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June 2014 How To Survive! - Identity theft

Posted in How To on May 10, 2014
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Are you enjoying that lift kit you bought online for your Jeep? Good, because right now someone else is enjoying your purchase too, having stolen the personal info you provided when you made the purchase. Boom -- you bought something,and now your identity has been stolen. As often as we try to convince editor Verne that identity theft doesn’t mean he can simply walk around saying he is now Justin Timberlake, with the right criminal activity, he could actually become him -- as in ordering up a new credit card in Justin’s name. We spoke to experts about how you-- and Justin -- can protect yourself from identity theft.

• “Identity theft is the act of someone claiming to be you and making purchases or committing crimes under your name without your permission,” explained the experts at Or simply put: “It’s when some idiot uses your personal information, such as your social security number, to open new lines of credit,” noted Robert Siciliano, identity theft expert with

• What exactly is your personal info? Well, unlike with online dating questionnaires that want to know if you like short walks off long piers in the rain, or long walks off short piers in the rain, this personal info can be everything from account numbers, your address, and your mom’s maiden name. How does the criminal decide to target you? “It’s random,” Robert explained. “Generally if you have a Social Security number and you are alive, or in some cases dead, you are a target.” Added, “Everyone is at risk. A staggering statistic is that someone’s identity is stolen every three seconds.” And what they’ll most likely do with your identity is apply for new credit cards or take over existing lines of credit, or even break into your bank accounts. They might also commit tax identity fraud, make fake medical claims, or assume your kid’s identity.

• How do you know it’s happened? “Sometimes your bank will contact you to alert you of suspicious activity,” explained “But unfortunately, thieves can steal your identity quickly and do a lot of damage before you’re able to check your credit reports.” Added Robert, “Sometimes when you are denied credit you may determine it’s because identity thieves ruined your credit, and you’ll see all their open unpaid accounts on your report. Otherwise, funds may be missing from your accounts or you see unauthorized transactions.”

• Identity theft is different from credit card fraud, though. Robert said account takeover is the latter, while new account fraud with opening new lines of credit with your Social Security number is true identity theft. And the victim could be your credit score or reputation: “If someone commits a crime while assuming your identity, a warrant out for your arrest could land you in jail -- even though you’re innocent,” said Imagine trying to get a new job with that on your record.

• The first things you should do if you think your identity has been stolen? “Cry, weep, drink -- a lot -- sleep, and then pull it together and spend hours to months to years fixing it by calling every company affected and yelling at them that it wasn’t you that did all this,” Robert said. also told us you should call the police and change your passwords.

• Now, how will all this affect you if you want to, say, buy a new Wrangler? Robert explained, “Victims are often denied credit. This means they may have to forgo a loan and buy a cheaper car with cash or get a cosigner. Sometimes it can take years to fix a stolen identity to the point the victims credit is OK again.” And it gets worse than that: Robert said now you know that “there is a thief out there acting as the puppeteer and you are his puppet.” We’ve always hated puppet shows.

• It could actually take an eternity to clear things up, depending on the damage and how long it’s been going on. Stats from 165 hours -- the average amount of time victims spent repairing the damage done by creation of new fraudulent accounts, and 58 hours -- the average amount of time victims spent repairing the damage done to existing accounts.

• How do you prevent this? Robert suggested two key ways: get identity theft protection and also do a credit freeze immediately. “These two layers will lock down your identity, making it difficult for a thief to open new accounts, and in some cases identity theft protection will monitor existing accounts.” says: “It’s important to invest in identity theft protection program, like Protect Your Bubble. They monitor your accounts and your credit score and will alert you if there’s been a breach. The trained identity theft specialists will also help you recover from it.”

• Other means of protection? Keep your personal data to yourself, shred any documents, install antivirus protection, and make your passwords super strong. Robert also recommended virtual private networking software such as Hotspot Shield to protect your wireless.

• Here are terms you should know: “Shoulder surfer”: that’s someone looking over your shoulder for your PIN, such as for your debit card. “Phishing”: email scams looking for personal info. “Vishing”: voice scams looking for personal info. “Fake car accident scam”: someone trying to get your personal info when exchanging insurance info after an accident.

• What will the future bring for preventing Verne from becoming Justin Timberlake? According to Robert, “There may be a day when we are properly identified so no one can pose as us. The solution lies in a hybrid of technologies that will result in ‘identity proofing’ us.”

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