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Identity Theft Innovations
1) A Recent Visit To the Police Station
If you have not yet seen the film Identity Thief with Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy (Jenny McCarthy's cousin), see it - if only to see how easy it is to steal identities and to what lengths the "pros" go to grab your information.
I recently learned of an innovation in ID theft that can occur on the street, in addition to pickpocketing and lifting wallets and purses.
On the way to do some errands one morning, I noticed in my rear-view mirror a late-model SUV cruising three cars behind me, weaving in and out of traffic.The female driver swerved to the right shoulder of the roadway, then crowded in between my vehicle and the car behind me, tailgated dangerously close, slapped her iPhone on her dashboard, and took pictures of my license plate. My vehicle did, in fact, look rather newer than those around me, so perhaps she felt I had money.
I make it a habit to put very little personal information useful to thieves on the Internet or anywhere else, but a vehicle registration in my state is a giveaway of free information that someone can use for ID theft. For a fee, one can take a license plate number to the main office of the BMV and purchase the information.
Under The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Title 5 of the United States Code, section 552, any person has the right to request access to public records: DUI and DWI records, criminal records, arrests, court records, warrants and more.
The quickest way to stop a photo-snapping driver in this situation is this:
Advice from our local police:
If you notice an erratic driver and can photograph or copy down the license plate number of the vehicle, call the number in to the police department by dialing 911. Police cruisers may be in the area that can effectively and quickly stop the driver.
In addition, if the driver was taking pictures of your license plate, you, or your vehicle, report this to the 911 dispatcher as well. The police can investigate.
2) Mail Theft
Another way to fall prey to ID theft is to experience stolen mail. I receive very little mail, because I do not fill out special offers that require my address or telephone number. For personal business, I long ago moved everything to secure and paperless online services and use only secure Internet access.
In the past, I have had 2 roommates that stole mail and tried in every way to discover my Social Seurity Number, banks name and accounts, and other personal information. Using a post office box and secure online services prevented this from happening.
You may also try a lock on your mail box, although those can often be picked or broken.
3) PayPal Payments
If you pay at the cash register with your PayPal card, either by swiping the card and entering a password or by using the newest method of simply entering a phone number without swiping the card, be aware of the dangers of these methods of payment --
At the auto parts and supply store one day, I used my card and after the transaction was completed, a new clerk asked for my email address. I asked what for and he said he needed to type it into the computer. I pointed out that the transaction was over and, therefore, there was no place to type in the email address. The clerk had hoped to obtain my email address and hack into it and my PayPal account.
When using PayPal at the cash register in any store, do not provide your email address or telephone number to the cashier.
At drive through windows, clerks sometimes ask for zip codes or telephone numbers for "surveys"- do not provide this information.
4) False Job Offers and Prizes
Another method used to gain personal information is the bunko telephone call to you for a mareting survey, a free vacation, a fake credit card account with noi fees, or a phony job offer. A caller will advise you of a fake job offer at a good salary or a free prize of some sort, or other offer and then proceed to request personal information. They want your full legal name, birth date, address, Social Security Number, credit card number for a "processing fee", banking information, and/or other particulars. This type of scam is often tareted at senior citizens, but can involve anybody with a phone.
If you have Caller ID on a landline or have a cellphone that records incoming numbers, hang up and report the incoming phone number to the police department or your State Attorney General's Office in a complaint.
Remember that since children require Social Security Numbers at birth for IRS purposes and fraud prevention, that ID thieves may target your children. In fact, a friend's daughter applied for her first credit card at age 18 and found that she already had a low credit rating involving several credit cards she knew nothing about. Farther back in time, dolls called Cabbage Patch Kids were issued Birth Certificates that resulted in Social Security Numbers received "for fun", but the dolls were claimed as dependents on IRS returns. There's a new scam every decade.
5) Job Applications
A controversial matter in ID Theft is the matter of needing to supply your Social Security Number on a job application before being interviewed or hired.
Because of Identity Theft, I refuse to provide my Social Security Number on a job application and I refrain from placing my address and Social Security Number on my resume. I do provide my cellphone number and email address on my resume. These two pieces of information can, indeed, be used for hacking into PayPal accounts, but after one such past incident, PayPal notifies me with messages about unusual account activity, as does my bank.
In related matters, pre-employment credit checks have been found to be unrelated to job performance and results and in recent years been outlawed by increasing numbers of US States. Other, background, checks are still legal, but require your written permission.
Job applications, resumes, and personnel files are to be kept in a locked file cabinet or other locked area and the information on any of these is not to be given to the public. However, isolated cases have been found of some staff person accessing applications and files for potential ID Theft information.
If you suspect some irregularity in your information security, you can often lock your personal credit file with the credit bureaus to prevent new account from opening without your permission, for a fee. In Ohio, this fee is about $5.00 per bureau.
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