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And Finally…Here’s something we hope you’ll really like August 24, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, Educational Ranting, General Ranting, News and politics, Science and Technology.
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This is the final edition of Regan’s Rant on Internet Safety and Security. I would like to warn you about the fastest growing crime in the world – Identity Theft Fraud. The anonymity of the Internet is its biggest appeal. You can be whomever you think you are and no one can gainsay you. This situation, however, makes fraud as simple as introducing yourself to someone. People on the Internet, even good people, are not ever who they say they are. It’s hard enough to get to know a person in person. If all you hear are their ideas and thoughts, without body language, or facial expression, or life behavior context to back them up, then you do not have an accurate picture of the person. Much research is currently being done on the Internet by bringing two or more people together, allowing them to get to “know” each other online, and then introducing them in real life and getting their opinions. They are almost universally surprised when they do finally get to know their “friends”.

Identity theft is defined as assuming the identity of, or representing yourself as, another person for some personal gain or reward. There are any number of reasons for people to do this but the most common is to defraud government benefits. Social Security, welfare, HUD Housing, or any government agency that provides support is vulnerable to this sort of attack. In a recent case in Yakima, WA a man using the identity of a deceased Texas resident was able to get welfare for YEARS before any noticed.  Recently a ring of 5 Russian nationals was indicted for conspiring to sell 160 MILLION credit card numbers.  There are only 200 million or so people in America.  And finally, from our “How Romantic is THIS” file; A couple financed their Disney Engagement trip with money scammed from Seniors online and in person.

Someone goes through your trash and gets a credit card application. They are sent out all the time. They fill it out with a bogus social security number and mail it back with a PO Box instead of the home address. Nine times out of ten they will get a credit card with YOUR name on it registered to YOUR home address. They will max the card, you’ll get the bill and then when it gets declined, find a new “patron” and start over. It is much easier than you think to get a credit card because creditors are desperate to get all the customers they can and don’t often check the applications as carefully as they should.

Social Security numbers on the Internet and the names they belong to go for about $5 apiece on black market web sites. Blue Cross policy names and numbers are more in demand. They run about $600 per number. Quite often you will never know that you are victim of identity theft until something goes wrong. You could be a resident of, and voting in, another state for years and never know it because there is no requirement for any official ID at any voting facility in any federal election. Sometimes all it takes is a library card. If a felon can only get a utility account established in a small town somewhere using your name, then they are set for life. A current utility bill is usually enough ID to establish an account with a “rent to own” facility (you should not use these) and then once they have established themselves as YOU, the sky’s the limit. You will start receiving collection calls from people and companies you have never heard of. Your utilities may be disconnected and various items may be repossessed. Your income tax refund or paycheck can be sequestered. All in all, a bad day.

Security measures to prevent this sort of thing are simple. Invest in a cheap Office Depot cross-cut shredder and use it. Keep things like credit card offers, utility bills and receipts, old bank deposit slips, in fact ANYTHING with your name and address that could be used to do anything needs to be shredded. DO NOT JUST TOSS IT IN THE TRASH. There are fortunes to be made for persons with no morals and little hygiene. If you are willing to crawl through a little garbage at the dump then you can find all SORTS of useful things. It is VERY common for thieves to drive around in front of the garbage truck rounds and check out dumpster to find whatever documents the household may have thrown away. As most trash rounds are during the business day, you will never know they were there until you start getting bills.

Don’t post anything online that a friend of a friend might see. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. Recent research has shown that a great majority of people respond to friend requests on social media almost automatically. Everyone I have asked has at least SOMEONE on their friend list that they really don’t know. “It said he was friends with a friend of mine” is the common response. Never do they realize that the goal of a fraudster is to get a friend relationship with one person and use that person’s friend list as their fishing ground. Facebook goes so far as to SUGGEST people for new members to friend. Talk about making life easy for the crooks. Be SURE you know who your friends are. The best online friends are people you already know.

Disinformation is still your best tool. Don’t give out your real birthday. Don’t put addresses in your profile. Don’t even list your home town. The less you give thieves, the harder it is for them to work. Choose an online name and make sure it is not traceable to your real name and address. TURN OFF geo-tagging in pictures that you post. Do you really WANT to tell a predator that your toddler plays at a certain park in a certain area, every Tuesday? If you are going to post a trip destination online, make sure you are already home first. Then you can tell everyone how great a time you had and not worry about someone taking that opportunity to clean out your house.

These are just some ideas. You can most likely come up with many more on your own. Research identity fraud on the Internet. Know exactly WHO your kids associate with online. Be aware that, just like anywhere else, the Internet is a place where hazards are. Now you know…an knowing is half the battle. (Does anyone remember that commercial or is it just me?)

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