We've Got Your Number!

A recent study showed that 15 million Americans were victims of identity theft last year. The amount of money being stolen is on the rise more than doubling between 05 and 06. And more of what they're losing is staying lost. The report shows that people managed to recover 87% of what was stolen back in 05, but in 2006 that number dropped to 61%.

One characteristic of identity theft is the nonstop victimization. Thieves repeatedly use a stolen credit card, and use stolen personal information to open new accounts. A survey conducted by the FTC found that 16 % of victims said the people responsible had also tried to "take over" accounts by changing the billing address or adding themselves to the card as an authorized user.

Identity theft takes many forms. One involves the use of stolen Drivers License information. Next is stolen Social Security Numbers. Many migrant workers use stolen SSNs to obtain work illegally. You may not discover this until the IRS tries to collect taxes on earnings you know nothing about! Another rising identity theft area involves Medical records. Using a stolen identity thieves obtain medical treatment and drugs. Identity theft can also impact your character. Crimes committed in your name can mean a false criminal record and even cause a warrant for your arrest!

How does identity theft happen? One method is going through your trash for personal information. Another scheme is stealing your mail. The old fashioned method of stealing your wallet or purse is still very popular. Even more so now since not just cash is stolen.

Internet identity theft is on the rise. The top two ways are Phishing and Viruses. Simply put phishing is Internet scamming. The phisher fools you into revealing private information. Phishers create very convincing emails connected to fake web sites. For example: you receive an email that looks like it's from your bank. It has the bank's logo, address, and very official language stating that they need to "verify" your account information. "There is a problem and we may close your account!" Just click on the link and fill out the form. When you click, you are taken to an "official" web site. The thief has actually copied the bank's website! The site tells you to fill out a form with your account number, birth date, password, SSN, etc. When you click OK you are told everything is now fine. Fine that is for the thief. He can now logon to your bank account and withdraw all your hard earned money!

Viruses are used to infect unprotected PCs and download malicious software. Viruses search your computer for personal identity information and install "Keylogger" software. Keyloggers record every word you type! It sends this information back to the hacker. He looks for patterns such as bank websites, account logon's, passwords and account numbers. You will not know you are infected until your account is emptied or you start receiving bills for accounts you never opened!

Quick Tip-Bit: Make sure you use a shredder on any trash containing personal information. And don't leave your trash out all night before the garbage is collected. Collect your mail quickly and have the Post Office hold your mail when on vacation. Always verify all requests for private information before giving any website personal data. Banks, stores, governments and corporations never ask for private information via email. They will only ask for information after you have requested a new account or asked to edit your information. If you feel your PC is open to viral infections call Dean Hancy at PC Bits.

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