Another Ally Joins Battle Against ID Theft

Consumer group launches new ID theft site: Internet Scambusters #480

When it comes to the nation’s number one scam — ID theft –
there’s no such thing as too much information, provided it’s
accurate.

That’s why we’re pleased to kick off a new occasional
spotlight series by introducing you to another organization
that’s joined the battle against this crime.

We’re also using the opportunity to highlight a particular
growing concern — child identity theft and what you can do to
reduce the risk of it.

But first, we urge you to take a look at these top articles
from our other websites:

Responsible Credit Card Use: Take steps to prevent credit card debt from getting out of control.

The Web’s Best Sources of Free Knitting Patterns: Save yourself some time when scouting for free knitting patterns with this best of the best list.

The Identity Theft Red Flags Rule: Start working immediately on your identity theft fix with these red flag rules.

Save Money: Protect Yourself from Vacation Scams: Here’s how to spot a vacation scam before it goes too far.

And now for the main feature…


Another Ally Joins Battle Against ID Theft


In the never-ending battle against ID theft, you can’t have
too many allies.

After all, identity theft has always held the number one slot
in our annual countdown of Top 10 scams, including our 2012
list, Top Scams of 2011 and 2012.

So we’re delighted to welcome another major force in the
campaign with the recent launch of www.IDTheftInfo.org by the
nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

“IDTheftInfo.org is intended to increase public knowledge
about identity theft and to encourage companies that provide
identity theft services to follow good practices,” the
organization explains.

“It was developed with input from CFA’s Identity Theft Service
Best Practices Working Group, which consists of consumer
advocates and identity theft service providers.”

This week, as part of a new, occasional series, we put this
new site in the spotlight and explain how it can help you
protect yourself from ID theft and put your financial
reputation back together if you fall victim.

That’s in addition to using the information and guidelines on
Scambusters’ own Identity Theft Information Center pages.

Training for ID Theft Awareness

One of the big problems with ID theft is that it can be a
bewilderingly complex topic.

For instance, how you protect yourself and what you do if
things go wrong depend very much on your specific
circumstances and the nature of the crime itself.

Every case is different. So there’s not only a lot of
information to be absorbed, but there’s also a lot of
misinformation about the crime — stuff that could result in
you wasting a lot of effort and losing precious time to take
corrective action.

IDTheftInfo sets out to put this right, with numerous
factsheets and links to other helpful sites.

One particularly useful link, especially for those involved in
helping and educating others about ID theft risks, takes you
to yet another nonprofit organization’s website.

This page contains ID Theft & Account Fraud Powerpoint Training Slides dealing with ID theft and elder fraud.

They’re produced in association with the financial services
group Capital One and are available for download free of
charge and without any form of registration.

Elsewhere, you can take an identity theft protection quiz
devised by the University of Oklahoma Police Department to see
just how alert you are to the risks.

Try this one: When you go out, should you take only the ATM
and credit cards you need, all of the ones you have, or leave
them all securely at home?

Answer: The fewer you take with you the better — you’re more
likely to have your wallet stolen than your house burglarized.

The IDTheftInfo site actually has a whole stack of security
quizzes you can take, covering everything from laptop security
to spyware risks.

Child ID Theft

A particular concern of the CFA is the growth in child ID
theft.

We covered this type of identity theft ourselves in an earlier
issue of Scambusters, Identity Theft Update: Kids, Students and Medical Services Are Key Targets for 2010.

But since then, there’s been an alarming increase in the
incidence of this crime, which now accounts for one in every
12 incidents of ID theft.

In this case, the crooks are mainly trying to get hold of
children’s unused Social Security numbers to apply for credit.

In other cases, stolen SSNs are used for job applications
where the user wants to conceal their real identity, perhaps
if they’re an illegal immigrant or have a criminal record.

A downloadable paper offers simple tips on how to minimize the
risk of your child becoming an ID theft victim, including
keeping the card safely at home unless it’s needed for a
particular reason and finding out if there’s an alternative if
someone legitimately requests it.

One interesting piece of identity theft protection advice
relates to caution about posting children’s photos online.

This makes sound sense anyway, at least with publicly viewable
pages — advice we’ve given before — but the organization’s
explanation is a new one on us: “Most digital cameras have
geocoding features that embed the location where the pictures
were taken within the images. This can help identity thieves
to link children’s names to their addresses.”

It seems also that foster children are considered to be at
particular risk of ID theft — so much so that the state of
California is piloting a project to help clear foster
children’s credit records before they leave the care system.

In the pilot sample, 5% of kids were found to have had credit
taken out in their names — in one case a mortgage for
$200,000.

This is something we can expect to hear more about in the
future. For now, you can download a report on the California project, A Better Start: Clearing Up Credit Records for California Foster Children, produced a few months ago.

More generally, another useful information source on child ID
theft is the Federal Trade Commission site dealing with
children’s privacy.

A Welcome Information Source

The Consumer Federation of America represents about 300
organizations including banks, credit rating agencies,
consumer groups and privacy rights organizations. It was
founded in 1968.

This latest initiative (www.IDTheftInfo.org) mainly provides
links to other valuable information sources on ID theft, for
both consumers and businesses, rather than providing specific
guidance.

Usefully, these include direct links to the relevant pages on
placing a security freeze on your credit records with the
three major reporting agencies.

It’s worth spending some time browsing the site and checking
out some of those links.

The time you invest could help prevent you — or someone you
know — falling victim to ID theft.

That’s all we have for today, but we’ll be back next week with
another issue. See you then!