Davich: A reminder on preventing ID theft – Post


May 27, 2014 10:58PM

Jerry Davich.

Find help

Do you believe you are the target of a scam? Report the fraudulent activity to police and visit this Indiana Attorney General website to fill out a complaint — www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/2895.htm. The number is (800) 382-5516.

The office also has a victim’s kit: www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/2409.htm.

You should also report the attempted crime to the Federal Trade Commission, at www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft or call (877) ID-THEFT.

Updated: May 28, 2014 2:02AM

What’s the first thing you think of, or first thing you do, when you hear the phrase “identity theft?”

Me? I change the passwords on my many accounts, from banking and credit cards to health care and utilities. It’s a never-ending, round-robin rotation system to stay one step ahead of scammers, hackers and criminals. Or so I tell myself.

Last week I received yet another email from that same Nigerian prince who wants to transfer funds to me, asking only for some financial information from me. What a guy. What a deal. What a running joke, right?

“The reality is that these scams continue because they work,” Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel said. “With the recent proliferation of debit card and credit card data breaches, nearly everyone has a story to tell of how they have been victimized.”

This includes Gensel, whose credit card information has been “compromised” on two different occasions, he admitted in a news release.

This also includes the husband of state Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point, who was a recent victim of identity theft.

“My husband had his ID information stolen,” she said in a statement. “When that happens, everything is at risk. Your finances, your Social Security retirement, your credit rating and even your reputation are all put into jeopardy.”

Reversing the damage done, if even possible, is costly, time-consuming and frustrating, as anyone knows who has had their identity stolen.

“Identity theft turns your world inside out,” VanDenburgh said.

She received a call from a scammer who portrayed himself as a “Microsoft technician,” saying her computer had become infected with a virus. He needed her to turn it on.

“The man was very persistent,” she said.

He even provided her with a toll-free number to call to confirm that he was from Microsoft and a Bloomington-based address. Lies, all lies.

“The truth is Microsoft officials would never call and insist they need you to turn your computer on,” VanDenburgh said. “I’ve heard of other schemes where the scammers attempt to get an individual to go to a particular site that will give the scammers remote access to the computer so they can make changes to the settings, which causes your computer to become vulnerable.”

Other crooks scare you into installing “anti-security” malware so they can steal your sensitive information, such as passwords and user names.

“The scams are becoming more and more sophisticated, so computer users must be cautious at all times,” she noted. “Unfortunately, scammers use throwaway cellphones so they are extremely difficult to trace.”

Gensel warns about scammers who call hotels around checkout time and ask to be connected to one of the rooms. They represent themselves as being from the front desk and say there is confusion regarding the hotel guest’s credit card information.

“Can you please repeat your credit card info so I can confirm it with our hotel records?” the crook asks the hotel guest.

Would you bite? I might.

That stolen credit card number (and three-digit security code on the back of the card) is used to buy items, services or merchandise anywhere in the world.

“Credit card numbers are ‘grabbed’ through sophisticated syndicates, such as the Target breach, or more simply through devices carried by food service workers or installed on ATMs or gas pumps,” Gensel wrote in the release. “Never respond to an email or text or phone call asking you for credit card or bank account information. Simply say that you will call the credit card company at the number on the back of the card.”

I give VanDenburgh a lot of credit for coming forward and publicly admitting that her husband was victimized. Same with Gensel. It shows that this cybercrime can happen to anyone.

They both also offered sound suggestions how to avoid being ripped off regarding identity theft and cybercrimes.

“First of all, don’t ever give control of your computer to a third party whom you don’t know,” VanDenburgh said.

Also, don’t rely on caller ID to authenticate a caller because criminals can use phony caller ID numbers that look legitimate. And don’t expect online searches to determine the authenticity of a technical support specialist or company.

“If an unsolicited caller tries to pressure you into buying a computer security product or says there is a subscription fee associated with the call, hang up immediately,” VanDenburgh. “Call your security software company directly.”

In my nearly 20 years in the newspaper business, I’ve written too many columns and stories about victims who were just plain gullible, even irresponsible, about “free trial” offers and fraud schemes involving lottery winnings, disaster relief, credit and home repair, work-from-home jobs and phony debt collectors. The list goes on.

VanDenburgh offers these tips:

Beware of “phishing” emails that appear to be from banks and sometimes other businesses. They try to get your account information, Social Security number, passwords and other critical information.

Keep your laptop secure and don’t leave it out of sight in public places.

Update your anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

Make sure your passwords contain numbers and symbols as well as upper- and lower-case letters. (My passwords often look like pure nonsense but rank “high” on their protective strength.)

Avoid proper names and common words and don’t use the same passwords for different accounts.

Don’t let a web browser remember your passwords.

“The best advice I can give is to be protective of your identity and financial information, check your credit report to see if you have unauthorized credit cards or loans, use credit cards instead of debit cards,” according to Gensel.

Fortunately, the best advice regarding dollars and cents remains common sense.

“If an investment seems too good to be true, it is,” Gensel wrote.

I don’t know about you, but I just changed my passwords. Again.

Article source: http://posttrib.suntimes.com/27678369-537/davich-a-reminder-on-preventing-id-theft.html

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