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Pattaya Daily News

15 October 2009 :: 22:10:35 pm 1945

Identity Theft Scam Increases in Scale

Identity theft has always represented a problem, but over the last decade with the advent of the Internet, it has turned into a multi-billion dollar scam. According to the latest statistics, there are now approximately 8 million identity theft attempts online every day! And the number is growing as the scammers employ ever more sophisticated ID theft tricks, so that it now represents the number one scam, both online and in the real world.
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Virtually the only way to protect yourself is to keep one step ahead of the scammers by keeping well informed and abreast of developments. Currently, the methods used include face-to-face cons, emails, phone calls and by way of nearly 10,000 individual websites whose only purpose is to upload malware onto your computer, and/or to steal personal information and passwords. Added to this, the number of different viruses and Trojans that carry out these ID thefts scams has increased by a staggering 600% this year alone, according to a new report from Panda Security.

Identity Theft
Identity theft essentially employs two simple techniques:
1. stealing personal information about you from a variety of physical sources, ranging from your wallet to your medical records;
2. conning you into giving confidential information about yourself, like your passport or credit card number and passwords, better known as phishing (see later in this article).

With the first kind of ID theft, the age-old trick of picking pockets prevails to relieve you of your wallets and/or purses in crowds, supermarkets, at events, or crafty thefts from hotel rooms, and gym lockers etc. The way to protect yourself here, of course, is to take good care of your wallet, putting it in your front rather than back pocket and keep your hand on it. If your purse is in your bag, bury it beneath other items. Essentially, though, the answer is to only take what necessary ID that you need. And, needless to say, report any losses, either to the police or bank/credit card company immediately!

According to recent police reports, there has been an increase of late in data theft from rubbish containers. This is usually personal information and account numbers on documents you’ve thrown away, but thieves can also recover credit card invitations you’ve discarded and apply for finance using your name. The answer is to burn anything with your name or other personal information on it, or if you are lucky enough to have a shredder to hand, shred it. This also applies to email applications with personal info which you no longer wish to apply for kept on your computer, even discarded in the Recycle Bin. Shredding programs can be downloaded free from the Internet.

Another recent critical trend in this area of identity theft is the loss of information over which you have no control, such as a restaurant employee who takes note of your credit card details (including that crucial security number on the back), when you pay your restaurant bill, up to the gargantuan hacking of business computers, which store your personal details. You can take precautions in this area by monitoring your accounts online, keeping a check on your credit score, and/or subscribing to an ID theft protection service.

Phishing, according to Wikipedia, “is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.” The term probably derives from “password harvesting fishing, and alludes to baits used to ‘catch’ financial information and passwords.”

Phishing is generally conducted by e-mail or instant messaging and frequently asks users to enter details at a fake website to all intents and purposes identical to the legitimate one. Phishing strategies usually take the form of communications ostensibly from popular social websites, auction sites, online payment processors or IT administrators. Attempts to deal with the rising number of reported phishing incidents include legislation, user training, public awareness, and technical security measures.

However, identity thieves are inventing new tricks almost every day to get you to disclose vital personal information, especially with the networking sites like Twitter, Facebook etc. Three current massages on Twitter start “you’re on this vid”, “haha, that u on here?” and “lol this is funny”, with a link. Searching Twitter shows many gullible users spreading the same messages – presumably after logging in on the phishing sites in question – and others tweeting about receiving the same DM. The first site closely resembles Twitter, but a glance at the address bar reveals it is not. Twitter reports that Tweets and DMs of the “i make $300 a day online with …” variety also seem prevalent at the moment. The way to beat this scam is not to visit the link, and don’t give away your Twitter username and password on sites that look dodgy. If you think you’ve been had, change your password immediately.

One of the most common techniques for phishing ID theft over the past few years has been to send you a message by phone, by text message, or by email, suggesting there’s a problem with your bank account and asking that you phone a particular number or visit a specific website where you are asked to give your account details. Recently, even some of the big-name online retailers, like Amazon, who legitimately hold your credit card number and other financial details, have been duped.

You’re tricked into visiting these fake websites, which collect your sign-on details for these retailers. The scam merchants then sign on to your real account and collect your bank and card details there.

The way to avoid being scammed by this type of fraud is to
• key web addresses into your browser rather than clicking links and check that the legitimate address is shown in the address bar
• with phone contacts, politely call off and then look up the correct bank number displayed on your statement or in the phone directory and call them directly.

Ideally, you should never trust that a caller is who they purport to be and never disclose your credit card details to anyone who phones you.

One of the latest telephone phishing tricks is the one currently plaguing newspaper classified advertisers. The scammer phones numbers from the classified columns, claiming to be the publisher and telling the advertiser there’s a problem with their payment, insisting the victim pays by credit card immediately. Remedy: DO NOT PAY– and phone the newspaper personally.

These are just a few of the techniques you can employ to combat ID crime of the electronic and normal variety type. The key is to be aware, sceptical and always double check to authenticate.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Legal

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