Do You Really Need RFID Blocking Wallet?

Buying a wallet used to be a relatively simple decision.  You had your choice of a bifold, trifold, credit card sleeve or maybe just a money clip.  Now if you flip through tech or gadget magazine, you’ll find a whole new genre of wallets that are designed with RFID blocking protection. Like this one from Common Fibers and Billetus  RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) blocking wallets are, in theory, made to shield your smart cards from identity thieves who use a cheap, handheld RFID scanners to “skim” your card information from a distance.  Once they’ve downloaded your card information, they create a new card with your card number and details. That’s when the real damage starts, because the new cards read just like a legitimate credit card and credit card scanners can’t tell the difference.  The criminals can do all of this from several feet away, without you even knowing it’s happening.

With frightening reality in mind, do you really need an RFID blocking wallet?  Do they even work as advertised?  To some extent they may offer a level of protection, however not all of these wallets work as well as others. Testing by Consumer Reports and others have shown that some of the RFID blocking wallets on the market work about as well as wrapping your credit cards in a layer of aluminum foil..but others may have some merit.

It’s also not certain whether the threat of RFID skimming is occurring often enough to truly be a concern for most people.  There have been very few reported cases of RFID skimming crimes and for good reason.  There are simpler and more effective ways of stealing peoples personal information and money.

RFID technology has improved significantly since it’s inception.  Early versions would transmit sensitive information unencrypted, including credit card numbers.  However, according to the major credit card companies, the latest RFID payment systems are extremely secure and now use full data encryption.  Nevertheless, RFID technology may be dying a slow death as card companies begin the transition to cards with EMV chip and PIN technology, which are considerably less susceptible to remote skimming.  EMV cards do not transmit a radio frequency signal, so an RFID wallet isn’t going to do much good with these new cards.

Even if you make the switch to all EMV based credit cards, you may still be transmitting an RFID signal from your drivers license or passport.  Luckily, the only information anyone is likely to steal is your name and physical address.  Even if compromised, this basic information isn’t likely to make you a fraud or identity theft victim.  If you fancy yourself as a wannabe James Bond or you’re just a little on the paranoid side, an RFID wallet may be a wise purchase.  However, chances are you’ll be ok without one.

Credit Report Errors Might Be Identity Theft

There is always a downside to the efficiency that modern technology provides. While it is more convenient to carry a credit card instead of bulky cash, your identity becomes vulnerable due to the information you have provided to apply for the card. More so, you become almost too exposed with credit bureaus collecting information about you when creditors ask for it. Before you know it, you could be a victim of identity theft.

How do you know that your identity has possibly been stolen? There some telltale signs that someone is assuming your identity and one of them is when your application for a credit card, loan or insurance gets rejected due to low credit score yet you are sure that you have paid your bills on time. You can also be a victim of identity theft if a debt collector demands that you pay your credit card account that has been overdue yet you never had a credit card. It is also a sign that you are a victim of stolen identity if you receive, through mail, a credit card that you have never applied for.

If you suspect that your identity is stolen, immediately report it to credit bureaus. Place a fraud alert, which will initially last for 90 days according to the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act FRCA, and ask for a copy of your true credit report. You will then receive an e-mail of your rights as a victim of stolen identity from credit bureaus. You can ask for an extension of the fraud alert for up to seven years for as long as you have evidences that your identity is indeed being used by another person. You can cancel the fraud alerts anytime the case has been solved.

Once you get credit report from credit bureaus, immediately review the reports and look for fraudulent accounts and erroneous information. Report to the credit bureau, from which you receive your report, any anomaly that you see. Your notification will require the credit bureaus block the information from future credit reports and notify creditors of the fraudulent accounts. Check your credit reports manually or sign up for credit monitoring to get the names and contact details of the credit grantors of the fraudulent account and ask the bureau for those details if they have not included it in your report.

These are just the initial steps that you can take once you notice that someone else has assumed your identity. From here, you can proceed to more complicated measures such as freezing your account and asking the assistance of your local law enforcers. Identity theft can ruin your life if you do not act on it quickly.  So be aware and stay on top of what’s going on with your credit reports.

8 Ways You Can Prevent Identity Theft

Tips to Avoid Identity Theft

(Updated 1-6-2018)

Identity theft is a crime which affects millions of people from different parts of the globe. If you don’t want to be a victim of identity theft, you should know the best safety measures to protect yourself from this growing crime.

There are several tips you may take for consideration when avoiding identity theft and some of them are as follows:

Tip #1: Consider an Identity Theft Protection Service

Numerous companies offer credit monitoring services to help anyone protect themselves from identity theft. Such services are available at reasonable rates. Depending on your preferences, you can choose any identity theft service provider that offers top notch solutions.

Tip #2: Keep All Your Personal Documents in a Safe

If you have important documents, it is always a wise idea to keep a personal safe for your home and a safety deposit box anywhere. You may utilize your safe at home for protecting items including social security card, passport, and birth certificate.

Tip #3: Protect Your Wallet or Purse at All Times

If you are buying purses, choose the ones that can be closed shut or zipped. Try not to make use of bags that some can easily reach into or see. Also, keep bags close to your body with tight grip all the time. Don’t leave purses or wallets in the car and if possible, don’t leave these exposed and never keep them in an obvious place.

Tip #4: Photocopy Every Content of Your Wallet

It is also a good idea to make copies of your ID cards, credit cards, and other personal documents that you usually keep in your wallet. In addition to that, keep records of all phone numbers to contact in case you have to order replacement items or close accounts.

Tip #5: Remove Yourself from Any Promotional Lists

If you don’t want to end up with stolen identity, start removing yourself from promotional lists including pre-approved credit card and junk mail lists. This added clutter does not do any good. In fact, you just put yourself at risk of identity theft if the stranger gets their hands on pre-approved cards.

Tip #6: Examine All Your Bank Account Statements

If you want to ensure that your bank accounts are all safe, always examine all your bank account statements regularly. If you bank accounts have unauthorized charges, never hesitate to call your chosen bank immediately.

Tip #7: Never Reveal Personal Information to Unverified Sources

Regardless if it’s over the internet or the phone, don’t reveal personal information to any unverified sources. Never feel pressured to answer questions if you don’t trust the source. Also, feel free to make a request for verifying information before giving any information.

Tip #8: Shred All Sensitive Documents Before Throwing Them Away

Before throwing your personal documents, consider shredding them first. Dumpster diving is said to be a common way of stealing personal information. Buy shredders for your home or office and ensure that you destroy any paperwork that contain personal details before you discard them. This includes credit, statements, mail, and even receipts.

Considering those tips above can help you avoid identity theft. Implementing them on your daily routine will allow you to save your personal information from this growing crime.

Download the PDF of this article here Tips to Avoid Identity Theft

How To Freeze Your Credit Report

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Placing a freeze on your credit report is one of the initial steps you should take if you discover you are the victim of identity theft.  This temporary freeze prevents the information in your credit file from being reported to companies, credit grantors etc.  The short version is that nobody can run a credit inquiry and see your credit report.  This prevents further fraudulent accounts from being opened with your social security number and personal identifiable information.

Only the individual who’s social security number is attached to that credit file can request a temporary credit freeze or a temporary lift of the credit freeze.  Keep in mind that you will not be able to apply for new lines of credit, loans or mortgages while the freeze is in place, so you will need to plan ahead if you know that a creditor may need to pull your credit report in the near future.

When submitting for a credit report freeze, you must do so with ALL 3 CREDIT BUREAUS.  Equifax, Experian & TransUnion.  Additionally, if you wish to temporarily remove the freeze, you must again request the lift with all 3 bureaus.  After you freeze your credit files, it will be necessary to monitor your credit reports over the next several weeks & months, to ensure no new fraudulent accounts were reported before you set the security freeze.

You Can Learn More About How To Freeze Your Credit Report at FTC.gov

Preventing Senior Citizen Identity Theft

Internet fraud and identity thieves are as numerous today as they have ever been and are regularly taking advantage of the most cutting edge technology in order to steal law-abiding citizens’ money. Many of the people who get caught up in these schemes and thefts are senior citizens, and they are often even sought out and specifically targeted by experienced fraudsters. They exploit these seniors’ decline in mental quickness and their trust by befriending them and then later turning around to scam them through the use of false investment opportunities, sweepstakes, or by using numerous other tactics.

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is by understanding how these criminals operate and the methods they employ in order to get the job done. Luckily, there are many specific things to look out for that can indicate that someone is attempting to commit identity theft or fraud. If you are a friend or family member of a senior citizen, read over the following red flags to look out for in order to help protect them against fraud:

  • Large increases in debit or credit card usage.
  • Large withdrawals from savings, particularly if it’s an inactive account.
  • Overdraft fees or bounced checks.
  • New debit or credit cards that come in the mail.
  • Forged signatures.
  • Check numbers that are out of sync.
  • The senior is confused about their account balance.
  • Caregivers receiving too much pay.
  • Increases in monthly expenditures.
  • The senior speaks about a lottery or sweepstakes they’ve won.
  • The senior states they’ve provided personal info through email or over the phone.
  • While the above are some good tells that may well indicate scams or fraud being committed, it’s also important to understand the nature of the attacks themselves and take a proactive approach to guarding yourself or your loved ones against such attacks. Let’s take a closer look and see what types of scams are most common and what ways are best to guard against them.

Phishing Tactics

Phishing attacks are generally sent out in the form of an urgent message to a ton of different people at the same time. This is where the “fishing” term comes from, as even if the majority of the people who get these messages ignore them, anyone who does fall for the “lure” can net the scammer a huge profit. They’ll often be messages that will tell the receiver that there’s something wrong with their account and will ask for personal information in order to reconcile the issue. They’ll often come through email and can look very convincing. Many times they’ll use spoofed websites of banks, payment companies, or financial institutions. For example, your bank might have the website address “www.mainstreetbank.com” but a phisher might use something that looks like “www.ma1nstreetbank.com.”

Emails aren’t the only methods, as there are also scams that revolve around phone calls or even text messages. In order to avoid phishing attempts, review the following steps:

  • Be critical of any email asking for personal financial information, particularly if it says it’s an urgent matter.
  • Avoid filling out forms through the email itself. Instead, always try to put your financial information into secure sites or over the phone after calling them directly.
  • Don’t follow any links that you receive through text message or email.
  • If you’re entering any private financial data, always make sure it’s a secure site.
  • Log into each of your online accounts at least once per month.
  • Review your credit card and bank statement regularly.
  • Keep your internet browser up to date.

Common Scams

Not all identities are stolen over the internet. Some are stolen in person. If you find yourself in a situation that seems almost too good to be true, it probably is. Let’s take a look at some common scams that senior citizens and other people regularly fall for:

Charity

The victims of these scams are told to be the middleman for a donation drive. They’ll be asked to deposit large checks into their account, keep a small cut for themselves for the trouble, and then forward the rest of the money into the fraudsters account. The money they’re “depositing” into their account doesn’t actually exist or sometimes even belongs to other victims.

Working from Home

A victim sees an advertisement promising them big bucks for working an easy job from the comfort of their own home. They’ll have checks deposited into their bank account and are told to wire 90% of it back to the fraudster and keep the remaining portion for themselves. Like with the above example, this money often doesn’t even exist, so the actual money that gets sent belongs to the victim.

Dating

The victim gets involved with an online boyfriend or girlfriend who tells them to deposit a check or money order into their account and then wire them the money. These checks are bogus so the boyfriend/girlfriend ends up getting money from the victim’s own pocket.

Protecting Yourself

While the above are common examples, there are endless scenarios that a fraudster can use to steal a senior citizen’s money. It’s best to proactively protect yourself from them rather than hoping to do damage control after your identity is already stolen. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to go about doing this:

  • Regularly review your bank accounts and financial statements.
  • Sign up for security alerts through your mobile or on your email account.
  • Monitor your credit score to check it for unauthorized activity.
  • Keep private information private – use direct deposits and keep all financial records secure under lock and key.
  • If you are a victim of fraud, contact your financial services company immediately and notify them of the problem.

Senior identity theft is a very real thing that does affect countless individuals every single year. By taking a proactive approach in protecting yourself or someone you know, you will be able to minimize your risk. The most important thing is to be skeptical of strangers promising you money for little or no effort or of messages urging you to send them your personal information.

Is The Punishment For Identity Theft Harsh Enough?

One of the real problems with many of the types of crimes addressed on this website is that the punishment does not seem to be harsh enough from authorities.

By this, we mean that the punishment for credit card fraud and other forms of identity theft are almost certainly not severe enough to put others off trying their luck. One aspect that falls very clearly in favour of the criminal (if caught and if the case goes to court) is that to many it is a ‘victimless’ crime. Clearly, there are victims. But because most victims will recover the majority of their losses from banking and financial institutions, there is a perception that nobody was hurt.

As discussed elsewhere on this site, clearing up the damage to a reputation and financial position can take up to 2 years. That does not seem ‘victimless’ to us.

For the police, if the ‘value’ of the crime is small, there is often little incentive to chase the trail and try and make a conviction. The media will often round on local police officers that chase small and often petty crimes hard, when there are murderers out on the streets. Because of this, there is a real sense that small cases waste police time. If that is the situation, then clearly adequate punishment for credit card fraud is still a long way away.

Are You Worried About Your Personal Data?

In researching this subject for this site, your author has read that many areas of the United States have semi-official numbers in place to determine whether they investigate a financial crime or not. It seems that offences much below US$100,000 will be unlikely to receive much – if any – attention. There is no doubt that a sound economic reasoning and logic underpins this number. The value of police time, court time and the cost of sentencing and imprisonment make small crimes unworthy of attention.

However, should you have been on the receiving end of this, and now be ‘short’ (lets say) US$80,000, it would seem very serious. It may be that much of this money would eventually be returned by the credit card company, but it would still be a very stressful situation.

At this point, it might be worth pointing out that if the cost of a crime is reimbursed to a victim, then that cost will be passed on to all customers in some way. This might be in the form of higher charges, less ‘free’ benefits and gifts or higher insurance premiums, but somehow we will all pay. This seems just as unfair as the cost being met by one victim, but this is the way of the world.

In contrast to all these costs, the criminal – if caught and prosecuted – is often looking at light levels of punishment. Why? No actual physical harm was likely to have been caused to the victim. These crimes rarely involve an assault or attack. There will probably not be any damage to property either. In addition, it might be that a substantial amount of the crime cannot be proven to have been taken by this criminal. That means that while they might have obtained tens of thousands, they may have only been caught in the act with a few hundred or thousand. The courts can only convict and punish for what they see and know to be true.

7 Celebrities Who Have Been Victims of Identity Theft

The problem with identity theft is that it doesn’t discriminate against one demographic or socioeconomic status. In many cases, the theft is not due to carelessness on the part of the victim. Celebrities have to deal with the annoyance of identity theft as well, and they have plenty of money to steal, so they are prime targets. Here’s a list of 7 well-known celebrities that have been victims of identity theft related crimes

steven speilbertSteven Spielberg was the victim of identity theft, however he had nothing stolen besides his privacy. In the 1990s, Spielberg had his personal information used to allow an inmate in a Tennessee prison view on Spielberg’s American Express credit card purchases. The man later claimed he did it to supply the celebrity’s information to a Hollywood studio. Apparently this genius thought he could make money by getting a movie made about his small time id theft caper.  Are people just that stupid?

liv tylerLiv Tyler had a bout with an identity thief in 2011. Her hairstylist used her credit card number to help herself to plenty of merchandise and services around town. When caught, it seems the stylist didn’t use Tyler’s card alone. She used Anne Hathaway, Penelope Cruz and Melanie Griffith’s card information as well. Tips and payment aren’t enough?

 

ricky gervaisRicky Gervais was on the receiving end of a fraud in 2009. Using an insider at the bank to obtain Gervais’ information, the group of thieves transferred 200,000 pounds from his bank account. The cash was to be used to secure gold bullion. While the scheme seems fairly clever, the identification they used was a passport, with a cutout photograph of Gervais. The pic was taken off the DVD box of The Office. They needed the identification to pick up the gold they had purchased.

 

paris hiltonParis Hilton had her name used in setting up a website. The site was dubbed Paris.org. Being registered as a trademark, she informed the thieves that she wanted payment for the use of her name. Later, her run-in with a teen in Minnesota resulted in her information being posted online. Apparently the teen had hacked in to Ms. Hilton’s phone.

 
A busboy was not using his head when he stole Ms. Oprah Winfrey’s social security number, birth dates of friends and relatives and even addresses of Oprah and 200 of the Richest People in America list published in Forbes. With the use of cell phones, a library computer and people imitating couriers, the thief snagged all of this info from credit protection services and reporting through Equifax.  If you’re going to steal someone’s identity (or bank info) you might as well swing for the fences and steal Oprah’s right?

Tiger WoodsKnown criminal, Anthony Lemar Taylor, picked a good one. He obtained Tiger Woods’ information after finding his information was not that secure. Taylor purchased $50,000 in merchandise. To top it all off, Taylor procured a fake license to drive, social security card and a military I.D, all in Tiger’s name. This bright guy even misspelled Tiger’s middle name wrong on the document’s but managed to still fill a storage unit to the hilt with stolen goods.

 

Image result for Will SmithWill Smith found several fake accounts were used to grab $33,000 under his real name, William C. Smith. The 2009 incident wasn’t the first time for the thief. He had been arrested before for stealing the former Atlanta Hawks basketball player, Steve Smith’s name. He was still on parole for the prior arrest. Some folks never learn.

So what’s the moral of the story here?  That anyone can be a victim of identity theft.  You, me, Kim Kardashian or the mail man.  Identity thieves don’t discriminate.  If you haven’t started making decisions to better protect your identity, then you are just a statistic waiting to happen.  Learn how to protect yourself on a daily basis and discover what credit monitoring can do as an proactive tool to help limit the damage should be ever be a victim of identity theft.

Fact and Fiction about Posting your Resume Online

As national unemployment figures continue to remain high, you can find cybercriminals cashing in on the wave of applicants posting resumes to a range of job banks and other employment websites.  Both Monster.com and USAJobs.gov were hit with a monster-size breach in the past that allowed thieves to confiscate personal information such as IDs and passwords, email addresses, phone numbers, DOBs, and more.  Earlier this year, the Cyber Investigation Unit of the FBI reported an uptick in the number of employment schemes from mystery/secret shoppers to envelope stuffing to courier services scams, all involving victims that had relinquished their bank account data, social security numbers and other personal identifying information online.

In this current economic climate it’s never been more important to circulate a resume, and cybertheives have never been more interested in finding your resume to make a profit rather than finding you employment. The key to attracting legitimate employers is to recognize when and where to post your resume, and what job offers to respond to and which ones to ignore.  Minimize your risks online by discouraging fraudulent businesses from approaching you.

Fact or Fiction – It’s OK to post your resume to a job site that does not have a privacy policy.

This is pure fiction. If the job bank or job site does not have a privacy policy, you may have no recourse if you run into problems.  Without it, employment websites can legally archive your information for years.  A privacy policy explains how the business plans to handle your personal data.  As you review the policy, look for how the company plans to store, use or share your information and find specific statements about registration and the length of time they keep your resume on file.  If the job site does not offer you the option to delete your resume, look elsewhere.  Your resume and personal information belong to you and not the site.  Most reputable employment sites have deletion instructions posted on their site.  In fact, employment sites do share resumes.  Job seekers have found that after posting to one site their resume mysteriously shows up at other job sites without the benefit of registration. So when in doubt always ask or consult a job site’s policy information.

Fact or Fiction – Posting your resume as “private” will hinder your chances employers.

Some applicants feel that by making employers take additional steps to obtain their resume, the company will quickly lose interest.  But the fact is your legal name, address, phone number, work history and even your references, when posted publicly, can potentially fall into the hands of identity thieves.  Most employment websites do offer a privacy feature that allows applicants to hide private information.  If you should decide to post to an employment site that does not offer this option, use a disposable email address and purchase a P.O. Box at your local post office.  Replace your current contact information with the disposable email and PO Box on your resume.  You’ll be avoiding possible risks should the online job site have a data breach.

Fact or Fiction – Including your references when posting your resume will increase your chances of getting the job.

While it may or may not increase your chances with potential employers, the fact remains that you need to consider that your reference’s contact information is available to everyone that views or downloads your resume.  You’re placing their private information at risk, which is not the best way to handle references should you need them in the future.Fact or Fiction – Always disclose your education information.

This statement falls somewhere between fact and fiction.  As far as resume formats go, it’s an absolute necessity.  However, you do need to consider that anyone can call your school and request your personal information without your consent.  If you’re currently in college, request a FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) form from your school’s office.  Once they have it on file, only legitimate institutions and businesses can have access to your information.  Students under 18 will need their parents to sign the form.  For more information about FERPA forms, see the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

Fact or Fiction – Every job offer is legitimate.

The fact is online job sites have sped up the hiring process considerably, but that fact alone doesn’t necessarily make them legitimate.  Most businesses continue to move through the hiring process methodically, requiring one, two and sometimes three interviews before having potential employees complete a formal written application asking for personal information, work history and references.   If you feel rushed to supply the employer with your SSN or drivers’ license, then consider it a big warning to walk away.  Legitimate employers do not conduct background checks until the interview process is completed. Consider the following as signs or warnings that you may be looking at a fraudulent job offer.

The employer requests your bank account numbers

The position requires you to transfer money

The position requires you to open accounts with e-Bay, Pay Pal or Western Union.

Now some of this information may seem obvious, but the cybercriminal’s key to success is to rush you through the entire process before you’re even aware that you’ve been an identity theft victim. Before you give any personal identifying information, learn how to recognize the signs of identity theft.

Here are some other tips that may cause you to reconsider that too-fabulous-to-be-true, dream position:

You receive an email about a job offer but the email address does not contain the domain name of the company.

The fax or phone number does not have the same area code as the corporate phone number.

Before giving any information whether through email or the phone, play Magnum PI and conduct an online search of the company making the job offer or the person who has contacted you.  If you’re still not satisfied, contact BBBonline.com or the State Attorney General’s office where the company is located.

Call the company’s HR department and verify that the person who’s contacted you on the company’s behalf is legitimate.

Fact or Fiction – A vague email job offer is often a valid offer.

Unfortunately, this is more fiction than fact for many job seekers.  The rule to remember here is, if a job offer emailed to you seems very “general” or has a “vague” job description; it may not be a job offer at all.  The email might contain a link that redirects you to yet another job site inviting you to post your resume, or it might be an email marketing campaign for an employment conference, seminar or class attempting to solicit money from you.  Either way, it pays to think twice before replying to these responses.

Some of the more common emails may include:

Invitation to post to another job site and the invitee doesn’t bother to tell you they get a small referral fee when you do.

Promises of a “dream job”, only after you paid their fee.

Claims they have a great opportunity for you, only the recruiter can’t seem to remember the company or the job title to this spectacular position.

Invitations to self-help seminars, promising a job only after you’ve purchased their seminar.

Some email job offers are actually valid.  In a recent World Privacy Forum job search study, the best job offers come within the first month of a resume being posted.  If responses seem scarce, you may want to take down your resume and start over.

The Hidden Dangers of Wi-Fi

Are you truly aware of the risks that you take when you are using public computers or Wi-Fi to access social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest? Free Wi-Fi is literally everywhere you look these days and it is a big selling point for many businesses. I can even get free Wi-Fi while I’m waiting for my doctor in that tiny little room filled with magazines that are three years old. Free Wi-FI at fast food establishments or the ever popular cyber coffee cafe often appeals to people as well.  There are, in fact, many people who may end up spending many hours being active on social networks while on public Wi-Fi or at a public computer every single day. That fact alone is enough to consider getting a professional protection plan like you can get with Identity Guard or another service like Norton WiFi privacy which will turn a public wifi network in to secure, private connection.

Public Wi-Fi Has Many Hidden Dangers

When was the last time you actually remembered to log off of Facebook? Many of us simply close the browser or shut the lid down on our laptop when we’re finished with what we’re doing. That’s all well and good when you’re at home, but if you’re playing the latest Zynga game with your friends over your lunch break and you do that, the next user who logs into the public network can actually access your browser information and reload it.

How? Modern web browsers have a recover feature to them. In literally just a couple clicks of a mouse, someone can open up all the browser windows someone had open, and let’s be honest here – we all have a lot of them open. Heck I’ve got 12 tabs up right now! From a social network to e-mail to plenty of other items I might have up, there is likely more than one bit of identification information someone can get from anyone’s browser history.

Your Own Computer Can Be Accessed on Public Wi-Fi

If you don’t have a password on your personal computer or you’ve got a terrible password on it like “12345″ or “password,” then change it now or get a password on there. Literally go do it now and come back to finish reading this post. Why? Because when you’re on a public wi-fi network at the same time someone else is, they can have full access to whatever is on your personal computer if it doesn’t have a password or it’s a password that is easy to crack. That’s right – just bringing your own personal computer to a public network is not enough to protect you.

The Consequences Can Be Financially Grave

For some people, the only thing they experience when they make a mistake like those mentioned above is to have someone post something derogatory on their social networks or maybe send out a few spam e-mails as a joke. For others, just one mistake can lead to an identity theft incident that can result in their credit score being hit so hard by credit fraud or other financially fraudulent activities that it can make it nearly impossible to get the credit lines needed without investing a great amount of time in repair and recovery… and even then it’s not 100% guaranteed that they’ll get what they need anyway.

Logging off and putting on a password is really all it takes to increase your identity theft protection levels on your own. For some people that simple step is enough. For others who think they might have some exposure or just want to be careful, there are many identity theft protection plans available, from free ones to high cost all encompassing ones, that can give you the level of protection you need. Whatever the case may be, make sure you are limiting your exposure to an identity theft incident as much as you can every day so that you can secure your financial future.

Smishing Can Smash Your Identity

Many folks are aware of the prob­lem of phish­ing, where you get a strange e-mail inform­ing you that you’ve won some e-mail lot­tery, or that your account has been locked and you need to ver­ify your infor­ma­tion to unlock it, or even that some­one you know is in trou­ble some­where and they need your mon­e­tary help to be able to get home. This causes you to will­ingly give your infor­ma­tion over to the iden­tity thieves in the hopes of get­ting a return on that infor­ma­tion in some way. Smish­ing is sim­i­lar to this prac­tice, but it involves attempt­ing to get your infor­ma­tion from a SMS text that you receive.

Smish­ing involves receiv­ing a very tempt­ing text that seems rather believ­able. It could say that you’ve won a $1,000 gift card to one of your favorite stores, that you’ve won a free vaca­tion, that you’ve been signed up for a web­site that will cost you $5/day if you don’t unsub­scribe, or even that your spouse has lost their phone and needs help at this new num­ber. The vari­ables are absolutely end­less, but there is one thing in com­mon with them all: that you don’t remem­ber enter­ing into a con­test, sign­ing up for any­thing, or that your loved ones wouldn’t text you in such a way if they were in trouble.

That doesn’t stop peo­ple from click­ing on that included link some­times from their smart­phone – you know, on the off-chance that it might be true and they might be able to pur­chase a new PS3 or some­thing. If you’re one of those folks who ends up click­ing those links sometimes, as one of my favorite authors would put it – don’t panic! Click­ing a link might trans­mit some data about your phone to the poten­tial iden­tity thieves and you might have some mal­ware installed, but noth­ing that is irrecov­er­able. The trou­ble comes when you start putting in your per­sonal details to sub­mit through the link where Smish­ing becomes an issue.

If you are curi­ous about a SMS link that you have received and you want to inves­ti­gate it, an easy way to get around some of the issues is to plug the link you receive into a web browser on your com­puter that has cur­rent anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-malware def­i­n­i­tions. This way, if the link isn’t a true prize, you will be pro­tected through your com­puter instead of hav­ing your smart­phone exposed that is likely run­ning no pro­tec­tions whatsoever.

Another easy way to deter­mine if a SMS text you have received is legit­i­mate is to sim­ply call the cus­tomer ser­vice depart­ment of the com­pany in ques­tion, like your bank, or to con­tact your loved ones on your own to ver­ify the story. If you have won some­thing or have been signed up for some­thing with­out your per­mis­sion, con­tact­ing a com­pany directly will give you the accu­rate infor­ma­tion you need. In the off chance that there are charges on your credit or debit account that aren’t sup­posed to be there, you can imme­di­ately con­test them.

Some other easy ways that you can help to pro­tect your­self from Smish­ing schemes are:

  • to not reply to the SMS text;
  • to teach our kids about Smish­ing so they don’t become vic­tims as well;
  • to for­ward a copy of the Smish­ing text to your cell phone provider to alert them to the scheme;
  • to place a fraud alert on your credit report if you believe you may have inad­ver­tently given sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion away; or
  • to sign up for a com­pre­hen­sive iden­tity theft pro­tec­tion plan from a pre­ferred provider.

If you believe that you have been a vic­tim of a Smish­ing scam, you should also file a com­plaint at https://www.ftc.gov, and then be sure to visit the remain­der of this site so that you can learn what you can do to help pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing to you again in the future. Protecting your iden­tity is becom­ing more and more crit­i­cal with every pass­ing day. Know­ing what Smish­ing is and not falling into its trap is just another way that you can fight the evils of iden­tity theft and not let the crim­i­nals win.