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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lets play a game...

Oh, and by the way, it is not identity theft! It is stealing of information and fraud! I will always be who I am...

But on to the game...

People never cease to amaze me. The other day I was standing around in a Taco Bell waiting for my food, along with about a dozen other people, and was amazed at how much I had learned within 10 minutes; yes 10 minutes for a taco!

I did not say one word, not one question, did not apply one bit of social engineering. If I had, who knows what I would have learned.

I’ll purposefully leave out some of the specific information but supply enough so that you get the general idea.

You see there was this one lady (Bethany) with her 4 year old child (Andrew – Drew for short) who was born on November 12, at such and such Hospital and lived in a certain neighborhood , had two other siblings (Crystal and Thomas), who went to such and such school.

Then there was this other lady who was a researcher for a particular real estate investor who was looking to acquire property out in Chantilly. She liked horseback riding and had a brother (Ron). She was discussing this with a man (Dennis) who was in construction and his company was struggling to find financing for a new project also in Chantilly. Oh, and he was wearing a NASCAR jacket and cap. I also knew his kids names (all five of them) and where he currently lived and had lived 3 years ago. He used to live in the same neighborhood as another person’s parents.

I bet with a little social engineering I could have found out more about favorite teams, sports, colors, favorite pet names, and probably gotten a kid to recite his or her phone number just for fun.

Oh not to mention I could have picked up on license plate information and if I was really tricky, maybe a receipt or two.

This all reminded me of a game I participated in once at a conference. It was a simple game where people are given seemingly innocent cards that had dates, months, colors, teams, city, favorite numbers, etc etc. There was even one which asked for any 2 numbers from your phone number and or social security number. The game was simple, go around and find as many people as you could who matched information on your cards and write down their names. Winners would get a prize! And yes,this was done at a computer security conference with IT professionals. Many grinned and laughed but played along anyway. Some, less trusting souls wanted their cards back afterwards. Which as kind of stupid since many had signed up with their full names, company information, hotel information and even credit card information anyway. . .

OK, so without telling me specifically, how many of you out there have PIN numbers, passwords, answers to security questions, (you know, all the layers out there that are supposed to give us added protection to identity theft and fraud) that are in some way related to one of the categories of information listed above?

Last year, 8.4 million people in the United States had their identities information stolen at a total cost of $49.3 billion. That's $5,720 per victim.

So, with that in mind here are some safety tips as reported by Javelin Strategy & Research. And no, I am in no way affiliated with them. I just found this information on their site and am posting it free of charge. Consider it my prize to you for reading my post ;-)

1.Be Vigilant—Monitor your accounts regularly online at bank and credit card websites, ATMs or by phone and set up alerts that can be sent both online and to a mobile device. Americans who monitor their accounts frequently are most likely to uncover suspicious or unauthorized activity. The survey found that those victims who took more than six months to detect the fraud saw four times higher average costs. Meanwhile, too many cases of fraud are detected via slower methods, such as when consumers review credit histories, paper statements or are contacted by a debt collector.

2.Keep Personal Data Private—Do not provide sensitive financial information over the Internet or phone, including Social Security Numbers, passwords, personal identification numbers (PINs) or account numbers, unless you initiated the interaction to a verified and trusted location, such as the number or web address on the back of a credit card, debit card or statement.

3.Online is Safer Than Offline When Consumers Use Available Security Controls—Consumers should install and regularly update anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and keep operating systems and browsers updated. Once online access is secure, consumers should move financial transactions online to eliminate many of the most common avenues fraudsters use to obtain personal information and gain more control compared to traditional channels. Moving online includes turning off paper invoices, statements and checks, including paychecks, and replacing them with electronic versions. Avoid mailing checks to pay bills or deposit funds in your banking account. Instead, pay bills online and use remote deposit check imaging services.

4.Be Aware of Those Around You—Be mindful of your environment and others who may be in proximity of overhearing sensitive financial or personal information or watching you text. This includes purchases over the phone or use of your Social Security Number for identification.

5.Ensure Credit and Debit Cards are Protected—Obtain credit and debit cards from financial institutions that provide zero liability if a card is ever lost, stolen or used without authorization. Nearly all financial institutions automatically protect you against any unauthorized transactions made at merchants, over the phone, on the Internet or at the ATM.

6.Learn About Identity Protection Services—There are additional services for those consumers who want extra protection and peace of mind. These include credit monitoring, fraud alerts, credit freezes and database scanning, some of which can be obtained for a fee and others at no cost. At a minimum, consumers should review their credit report no less than once per year, either for free at or through many financial institutions’ websites.

For Additional Educational Tips, Consumers Should Visit:
• Intersections Inc.
• Wells Fargo
• Better Business Bureau


Ann January 14, 2010 at 4:10 PM  

Good info, but I have to say I like your first two sentences the best - I, too, have argued that no one can actually steal my "identity"! I am the only me :)

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