Online and Identity Safety Tips
A new trend in thievery is stealing a person’s identity. In today’s computerized, cashless world the loss of a wallet can be the start of a nightmare for a person. Thieves today are very adept at assuming your identity and your credit. Many businesses accept a credit card number over the telephone or over e-commerce transactions without further forms of identity. The two best tips for your protection… buy a personal paper shredder and never leave a purse or wallet unsecured for even a second.
Shredding Personal Documents
For the cost of about $35 you can buy a personal paper shredder from any local office supply store. Credit card receipts, bank statements, credit card offers and many other items contain identity information including your account number. Thieves will literally rummage through your trash or the local land-fill looking for these documents. Once they find them they can open accounts in your name and destroy your credit. Shredding these items can prevent thieves from obtaining the information they need to make your life miserable. Today mortgage consolidation loan companies will even send real checks to homeowners for huge amounts of money. Just sign on the dotted line and the money is yours. More often than not these unsolicited checks end up in the trash intact. The same applies to credit card applications you receive unsolicited in the mail. To identity thieves these are like hitting the lottery. Shred these types of documents you receive. It’s worth the time.
Phishing is a newer scam which appears to come from a bona fide source and asks you to enter your personal information, typically under the guise of “verifying” information the company needs to validate or update your account status. Phishers may send out thousands of pop-up windows or spam emails in an attempt to get one response. The phishing emails may have spelling or other errors in the message, but don’t let that be your only guide to the veracity of the message. Many phishers are quite sophisticated, and their websites or links may appear authentic. A good rule to follow: don’t click on any links in a suspect message, even out of curiosity. Some of the links, which may look valid, actually redirect to another website and may even download a bit of code to retrieve information from your computer. If you receive email you suspect may be a phishing attempt, delete the email from your inbox. Do not respond, do not click on any links, and if you suspect something is awry with your account, contact the company via a reputable point of contact, not the information found in the email.
The Nigerian scam has been around in several forms, and is now making the email rounds. Again, the email is sent to many computer users in the hope of getting just one to comply with the request in the letter. The basis of this scam is a hard-luck letter from someone who claims to have a great deal of money in a foreign country, and they need your help (and bank account number) to access the money. Basically, if you allow them to use your bank account to transfer money, they will cut you in on a share of the money in return. Of course, there is no other money- except yours, which they can now access with your bank account information. This is a scam which has worked well in the past, even in person at parking lots where it’s referred to as “the pigeon drop.”