light to it by announcing it on the platform. State that you did not create a new account and warn others not to accept the friend request. 

You then must report the fraudulent account to the social media platform. The platform will then take the necessary steps to deactivate the account.

Update Your Privacy Settings

Social Media platforms are always updating their account settings and terms and conditions. Be sure to stay on top of what you are and are not sharing with the world.  

Regardless of which social media platform you are using – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn etc. – be sure that you are keeping important things, like your birthday, current location, workplace, and private.

To learn more about how you can check and update your privacy settings on the social networks you may be on, check out the University of Texas’ informational article by clicking here.

 

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Social media platforms will now offer, and even require, two-factor authentication for its users.

Two-factor authentication is used to add an extra layer of security to your account. This setting requires the user to use a two steps verification process in order to gain access to their account. First, the process requires you to login using your regular username and password. It then sends a verification code to your cell phone number.

This ensures that if a hacker gains access to your account through a weak password, they must pass through an additional layer of security before having free reign.

As society shifts to be more and more online it is extremely important to protect your identity on social media. You must be wary of the cyber-criminals lurking on social platforms. However, by following these examples and steps you can keep yourself, and your loved ones, safe online!

September 26, 2019

Are Deepfakes the Future of Identity Theft?

Committing identity theft or fraud may have just gotten easier. Are deepfakes the future of cybercrimes?

deepfake obama example

Source: Wired.com

Could someone be impersonating you?

With today’s technology, cybercriminals have a multitude of tricks up their sleeves to use to obtain your personal information. New programs, apps, and software can give them access into your life like never before.

But – what if they could actually go as far as to actually “become” you?

Deepfakes are a new tool that hackers are using to commit crimes. Educate yourself before you are next.

Learn about what deepfakes are and how deepfakes affect identity theft and fraud.

What Are Deepfakes?

A deepfake is a fake video and audio recording that is meant to sound and look real

This type of misleading footage was once only used for movies or television shows. Now, with our increasingly digital world, anyone with a computer, editing skills, and the proper editing software, can create their own deep fake.

“Deepfake” is a word that combines the terms “deep learning” and “fake.” Deep learning is a type of machine learning that teaches machines to learn through examples. 

Deep learning is frequently used in today’s world. It is behind a lot of the technology we use every day such as…

  • Voice-controlled devices. Devices like Siri or Alexa are considered a form of deep learning because the longer you speak to them, the more they learn.
  • Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars use deep learning methods to indicate stop signs, speed limits, and pedestrians.
  • Facial recognition. When certain devices or apps can recognize your face and facial expressions, deep learning is being used.
  • Social media newsfeeds. Do you ever wonder why social platforms like Facebook and Instagram are serving you specific ads? These social networks use deep learning methods to learn what you like to see.

 

AI machine learning

The nickname “deepfake” was created by a user on Reddit, a popular social media and forum platform, in 2017.

The users on Reddit were the ones that first created the deepfake software that allows anyone to create these videos. The creation of deepfakes began as a joke, but has become increasingly more dangerous as the videos can make anyone appear to be doing anything.

How do You Create a Deepfake Video?

With the new software, anyone can create a deepfake video.

But – how exactly are they created?

First, creating a deepfake video requires a lot research. You must compile an extensive amount of photos and videos of the person you would like to create the deepfake of. This means that people in the public eye, like celebrities, politicians, and others, are more susceptible to deepfakes.

After collecting the photos and videos, they are uploaded to the deepfake software. The software will scan the photos and look for consistencies with the photos of the person and what you want to “fake” them doing.

For example, if you would like to make the person in the video say something that they never said, the program will have to learn what facial movements and mouth shapes the person makes when saying those words in order to fake it.

Making a Deepfake Video

To make these deepfake videos appear even more realistic, a method called “generative adversarial networks,” or GAN, is used. This method makes deepfake videos even more realistic because it forces the video software to continuously improve the video until it is “statistically precise.” 

Currently, one of the most popular deepfake applications is an app called “FakeApp.” This app uses open-source Google software to create the deepfake. Fakeapp has over 120,000 active users. 

To show you how easily these videos can be made and how real they appear, comedian Jordan Peele created his own deepfake video. This video fakes a presidential address from President Obama. Watch the full video below to see how shockingly accurate deepfake videos can be.

Deepfakes and Identity Theft and Fraud

Due to the quality of deepfake videos, the threat of them being used as a tactic for identity theft and fraud is growing more and more likely.

Most of the deepfake videos that have been created recently involve “celebrity” impersonations. However, social media makes it easier for hackers and cybercriminals to impersonate an everyday person.

In fact, when it comes to deepfakes, The House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam B. Schiff says “I don’t think we’re well prepared at all. And I don’t think the public is aware of what’s coming” in regards to deepfakes and their aftereffects. 

Deepfakes are especially dangerous in professional or educational environments. 

Due to the nature of deepfakes, those in high-level roles can be impersonated so that cybercriminals can gain access to sensitive information. 

Cybercriminal

 

For example, using the photos and information found on the internet and social media, hackers can trick employees into giving them information that would allow them to easily hack into the business’ entire system. This results in large-scale hacks and data breaches.

This also has the potential to occur on a much smaller scale as well. Imagine getting a video from a friend or loved one where it appears that they are in trouble and in need of money, or other assistance, to help them.

Are most of us ready and able to tell the difference between what is real and what is fake?

With the growing usage of deepfake videos, the question is: is this type of “impersonation” considered a form of identity theft or fraud?

Are There Laws against Deepfakes?

Depending on the situation that the deepfake was used in, laws that already exist can apply. However, there is nothing in place that protects against deepfakes specifically.

Some examples of current laws that can protect you against deepfakes include:

Extortion

Extortion is when someone uses a threat of harm or violence to gain property or money. In the case of deepfakes, if you paid money to have the deepfake stopped, that is considered an act of extortion or cyber extortion. In some cases, the deepfake may have also been used as a form of blackmail to gain something, which is also considered extortion.

Harassment

Harassment is any action that demeans, threatens or offends someone and results in a hostile environment for the victim. If a deepfake video threatens you or creates a hostile environment, this is considered harassment.

False Light

False Light is when something ruins a person’s reputation in the eyes of the public. The most common things that fall into the “False Light” category are photo manipulation, embellishment, and distortion, which deepfakes would fall under.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress occurs when someone does something to cause the defendant to suffer severe emotional distress. In other words, if a deepfake causes emotional distress, this law can be used against it.

There are not many laws in place to protect against deepfake videos. Laws need to be put in place to protect American citizens against deepfakes.

 

There you have it! Now you know what to look out for and how to protect yourself against deepfakes.

September 13, 2019

What’s the Difference Between Identity Theft Protection and Credit Monitoring?

Should you be investing in Identity Theft Protection or Credit Monitoring? Learn the more about Credit Monitoring vs. Identity Theft Protection.

credit monitoring and identity theft monitoring

 

Do you know the difference between credit monitoring services and identity theft protection services? 

With the recent influx of data breaches, credit monitoring services are becoming more widely used.

Currently, massive companies, like Equifax, Quest Diagnosis, and Capital One, that have recently been breached, are offering free credit monitoring services to victims.

However, is that what you should be using to protect your personal information from being stolen and used?

What is Credit Monitoring?

Credit monitoring services monitor your credit and will alert you to any changes to your credit score.

Credit monitoring can be beneficial when it comes to identity theft because the alerts can indicate possible fraud.

Some of the things that a credit monitoring service will alert you of include:

  • Hard Inquiries. A hard inquiry is whenever a business runs a credit check on you. 
  • New Accounts. This will inform you of any new credit cards or loans in your name.
  • Account Changes. Any changes to payment or account history.
  • New Public Records. This alerts you to any new cases opened in your name – including court cases, tax issues, or bankruptcy. 
  • Address Changes. Change of any address associated with your current credit cards or loans.

credit monitoring services

When it comes to credit monitoring, the services are responsible for giving you notifications, not stopping the potential case of fraud. It is up to you to investigate the alerts and close any accounts that may have been opened.

How to Best Use Credit Monitoring

As we mentioned before, sometimes this is given to you for free for a period of time due to a data breach incident. To make the most out of your credit monitoring service during this time, two major things you should do are:

  1. Take the Time to Tailor Your Alerts. You can choose how you get alerted to account changes. Notification alerts can be sent via text, email, or even an automated phone call.  Select the method that will allow you to act most quickly.
  2. Take Action. Once you receive the alert, check it out, even if it is something that you recognize. This will prevent further damage from happening.

credit alerts

Optional: Monitor Your Own Credit

If you are concerned about your credit, did not receive a free credit monitoring period, and don’t want to pay for a monitoring service, there are  free options for credit monitoring.

Some of the best ways to monitor your credit for free are:

Request a Free Copy of Your Credit Report. You can receive a free copy of your credit report every 12 months. For more information, visit the FTC’s website here.

Free Monitoring Services. There are several free credit monitoring services out there to help you keep track of your credit. One of our favorites is Credit Karma, which is completely free. If Credit Karma isn’t for you, many other companies offer free trials of their service before they have you commit to a subscription.

What is Identity Theft Protection?

Identity Theft Protection services monitor all personally identifiable information. Platforms they monitor include, but are not limited to, credit applications, credit scores, public records, malicious websites, Social Security Number, driver’s license, passport, and medical ID number.

Similar to credit monitoring services, having an identity theft protection service will not prevent your identity from being stolen, but it will alert you to possible cases of identity theft.

Identity Theft Protection services focus on three main areas:

  • Monitoring. Identity Theft Protection services monitor numerous sources for changes, updates, and duplicates of your personal information.
  • Alerts. The company will alert you to any use of your personal information so that you can stop the identity theft attempt before it is too late.
  • Recovery. Companies offering Identity Theft Protection will help you recover your information. Most protection services also offer insurance policies to help cover the damages of theft and fraud.

 

credit and identity theft warning

 

Depending on the provider, there may be other, custom services offered as well such as virus protection software and chat room monitoring services.

For example, Identity Theft Protection services through American Identity Group offer:

  • 24/7 Monitoring. This service scans the Internet for your sensitive personal information 24/7 and alerts you to any suspicious activity.
  • Full Restoration. If you become a victim of identity theft, a professionally trained, US-based recovery advocate is assigned to you and will perform a fully managed identity restoration program.
  • $1,000,000 Insurance. A $1,000,000 no deductible personal insurance policy covers any expenses or stolen funds due to fraud or identity theft.

How to Best Use Identity Theft Protection Services

Identity Theft Protection services do not prevent identity theft, but, instead, help monitor your accounts and recover from identity theft.

To best utilize these services, you should:

  • Take Precaution. You should be doing all that you can to minimize your chances of having your identity stolen. To learn more, read our past blog posts!
  • Use Open Communication. Have open communication with your service provider to ensure that you are up-to-date with the status of your identity.

Optional: Monitor Your Own Identity

If you are concerned about identity theft but do not want to pay for a monitoring service, you can opt to monitor your identity on your own. 

Some DIY identity theft prevention tactics include:

  • Keep an Eye on Your Accounts. Set up notifications for any charges that go through your debit or credit card.
  • Monitor Your Credit Score. Keep tabs on your credit score. If your score goes up or down, make sure you look into why the score fluctuated.
  • Freeze Your Credit. Freezing your credit will prevent new accounts from being opened in your name. Visit the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – for more information. 
  • Setup Your Identity Theft Recover Plan. If you become a victim of identity theft, you can visit identitytheft.gov to report the theft and get a plan for recovery.

 

So – Which Monitoring Service is for you?

To recap, there are a few, major differences between credit monitoring services and identity theft monitoring services.

Credit monitoring services monitor your credit and will alert you to any changes to your credit score.

Identity Theft Protection services monitor all personally identifiable information, will alert you to any changes, and help to recover your identity if it is stolen.

 

With so many options out there, choose the best service for your situation.

If you would like more information on our Identity Theft Protection services, call us today to get in touch with an identity theft protection specialist.

August 26, 2019

How to Avoid Travel Identity Theft

As summer is coming to an end, so is the frequent traveling. Are you traveling in the next few weeks? Learn how to avoid travel identity theft.

travel identity theft

When traveling, we all have our own routine – we may pack all of our toiletries first, dig out a special bag for personal documents, or print out travel confirmations.

Whatever your routine is, you should also be prepping to protect your personal information.

A recent report found that 18% of respondents said they had “sensitive information” lost or stolen while traveling. These include things such as credit or debit cards, smartphones, drivers licenses, or passports. 

55% of those victimized by identity theft while traveling said it took anywhere from a few weeks to more than a year to resolve issues related to identity theft or fraud.

 

Identity theft may seem impossible to avoid, but there are things you can do before, during, and after traveling to prevent your information from being compromised.

 

Read below for information about travel identity theft and how to avoid it before, during, and after traveling.

 

Before Travel

To avoid a potentially disastrous situation, preparing yourself beforehand is the key. Some things you can do prior to leaving for your trip include:

 

#1 – Pack Lightly. When packing your bags for your trip, do not pack any unnecessary items. The more you bring, the more you can potentially lose while traveling. Not only will packing light help protect your identity, but it will also save you stress and money.

 

#2 – Get a House Sitter. If you are going away for an extended period of time, it may be wise to have a friend or family member look after your house while you are gone. Having someone stop by every few days to make sure that your house is safe and secure will give you some peace of mind and ward off potential thieves.

 

house sitter for traveling

 

 

#3 – Make Copies of Your Personal Documents. Making copies of your personal documents – including driver licenses, passports, insurance cards, and credit cards – can give you a backup in case something does go wrong while traveling. We recommend creating 2 copies of this information – one that you can give to a friend and one for you that you can store somewhere safe (maybe electronically).

 

#4 – Stop Mail From Coming. While you are away, contact the post office to put your mail delivery on hold. To do this, you can contact the USPS to submit a Hold Mail request. If you would like to submit a Hold Mail request, you can do so here

Keep in mind, this request should be made 30 days in advance to successfully stop your service.

 

#5 – Place a Travel Notification Your Debit and Credit Cards. When traveling, you should always set a travel notification on any forms of payment you will be using while you are gone. Not only does this protect your money, but it protects your accounts from potential fraud.

If your bank knows that you will be a certain place for a certain amount of days, they will be able to flag any suspicious purchases.

 

#6 – Update Your Technology. Out of date technology is easier for cybercriminals to hack. Before you leave, update any devices that you are bringing on your trip.

 

#7 – Use a Reputable Company for Booking. When booking hotels, flights, activities and more, use a company that you trust. Any bookings should be made on a secured wifi connection.

 

If the website you are using for booking seems shady, you are better off using a different company or website for your bookings.

making purchases while traveling

During Travel

After you’ve made the proper preparations, it is important to continue to use precaution while traveling. Keep these things in mind to keep yourself secure:

 

#1 – Don’t Use Public Wifi. It may be tempting to hop onto a public wifi connection while traveling, but it is extremely dangerous. Public wifi connections are not secured, which means that anyone can access whatever you are doing – like logging into social media or ordering something online – while connected to a public wifi connection.

 

#2 – Leave Personal Documents Behind. Sensitive documents that you are traveling with should be left behind while you are out and about. Most hotels have a safe or secured area to place these documents so that they don’t get into the wrong hands.

 

keep documents in your hotel room

 

#3 – Keep Your Vacation Off of Social Media. Wait to post photos of your vacation until after you return. Posting your location on social media while you are traveling can leave you insecure and expose your home, cars, and more to potential theft.

 

#4 – Don’t Put Anything Sensitive in Checked Luggage. Don’t put any information you would not want to lose in your checked luggage. An airline losing your bag while traveling is not super common, however, it does happen. 

Want to know how at-risk your luggage is with your airline provider? See below for the lost luggage statistics for the popular U.S. Airlines.

 

 

#5 – Avoid Shady ATMs. Just like anywhere, an ATM can have card skimmers stealing your card information or secret cameras watching you withdraw. We recommend keeping ATM withdraws to a minimum while traveling. If you must withdraw money, only withdraw money from a large bank branch that you know if safe.

 

#6 – Keep Your Passcodes Enabled. Keep your phone and other devices protected while traveling with a passcode. This ensures that even if they are stolen, hackers cannot access the personal documents on the devices.

After Travel

Once you are home, you may not be in the clear. It can take anywhere from 100 hours to six months to spot identity theft.

When you arrive home, it is important to:

 

#1 – Review all Accounts. After traveling, you should review any account that you used during your travels. Looking over account activity can ensure that the only transactions happening on the accounts are ones that you have authorized. 

If there is any suspicious activity, be sure to dispute it with your debit/credit card provider immediately to avoid facing additional charges. Due to the unauthorized activity, you may also have to take the step of canceling or changing your card information.

 

#2 – Check Your Mail. If you have had mail delivered while you were away, check to see if anything you were expecting – like bills, letters, or invitations – are missing. This could mean that they have gotten into the hands of an identity thief. 

If you believe that mail is missing, file a complaint with the USPS.

 

#3 – Go Over Personal Documents. When you get home, make sure that all of your personal documents have made it home as well. Check to see that any passports, photo IDS, or other forms of personal identification are with you and stored safely.

 

 

If you find that something is not right when you return home, take the necessary steps to recover your identity or missing documents. If you want more information on how to do so, you can read our previous article here that details the steps you should take to report the theft as an identity theft victim.

 

Did you find this helpful? Will you be using this guide for the next time you travel?

Thanks for reading and safe travels!

August 14, 2019

4 Steps to Filing a Police Report for Identity Theft

Are you a victim of Identity Theft? Here are the steps you need to take to file a police report for identity theft.

filing a report

With data breaches becoming more and more frequent in today’s world, you never know when your information may be stolen.

Last year alone, 60 million people became a victim of identity theft. 

When becoming a victim of identity theft, your world is turned upside down. During this confusing time, it is hard to remember which steps you have to take to secure your identity effectively. 

One thing that should definitely be done when trying to recover is filing a police report for identity theft.

 

Read more to learn why you should file a report when you should file a report and the steps to filing a police report for identity theft.

 

Why Should You File a Police Report?

With identity theft occurring more and more frequently, there is the question of it you should even attempt to file a police report.

In our opinion, it is always important to do everything you can to protect yourself from further damage. 

Filing a police report helps you protect you in a number of ways including:

 

    • Identifying the thief. If you know who it was that stole your identity, you should immediately take the information to the police. This will help find the person responsible for the crime. It will also help to prevent this person from causing further damage.
    • Proof of Identity theft. Sometimes, a creditor or collector may require that you produce a police report as proof of the theft. If you are unable to produce the report, you may be responsible for paying off any expenses made by the criminal.
    • Stopping from further damage. If the thief is living locally, there is a chance that they will use your information instead of their own when committing other crimes. For example, giving your personal information if they are ever pulled over by police. Having this report filled will prevent any additional crimes from tarnishing your name. 

 

 

Writing your report

When Should You File?

When it comes to reporting the incident to the police, the report should be filed immediately.

Why? As we mentioned above, this report will act as proof that you are innocent and acknowledged the theft. In some cases, it can also start an investigation into the theft.

 

Steps to Filing a Police Report for Identity Theft:

When filing a police report, it is important to file locally first before filing a report with the state or any other government entity.

How to go about filing a police report will vary state by state. In order to find the most correct information, be sure to check with your local law enforcement.

Step 1 – Filing a Report with the FTC

Before filing a report with the police, you should file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. You can file an identity theft report on the FTC’s website www.identitytheft.gov

You can file an identity theft report directly by clicking here.

Step 2 – Gathering the Necessary Information

When going to file the report, be sure that you have the following information with you:

  • A government-issued photo ID. This proves to law enforcement that you really are who you say you are.
  • Proof of address. In order to file an identity theft report, you will need to be able to prove that you live at the address you provided. This proof of address can be in the form of a mortgage statement, utility bill, etc.
  • Proof of Theft. You will also need to provide proof that you have become a victim of identity theft. For this proof, you can provide credit card statements, credit reports, accounts opened in your name, and more.

 

police officer

Step 3 – Filing the Report

Once all of the required information is located, go to your local police station to file your identity theft report.

You should also ask that a copy of the FTC report, that you filed in step 1, be attached to the police report in order to give as much detail about the incident as possible.

 

Step 4 – Get Copies of the Report

After the report is filed, it is important to also get official copies of the report for your records. This will allow you to dispute any unauthorized activity on your accounts.

 

Additional Steps to Recovery:

After you file a police report, your job is not over. In order to fully secure your identity, there are additional steps that you must take

Not sure what to look for? Check out our previous blog that reviews 9 warning signs of Identity Theft.

Close Your Accounts

Once you see fraudulent activity taking place on your accounts, you should contact the bank or credit card provider for the account.

After the activity is detected, you should work immediately to close your debit and/or credit card. Most of the time, you will be able to file a form online to dispute the charge. Lastly, deactivate your accounts to ensure that the thief no longer has access to it.

After the dispute and closure, be sure to monitor your accounts closely to make sure that there are no additional fraudulent charges.

man disputing fraudulent charges

Review Your Credit Reports

To review your credit report, obtain copies of your report from all three of the major credit bureaus.

To obtain your credit reports, click the links below:

While looking through your credit reports, highlight any open accounts or account activity that was not authorized by you.

If you see something that was not authorized, immediately place a fraud alert on your account. This alert will be valid for 90 days and act as a signal to any lenders or creditors that your information has likely be comprised. This means that they will take extra caution before opening a new account in your name.

Close Any Fraudulent Accounts

After reviewing the activity on your accounts and your credit reports, you may detect unauthorized accounts that were opened by identity thieves.

In some cases, the loan provider or creditor will need evidence that a fraud has taken place before the account is closed.  If this is the case, this is where the police report will come in handy. 

woman calling lenders to close accounts

Take Other Necessary Steps

Other steps that you may have to take depends on the type of fraud you have experienced. 

Depending on what was stolen, you may need to do things like…

  • Extend your fraud alert. Extending your fraud alert will not cost you anything. This option can last up to 7 years and requires extra verification before any new accounts are opened in your name. 
  • Get a new license. In some cases, you may need to replace your photo ID. For more information on how to do this and what paperwork is required to obtain a new ID, visit the DMV’s website.
  • Report your passport missing. If your passport has gone missing, you should report it to the U.S. Department of State. You can report your passport lost or stolen in a number of ways such as online, by mail or over the phone.
  • Replace your Social Security card. Contact the SSA if your Social Security card has been lost or stolen. In some cases, a new card may not have to be issued.
  • Report Missing Mail. If your mail is missing or has been stolen, contact the USPS to file a complaint. If you notice that a specific statement missing, monitor that account to see if any additional charges or changes have been made.

 

 

Get a Monitoring Service

Once you have done all that you can to recover your identity, the only thing left for you to do is to monitor your accounts. 

If you are involved in a major hack or data breach, monitoring services may be given to you free of cost. However, if this occurred due to an unknown reason, it is up to you to secure your identity.

At American Identity Group, we take pride in protecting you and your family. Our identity theft protection plans:

  1. Monitors your identity 24/7
  2. Alerts you to any potential threats or changes
  3. Fully restores your identity
  4. Reimburses you for any out of pocket expenses

 

Consider purchasing an identity theft protection plan today! Our exclusive offer will give you priceless protection for only $1 NOW!

Sign up today to protect YOUR freedom.

July 24, 2019

7 Ways to Spot an Email Phishing Scam

Are you concerned about falling victim to an Email Phishing Scam? Read more to find out 7 ways to spot an Email Phishing Scam.

Email Phishing Scams

One of the most common tactics used by identity thieves is Phishing scams. Phishing scams not only affect individuals but large companies and organizations as well.

97% of all people who receive Phishing emails do not recognize the email as a scam and almost half of all people who receive Phishing emails fall for them.

Have you ever been a victim of a Phishing Email Scam? Are you worried about becoming one?

Read more below to find out what a Phishing Scam is, the types of Email Phishing Scams being used, and 7 ways to spot an Email Phishing Scam in your inbox.

 

What is an Email Phishing Scam?

Phishing occurs when a cybercriminal uses fraudulent tactics to obtain your personal information. 

They then use this information to commit fraud or even identity theft. These Phishing scams can come in the form of fake emails, fraudulent texts, copycat websites, and much more.

Hackers may also be using Phishing tactics to obtain access to your computer or internet network in order to install programs that will be harmful to you and your personal information.

Many people fall for Phishing email scams because the hacker creates a false sense of security or urgency in order to prey on their target.

 

Types of Email Phishing Scams

Email phishing scams come in a number of shapes and sizes. Some common phishing scams include:

Spear Phishing

During this Phishing tactic, the hacker targets specific individuals via email. In this approach, the hacker does extensive research on the person/organization they are targeting in order to make the scam more personalized and believable. Spear Phishing

Ransomware Phishing

During this attack, hackers use fake links, attachments, and “malvertising,” advertising containing scripts that download malware and unwanted content onto your computer. In this hack, cybercriminals will restrict access to personal information until a ransom is paid. This recently happened to the City of Baltimore. Read more about it on our blog!

Ransomware attacks

Link Manipulation

In this type of Phishing, the hacker will send include a link to a malicious website in the email. Once the link is clicked, the email’s receiver will be redirected to the hacker’s website instead of the website they thought they were going to.

malicious website links

Clone Phishing

Clone Phishing occurs when a hacker clones a previous piece of online communication to make it look identical. However, in this email, the hacker will attach malicious links or attachments in order to gain access to your information.

cloning emails

Whaling

This email Phishing tactic specifically targets senior executives in a company or high-profile employees within a business. This email will be personalized for their role and often includes documents such as subpoenas, legal content, or customer complaints.

whaling email scam

How to spot an Email Phishing Scam

Email Phishing scams may sound scary, but there are a number of precautions you can take to protect yourself. The biggest way to avoid falling for a phishing scam is to know the warning signs. Below are 7 ways to spot an email phishing scam tactic.

Emails from Unknown Senders

Before trusting any email you open, make sure that you recognize the sender. This isn’t always a perfect way of telling if the email has been faked or not, but this base check will act as a way to weave out potential Phishing emails. 

Even if you recognize the person name, confirm that the email address that the email is coming from belongs to them. Hackers will often spoof real emails or create emails that are similar to the real person’s email in order to get you to give up your personal information.

Bad Grammar and Typos

Any reputable company or business would not allow emails with bad grammar or spelling errors to go out. If there are numerous, jarring mistakes in the email, it is best to send it to your trash.

It is also important to be wary of how the email is addressed. Often times, emails using generic greetings such as “Dear Customer,” “Dear Member,” or they may use of your full email address such as “Dear JohnDoe@ABC.com

Asking for personal information

The main goal of any Phishing scam is to obtain your personal information. In Phishing emails, the hacker will often get you to input your information by requesting for you to “update” or “verify” the information for their system.

No company is going to ask for your personal information via email. If you receive an email asking for you to “verify” any login credentials, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, or other personal information, it is most likely a scam and should be deleted immediately. 

The use of urgency words or warning of an account threat

Hackers will take advantage of your anxiety about being hacked to gain access to your information. Emails containing urgency words or warning words like “Urgent Action Requested!” or “Your Account Has Been Closed!” are most likely scam emails

If you ever receive an email like this and you are suspicious, it is best to call the business that is emailing you in order to confirm the issue before you give out your personal information.

Unrecognized links or attachments

Often, hackers will include fraudulent links or attachments in a Phishing email in order to obtain your information. 

One tip to know to avoid clicking on potentially harmful things is to hover over the link to reveal the hyperlink. The hyperlink is the full website that the embedded link is leading you to. If the hyperlink looks shady, do not click it. 

Another helpful tip is to educate yourself on DNS, or Domain Name System. DNS structure is what you see within a website’s URL. Typically the structure will appear like this – Subtopic.Full Domain.com For example, docs.google.com is how a typical DNS will appear. A Phishing scam will likely have an unusual DNS structure with a malicious domain as the Full Domain name. 

Providing a specific reward

Some Phishing tactics involve the hacker claiming that you have won a prize such as money, a trip, or a car. If you click on the link in this email, you will oftentimes be asked to pay the shipping or processing fee in order to receive your prize. This is a way for the hacker to gain access to personal information such as credit/debit card numbers, full names, and billing addresses. Hackers will then use this information for their own gain.

If you have not entered any lotteries, sweepstakes, or prize drawings and get this type of email, delete it immediately.

Logos or Company Information is Incorrect

If an email is from a sender claiming to be from a legitimate company, make sure all logos and company information provided in the email is correct. The smallest detail, like the company’s logo colors, maybe off meaning that the email was spoofed.

Another warning sign is that the email is impersonal and has a generic signature that does not mention a real name. For example, if an email is signed “Amazon Team” or “Comcast Billing Department,” the email may be a Phishing scam.

 

Want more information on how to protect yourself and your email? Check out our previous blog all about 9 Steps to Protecting Your Email.

What would you like to learn about next? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

May 11, 2019

Was Your Favorite Restaurant Hacked? The Earl Enterprises Data Breach

In late March of 2019, Earl Enterprises announced that it had been a victim of a data breach. During this breach, customer credit card information was stolen. This is yet another major breach impacting consumers everywhere.

Earl Enterprises

Earl Enterprises is the parent company of many popular restaurant chains including Planet Hollywood, Buca di Beppo, and Bertucci’s.

 

Data breaches are nothing new. In fact, they are on the rise and cybercriminals seem to be going after larger and larger companies in order to obtain as much information as possible. Last year alone, 932 data breaches resulted in more than 47.2 million personal records being exposed.

 

So – how can you keep yourself safe?

 

Learn more about what a data breach is, which restaurants were impacted in the Earl Enterprises data breach, and what you can do if your data was breached.

 

What Is a Data Breach?

We talk about the term “data breach” more and more in today’s digital age. In fact, we have discussed in a previous blog some of the biggest data breaches in history.

Data Breach - American Identity Group

A data breach occurs when a cybercriminal utilizes an unauthorized entry point into a business’ database that allows them to obtain user data such as passwords, credit card information, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, medical records and much more. Cybercriminals will then use this information to commit fraud or identity theft.

 

During a data breach, cybercriminals will usually take the same steps to carry out the breach successfully. These steps are:

Data Breach Research

Research

The cybercriminal will pick a business, company, or corporation to target. Once selected, they will do digging in order to figure out the company’s security weaknesses.

Attack

The cybercriminal makes initial contact in the form of a network or social attack.Cyber attack

  • Network Attack: occurs when a cybercriminal uses an infrastructure, system, or application weakness to enter into their target’s network.
  • Social Attack: occurs when a cybercriminal tricks or baits employees into giving them access to the company’s network.

Exfiltration

Once the cybercriminal gains access to the network, they will attack the network and extract all 

Cybercriminal exfiltration

confidential company data stored on the network. This information is used by the cybercriminal forpersonal gain, whether that means selling it on the Dark Web or threatening the company to release the information unless they pay a large fee to the hacker.

 

Most of the time, these hackers are not using advanced hacking techniques to carry out these data breaches. Data breaches most frequently occur from site vulnerabilities that allow hackers easy access.

 

Some of the most common types of site vulnerabilities that lead to hacking are:

  1. Outdated Security Systems
  2. Weak Passwords
  3. Malware and Viruses
  4. Unsecure URLs

 

You now know more about what a data breach is and how they occur. Now, let’s talk about the Earl Enterprises Data Breach.

Which Restaurants Were Impacted?

According to a statement released by the company, the Earl Enterprises Data Breach was realized after they were made aware of a potential data breach incident. Through internal investigations and the help of cybersecurity firms, Earl Enterprises was able to confirm that a data breach did, in fact, take place.

 

This data breach took place over a span of 10 months. In this breach, more than 2 million guests at Earl Enterprises chains had their credit card numbers, expiration dates, and cardholder names compromised.

 

The Earl Enterprises data breach occurred after cybercriminals installed malicious software onto point-of-sale systems at select locations of Earl Enterprises restaurants. Any guest who may have visited an Earl Enterprises restaurant location between May 23, 2018 – March 18, 2019 may have had their information stolen.

 

Of all of the restaurants under the Earl Enterprises brand, the restaurants that were potentially impacted are Buca di Beppo, Earl of Sandwich, Planet Hollywood, Chicken Guy!, Mixology and Tequila Taqueria.

Earl Enterprises Data Breach

What Should You Do Now?

If your personal information was compromised in a data breach, it is likely that you will get a written notification from your bank, or the company that was involved in the breach, informing you of the breach. Once they have confirmed that your information has been stolen, here are some steps you should take to keep yourself safe:

 

Change your password.

If you have an account with the business that has experienced a data breach, change your password immediately. It is likely that the cybercriminal was able to steal all login credentials, meaning your account is not unsecured.

Monitor your email.

Again, if your personal information was compromised, it is likely that your email has been stolen. If you receive a suspicious email from the company that was breached asking for personal information or for you to click a link, do not open the email and inform the company of the incident ASAP.

Obtain new debit/credit cards

If your debit or credit card number was stolen, call your card company to cancel the card. Request that a new card is sent to you. It would also be wise to change any pins you were using previously.

Place a fraud alert.

You should place a fraud alert on your account through one of the three major credit agencies. This alert is sent to all three agencies. It also notifies agency employees to be extra cautious with anyone trying to inquire about your account.

Sign up for Identity Theft protection

American Identity Group’s team of experts will constantly monitor your identity and alert you immediately if anything out of the ordinary is spotted. Sign up for a single plan or family plan protection package today!

 

 

 

Have you been to an Earl Enterprises location during the time of the data breach? If so, make sure you are taking the proper steps to recover your identity.

 

If you have any questions about identity theft, fraud, and keeping your information safe, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

April 12, 2019

5 Common Identity Theft Scams to Avoid

Today, we will discuss 5 common identity theft scams you should avoid! Identity theft occurs when an individual or group takes your personal information without your consent. Identity thieves use a variety of scams to steal your information.

How to avoid scams - American Identity Theft

The sad truth is that many individuals have been affected by identity theft. In fact, 1 out of every 15 people experiences identity theft at least once in their lifetime! They say the truth shall set you free, I say the truth can stress you out. Won’t you agree that this number is a little stressful?

Identity thieves are notorious for creating scams and harming you and your family by stealing your personal and sensitive information. Unfortunately. Juvenile and senior identity theft are very common according to the 2018 Child Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research, more than 1 million children in the U.S. were IDT victims last year, resulting in losses of $2.67 billion.

As proud Americans, we believe in protecting our country and our families Identity! Let’s jump into the 5 common identity theft scams you should be on the lookout for.

 

Scam 1:

Phishing Scams

  • A phishing scam is defined as a fraudulent attempt to steal sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, social security numbers, and credit card details by disguising as a trustworthy entity in any form of electronic communication.
  • A great example of phishing scams is fraudulent emails. There are several known phishing scams using “fake” email addresses, such as xxxuniversity.edu, that mass-distribute scam emails to as many company employees as possible.
  • I, personally, have received fraudulent emails from fake email addresses. In the example below, the email claims that the user’s password is about to expire. Instructions are given to go to myuniversity.edu/renewal to renew their password within 24 hours.

Be aware of phishing scams. Try and take caution when receiving emails, do not click on any links that seem suspicious.

 

Scam 2:

Debit Identity Theft Scams

  • Debit scams occur in many different ways. Perhaps the most common type of debt scams occurs with telemarketers.
  • What makes matters worse is there are no GDPR laws in America to protect consumers. Meaning anyone can easily access your information, such as your phone number without your consent.
  • For example, a number of calls that you have never seen as “private” could be trying to steal your money from your checking account. How? Simply by tricking you, or as we call it “scamming you,” into believing he or she is calling from the card company. Once the scammer has the information you’ve handed over to them over the phone, the scammer now has full access to your account. If a telemarketer or caller asks for your banking information, take caution. Don’t give out your information over the phone unless you know who you’re speaking with is absolutely trustworthy and is from an accredited company.

 

women facing debit fraud

Take the next step to protect your identity by signing up for our Single or Family Plans of Identity Protection! Get coverage now for only $1.00 down!

 

Scam 3:

Mail and Email Identity Theft Scams

  • Keep an eye on your mail! Especially if you’re leaving or going on vacation or for a long period of time. Anyone can steal your mail and gain access to important information. A great way to avoid this is by getting a secured mailbox with a key, that only you have a copy of. Or, even consider getting a P.O. Box where you can keep your mail secured from scammers.
  • Another thing to take into consideration in this category is “fake mail.” Scammers use look alike mail to trick individuals into believing that the mail they are receiving is real. However, when the individual opens the mail, there is normally some sort of demand and a call to action asking you to call a number or to email them specific information. Be very careful of shady demands.
  • These scams are known to intimidate or scare you into paying or providing your sensitive information. Never make payments via mail without first verifying the sender. As Americans, we have the freedom to speak our truths –  don’t be afraid to ask why your sensitive information is needed.

email and mail scams

One of the most important things to do if you think you receive scam mail is to report the issue. Report scams and fraud by contacting the U.S. Postal Inspection Service or reporting the incident online.

Scam 4:

Child Identity Theft Scams

  • In 2018, it was reported that more than 1 million children were victims of identity theft. According to NBC , “Data breaches are more of a risk for minors than they are for adults.”Pasquel says that last year, 11 percent of all U.S. households had at least one child affected by identity theft.
  • Children are more likely to become targets and become victims. Scammers who target children are likely to steal Social Security Numbers, which are considered more valuable for criminals.
  • Pascual tells NBC News that “Criminals can have a field day with a child’s identity information because it’s never been used before. When a bank or other company pulls a credit report, they’re not going to find anything, and so the criminal has a clean pallet to work on.”

This is the sad truth – even our children are becoming targets to identity thieves. Don’t fall victim!

child scams and children fraud

  • Keep your important documents secured, request your child credit records and keep track of their reports and your mail. What more information on how to protect your children from IDT? Read our previous blog all about the warning signs of children IDT.

 

Scam 5:

Senior Citizen Identity Theft Scams

  • Senior citizens are a target for many scammers, simply because seniors tend to be more vulnerable when receiving mail, emails and or telephone calls. Unfortunately, the personal information of senior citizens is extremely valuable to cybercriminals because seniors are typically not opening as many new accounts or applying for new credit, meaning it is less likely that the scammer will be caught.

The FTC reported that 37% of Americans who are 60 years or older made fraud complaints in 2016; 20% of those complaints were for ID theft. Seniors can easily fall victim to scammers if they trust the wrong person.

  • There are many reports where scammers develop a relationship over time with their target by preying on them over the phone or even by mail or email.

identity theft scams and hack

This is your life, your Identity. Don’t fall victim to Identity Theft Scam tactics.

Let American Identity Group protect your freedom and give you your voice back! Identity theft is a sad scary truth we face, but by knowing what scams to avoid, you can protect your information and take the proper steps needed in protecting you and your family.

 

american identity group logo

March 20, 2019

9 Warning Signs of Identity Theft

If you have been following us at any capacity, you should know by now how many people are actually impacted by identity theft. If you think you are safe from IDT, you are sadly mistaken.

Identity Theft - Warning Signs

Approximately 15.4 million people have been affected by Identity Theft. Total losses are up to $16 billion. In order to best protect yourself, you need to know what to look for in a potential Identity Theft situation.

 

Here are 9 Warning Signs of Identity Theft. If you match any of these signs, don’t panic! Read more to plan your steps to recovering your stolen identity.

 

Unexplained bank withdrawals

We can’t stress the importance of regularly monitoring your bank accounts. If you don’t have online banking alerts set up already, we suggest you sign up for them now. For those of you that already have alerts enabled, you will get alerts for any transactions in your accounts. This ensures that your accounts are protected from fraud.

IDT

If you see any unauthorized transactions happening on your accounts, this could mean that…

  1. Your debit or credit card was stolen and is being used by someone else
  2. Someone has skimmed your card number and now has access to your bank account

 

If you see any unauthorized transactions on your account, you should get in touch with your bank to make them aware of the situation. You should also dispute any charges to your account and request a new card. Afterward, it may be necessary to file a fraud or police report depending on the number of charges processed on your account.

 

 

Bills for services/products you did not receive

Similar to our previous point, if you receive bills for products you did not order or services you did not receive, it is possible that someone has been using your account for their purchases.

Medical Identity Theft

One common service that you may be billed for is a medical service. Medical identity theft is one of the most common forms of identity theft – in fact, 30% of people impacted by medical identity theft have no idea when the theft occurred. Some identity thieves go after your personal information to use it solely for medical services. Medical identity theft occurs when someone uses your name, insurance numbers, etc. to receive medical services.

 

To safeguard yourself from medical identity theft, be sure to review any medical bills you receive to look for discrepancies. If you see any names, dates, services, or medical provider information that is incorrect, make sure to contact your insurance company as soon as possible.

 

You stop receiving your mail

If you stop receiving bills or important documents via mail, it is possible that an identity thief has changed your mailing address. When someone gets ahold of your personal information, they have the key to your life. An identity thief can easily go to the Post Office and change your mailing address to reroute all mail to a fake address.Mail Identity Theft

 

If you notice that your mail is not coming as regularly as it once did or that it has stopped coming altogether, you should look into it. If you are missing bank or credit card statements only, contact your bank or credit card provider individually. However, if you notice that all of your mail is missing, contact your post office directly.

 

 

Calls from debt collection for a debt you do not owe

Debt collection calls are one of the first signs of identity theft. If you are receiving calls from debt collectors, it means that…

Debt Collect Identity Theft

  1. An account has been successfully opened in your name
  2. An account has been open and collecting debt for some time

If you start receiving calls about a debt that you did not accumulate, make sure to inform the debt collector that the debt is not yours. Afterward, put a freeze on your credit to ensure that another card cannot be opened in your name. Be sure to file a fraud report with the FTC.

 

 

Misinformation on credit report

If you are not checking your credit report yearly, you should start. Monitoring your credit score and credit report can help you catch identity theft tactics before they become harmful. When looking at your credit report, it is important to check every aspect of the report for any discrepancies.Fraud

If you notice anything incorrect on the credit report, the best thing to do is to start making a list of errors. When disputing things on your credit report…

File all errors separately. This will ensure that each error is corrected. Filing multiple errors at once can leave more room for the CRA to miss correcting an error.

Send the dispute in a letter via mail. Creating a letter by hand makes the claim personalized. Sending the letter via mail
ensures that you will get a tracking number so that you can see when the letter is sent and received.

Contact other companies that are impacted. Include a letter to these individual companies as well and any records, fraud reports, or police reports you may have.

 

 

An IRS Letter Regarding Wage Discrepancies

IRS Logo

If someone has taken over your identity, it may come to light during tax season. If you receive a letter from the IRS stating that the wage amount on your Social Security statement doesn’t match what you filed on your tax return, someone may be using your identity.

This can also cause issues when filing taxes – if someone is using your personal information as theirs, you may get a notice that taxes have already been filed under your Social Security number. This can impact a number of things, but, most importantly, the status of your tax refund.

If you are concerned about tax fraud or think that someone may have filed their taxes using your information, read more about how to resolve tax fraud on our previous blog.

 

You are receiving 2-factor authentication alerts

2-factor authentication alerts give you peace of mind. The point of having a 2-factor authentication alert is to keep identity thieves out of your account. If you are receiving random alerts, it could mean that someone is trying to get into your accounts.

 

two-factor authentication

 

2-factor authentication is an added security measure that kicks in after you enter your username and password for your account. This second level can come in the form of…

 

  • A bonus password
  • A pin number
  • A text verification
  • A fingerprint/voice verification

 

Denial of a credit card or loan application

Fraud

If you know you have good credit and suddenly get denied for a credit card or loan, it could be because of something you are not seeing. If you have credit, you can get one copy of your credit score per year. Obtaining this copy will not alter your credit score in any way. However, there is a workaround to this so that you can check your credit report more frequently.

There are 3 big credit reporting firms – Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. You can request reports from the individual firms once a year as well. By spacing out your requests, you can get an updated credit report from one firm every few months.

 

Missing personal items

If your wallet, phone, credit card, Social Security card, or any other personal identification item goes missing, this could lead to identity theft. It is crucial to report any item that goes missing as soon as you notice that it is gone. Not only will this set an alert on this item, but it will help you to start the steps to recovery.

Identity Theft - Stolen Items

If you have lost or misplaced an item that can lead to identity theft, you should

  • Contact your bank. Alert them of the loss, cancel the account, and dispute any incorrect charges
  • Contact your credit card company. Credit card companies are usually on top of suspicious activity and will likely alert you to anything that seems irregular on your account. Informing the company will allow them to cancel the card and issue you a new one.
  • File a police report. Even if the police can’t do anything further to help in the situation, this will give you a record of the incident.

 

 

So, there you have it – 9 warning signs that your identity has been stolen!

 

Not seeing any of these warning signs but are still concerned about the safety of your identity? Check out our previous blog with tips on how to avoid Identity theft.

 

As always, let us know in the comments below if you have any questions! Give us a call at 855-200-6788 if you have specific concerns about your identity protection.

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