Brian Van Norman
BBB offers 10 Ways to Prevent ID Theft
More than 11 Million Victims Reported in 2009
RALEIGH, N.C. (March 25, 2010) — In 2009, identity theft affected an estimated 11.1 million Americans, costing them nearly $54 billion.* In response to an increasing number of victims, Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina (www.bbb.org)
1. Don’t fall for phishing e-mails.
Phishing is when con artists use e-mail or phone calls to pose as a trustworthy organization in order to coerce sensitive information from victims. Phishing e-mails can look legitimate with graphics and official logos of banks, government agencies or credit card companies. The e-mails usually include hyperlinks that direct the victim to a Web site designed to install viruses and malware or solicit bank account and Social Security numbers.
Consumers should delete unsolicited e-mails from banks, credit unions, investment firms and government agencies. BBB recommends calling any organization the recipient does have an established relationship with to confirm whether or not an e-mail is legitimate before taking any further action.
2. Create strong passwords and protect them.
Developing a habit of regularly changing passwords makes it much more difficult for ID thieves to steal personal information. Some passwords, however, are stronger than others. Attributes of a secure password include a combination of numbers, capitalized letters and even symbols. Consumers should never use sensitive information for a password such as their Social Security number, mother’s maiden name or birthday.
3. Be safe and secure when on the go.
Computer users on the go should be wary of entering passwords or sensitive information into a computer that isn’t theirs, such as at an Internet café, library, computer lab or airport kiosk. Hackers can actually record their keystrokes to learn passwords and other information.
Wi-Fi networks, either on the road or in the consumer’s own house, present even more opportunities for ID thieves. When possible, avoid exchanging sensitive information through a public Wi-Fi connection and wait until a trusted network can be accessed.
4. Guard personal computers with anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall protection.
Consumers can purchase protective software, but there are also a number of reputable, free programs available for download online. BBB advises consumers to do their research into a company to make sure it provides legitimate, reliable software as there can also be dangerous software disguised as legitimate. After acquiring security software, users must keep the programs updated. Operating systems also require patches and other additional updates that computer users need to install in order to maintain security.
5. Transfer personal information over a secure server online.
When providing personal information online, consumers should only do so on a secure server. Information is encrypted as it is being transmitted on secure servers, in order to prevent others from stealing personal documents.
BBB advises consumers to make sure they are on a secure server by checking the URL of the page when asked to give any personal information. A secure server will have an "s" either in front of or following the "http," and it will look like this: https://www.XXX.com or shttp://www.XXX.com.
6. Refrain from giving out personal information unnecessarily.
Do not give out your personal information over the phone, mail or Internet unless you initiate the contact or know with whom you are dealing. Make sure you know why the person is asking for private information and how they plan to keep the data safe.
7. Carry only what you need in your wallet.
Your Social Security number or card should be left at home, in a secure place. Carry only the identification information and the credit and debit cards that you actually need when you go out.
8. Properly dispose of your trash and mail.
Statements that contain private financial information are always at risk, even after they have been discarded. Be sure to shred these documents, and even discard the remnants in separate trash cans. Also shred ATM, credit card and other receipts.
9. Monitor your credit reports on a regular basis.
Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com to review a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. BBB recommends consumers review one of the three company reports every four months to notice any fraudulent activity.
10. Review your credit and debit card statements regularly.
Read monthly credit card statements thoroughly to ensure accuracy of the amounts spent and the merchant, as well as to detect possible identity theft. Any unfamiliar purchases should be noted and quickly brought to the attention of the credit card company if there is a belief that the card has been the subject of misuse.
“Identity theft remains a very serious problem online and off,” says Beverly Baskin, president and CEO of BBB serving Eastern North Carolina. “The amount of time, money, and energy to repair personal and financial records altered by identity theft can be staggering.”
To further the fight against identity theft, BBB is hosting "Secure Your ID" Day on April 17, 2010. The local shredding event will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the parking lot of Coastal Federal Credit Union, located off Wake Forest Road at 1000 St. Albans Drive, Raleigh, NC 27609.
Participants are encouraged to bring up to three boxes or bags of documents that have been removed from binders. At the event, BBB and other partner organizations will provide tips and resources to help consumers protect their identity. Event information is available at www.easternnc.bbb.org/
For more trustworthy information on preventing ID theft, as well as BBB advice on what to do if your identity is stolen, go to www.bbb.org.
About BBB serving Eastern North Carolina:
Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina is a 501 (c)(6) not-for-profit corporation serving 33 counties in Eastern North Carolina. The organization is funded primarily by BBB Accredited Business fees from more than 2,900 local businesses and professional firms. BBB promotes integrity, consumer confidence and business ethics through business self-regulation in the local marketplace. Services provided by BBB include reports on companies and charitable organizations, general monitoring of advertising in the marketplace, dispute resolution services, and consumer/business education programs. All services are provided at no cost to the public, with the occasional exception of mediation and arbitration. Visit www.bbb.org.
* Statistics according to a 2010 Javelin Strategy and Research study.