Consumer group launches new ID theft site: Internet Scambusters #480
When it comes to the nation's number one scam -- ID theft -- there's no such thing as too much information, provided it's accurate.
That's why we're pleased to kick off a new occasional spotlight series by introducing you to another organization that's joined the battle against this crime.
We're also using the opportunity to highlight a particular growing concern -- child identity theft and what you can do to reduce the risk of it.
And now for the main feature...
Another Ally Joins Battle Against ID Theft
In the never-ending battle against ID theft, you can't have too many allies.
After all, identity theft has always held the number one slot in our annual countdown of Top 10 scams, including our 2012 list, Top Scams of 2011 and 2012.
So we're delighted to welcome another major force in the campaign with the recent launch of www.IDTheftInfo.org by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA).
"IDTheftInfo.org is intended to increase public knowledge about identity theft and to encourage companies that provide identity theft services to follow good practices," the organization explains.
"It was developed with input from CFA's Identity Theft Service Best Practices Working Group, which consists of consumer advocates and identity theft service providers."
This week, as part of a new, occasional series, we put this new site in the spotlight and explain how it can help you protect yourself from ID theft and put your financial reputation back together if you fall victim.
That's in addition to using the information and guidelines on Scambusters' own Identity Theft Information Center pages.
Training for ID Theft Awareness
One of the big problems with ID theft is that it can be a bewilderingly complex topic.
For instance, how you protect yourself and what you do if things go wrong depend very much on your specific circumstances and the nature of the crime itself.
Every case is different. So there's not only a lot of information to be absorbed, but there's also a lot of misinformation about the crime -- stuff that could result in you wasting a lot of effort and losing precious time to take corrective action.
IDTheftInfo sets out to put this right, with numerous factsheets and links to other helpful sites.
One particularly useful link, especially for those involved in helping and educating others about ID theft risks, takes you to yet another nonprofit organization's website.
This page contains ID Theft & Account Fraud Powerpoint Training Slides dealing with ID theft and elder fraud.
They're produced in association with the financial services group Capital One and are available for download free of charge and without any form of registration.
Elsewhere, you can take an identity theft protection quiz devised by the University of Oklahoma Police Department to see just how alert you are to the risks.
Try this one: When you go out, should you take only the ATM and credit cards you need, all of the ones you have, or leave them all securely at home?
Answer: The fewer you take with you the better -- you're more likely to have your wallet stolen than your house burglarized.
The IDTheftInfo site actually has a whole stack of security quizzes you can take, covering everything from laptop security to spyware risks.
Child ID Theft
A particular concern of the CFA is the growth in child ID theft.
We covered this type of identity theft ourselves in an earlier issue of Scambusters, Identity Theft Update: Kids, Students and Medical Services Are Key Targets for 2010.
But since then, there's been an alarming increase in the incidence of this crime, which now accounts for one in every 12 incidents of ID theft.
In this case, the crooks are mainly trying to get hold of children's unused Social Security numbers to apply for credit.
In other cases, stolen SSNs are used for job applications where the user wants to conceal their real identity, perhaps if they're an illegal immigrant or have a criminal record.
A downloadable paper offers simple tips on how to minimize the risk of your child becoming an ID theft victim, including keeping the card safely at home unless it's needed for a particular reason and finding out if there's an alternative if someone legitimately requests it.
One interesting piece of identity theft protection advice relates to caution about posting children's photos online.
This makes sound sense anyway, at least with publicly viewable pages -- advice we've given before -- but the organization's explanation is a new one on us: "Most digital cameras have geocoding features that embed the location where the pictures were taken within the images. This can help identity thieves to link children's names to their addresses."
It seems also that foster children are considered to be at particular risk of ID theft -- so much so that the state of California is piloting a project to help clear foster children's credit records before they leave the care system.
In the pilot sample, 5% of kids were found to have had credit taken out in their names -- in one case a mortgage for $200,000.
This is something we can expect to hear more about in the future.
More generally, another useful information source on child ID theft is the Federal Trade Commission site dealing with children's privacy.
A Welcome Information Source
The Consumer Federation of America represents about 300 organizations including banks, credit rating agencies, consumer groups and privacy rights organizations. It was founded in 1968.
This latest initiative (www.IDTheftInfo.org) mainly provides links to other valuable information sources on ID theft, for both consumers and businesses, rather than providing specific guidance.
Usefully, these include direct links to the relevant pages on placing a security freeze on your credit records with the three major reporting agencies.
It's worth spending some time browsing the site and checking out some of those links.
The time you invest could help prevent you -- or someone you know -- falling victim to ID theft.
That's all we have for today, but we'll be back next week with another issue. See you then!