Scam of the day – August 15, 2012 – Voter registration scam

With the presidential election season in high gear, it is not surprising that identity thieves and scam artists are taking advantage of this to scam people out of their money.  One of the more common identity theft schemes involves a call from your city or town clerk verifying your registration as a voter.  In order to do this, you are told that you need to provide your Social Security number.  Once you have done this, you have handed the identity theft all he or she needs to steal your identity and obtain credit in your name.

TIPS

Never give your Social Security number to anyone whom you have not called and does not absolutely need it.  Your city or town clerk will never call you to confirm your Social Security number for purposes of verifying your voter registration.  If you have a question about your voter registration, contact directly your city or town clerk at a telephone number that you know is correct.  You also may wish to put a credit freeze, which is described elsewhere in this website/blog on your credit report to prevent access to your credit report and your credit even if someone is able to get your Social Security number.

Scam of the day – August 1, 2012 – Data breach at the Wisconsin Department of Revenue

For the fourth time in the last six years, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue has negligently released personal information on Wisconsin taxpayers putting them at serious risk of identity theft.  This time the Wisconsin DOR put up on its website a report of real estate property sales from 2011, but included for all the world to see 110,795 Social Security numbers of people involved in those transactions.  The state is offering free credit monitoring to those people whose Social Security numbers were released, but that is of little consolation when you consider the shoddy information security practices of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

TIPS

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue is not the only transgressor when it comes to inadqeuate data security and unfortunately, your own personal security is only as safe as the  company or agency that holds your data with the weakest security measures in place.  The best place to look for a helping hand is at the end of your own arm so you should proactively consider protecting your credit report with a credit freeze so that even if someone obtains your Social Security number they cannot get access to your credit report for a large purchase.  You should also limit the places to which you give your personal information as much as possible and always inquire as to their security practices.

Scam of the day – July 21, 2012 – LinkedIn class action

Following up on the “scam of the day” of July 13th which dealt with data breaches at Yahoo, LinkedIn and others, you should be aware of a class action that has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of all LinkedIn users.  According to the lawsui,t LinkedIn violated its own user agreement as well as industry standards by not fully encrypting its users’ personal information and by failing to store that information on separate servers from users’ passwords.  Additional allegations of lax security were also made.  I will keep you informed as to the progress of this class action.

TIPS

Don’t merely depend on the companies with which you do business to protect your personal information.  You should do the best you can to keep your information secure online.  Don’t store your credit card numbers on the websites of companies with which you do business online.  Put a credit freeze on your credit report to keep it safe even if a company with your information is hacked.  Don’t give out your Social Security number unless you absolutely must and use different and complex passwords for every company with which you do business online so that if one company is hacked, the identity thief does not have your password for everywhere else.

Scam of the day – July 13, 2012 – Yahoo data breach and how to protect yourself

Data breaches are a fact of modern digital life.  This week hundreds of thousands of Yahoo users had their usernames and passwords stolen from one of their databases and just within the past month social network sites Formspring and LinkedIn had their databases hacked into resulting in the loss of personal information of millions more people.  It is important to remember that your own personal security is only as safe as the company with the weakest security that holds your information.  But there are things you can do to protect yourself.

TIPS

Do not give your Social security number to companies that request it unless you truly legally must do so.  Your Social Security number is the key to identity theft and can provide access to to your credit report which in turn can provide an identity thief with access to your credit.  Use complex passwords and use different passwords for each of your accounts so that if a breach occurs, not all of your accounts are in jeopardy.  It is easy to pick  a passowrd with numbers and letters and just vary it slightly from account to account.  Put a credit freeze on your credit report so that even if someone gets your Social Security number and name, they cannot get access to your credit report. With a credit freeze, you credit report can only be accessed through a PIN that you keep private.