My laptop was stolen in United States..how can I protect myself against identity theft in U.S. ?

You are right to be concerned
about identity theft since
identity thieves can use your
personal financial information to access bank
accounts and credit cards, and make
unauthorized transactions in your name. As a
result, it’s important to act fast in order to
protect yourself from any potential attempts at
misusing your financial information.
Your first step should be to contact one of the
three major credit reporting agencies, i.e.,
Equifax, Experian, or Transunion, and place a
fraud alert on your credit report to prevent
someone from opening a new account in your
name. The agency you contact will then forward
your information to the other two agencies. You
can also find out if your state allows you to
“freeze” your credit report, which will prevent
any unauthorized access to your credit
information. Once you place a fraud alert on
your credit report, you are entitled to a free
copy of your report from each of the credit
reporting agencies. Review each of your credit
reports and notify the agencies of any
fraudulent or suspicious activity. You should
also contact any financial institutions or credit
card companies with which you have accounts.
Ask to have your current accounts closed and
open new ones with new account numbers. If
possible, you should also request that your new
accounts include additional safeguards such as
password protection.
Finally, if you suspect that your financial
information has already been misused, you’ll
want to consider taking the following steps:
• Contact the appropriate financial institution
and dispute any unauthorized charges or
transactions as soon as possible. Generally,
your liability will depend on how quickly you
notify them.
• Consider filing a complaint with the Federal
Trade Commission (FTC), which will entitle
you to certain identity theft protections. You
can go to www.ftc.gov for more information.
• File a police report with your local law
enforcement agency. A police report can be
helpful when filing an extended fraud alert or
disputing unauthorized transactions.

Identity theft, email and phone fraud – some tips – Part 1 of 2

Identity theft, email and phone fraud – some of the “tricks”
Written by Ian R. Whiting, CD, CFP, CLU, CH.F.C., FLMI(FS), ACS, AIAA, AALU, LSSWB, Contributing Editor
Website: www.ianrwhiting.com Blog: http://money.ca/you-and-your-money/ian-r-whiting/

This started out as a short, 500-word blog but unfortunately, this issue is so prevalent in the world today, it became two blogs! Today, it appears that the ID theft and related frauds are probably the fastest growing crimes in the world. In February 2008 (the last full study), over 1.7 million Canadians reported cases of ID theft or fraud and some estimates apparently put the value in excess of $100 million. Further information on this topic strongly suggests this figure is less than half the actual number of cases as people are too ashamed to report it, unfortunately. Here are some tips that can help you avoid the consequences of this aggressive trend.

Dumpster Diving – not glamorous, but effective. In this scenario, the fraudster (or some hired minion) goes through garbage cans and recycling bins looking for any account or personal information they can find. Old bank and credit card statements, cancelled cheques, those special “you-are-approved” credit offers, when merged with some modern technology, are a wealth of detail and a creative thief can use it for a variety of nefarious purposes. Invest in a shredder. Many are available for less than $50.00 (including taxes) and should be kept next to where you sort your mail. If a piece of “junk” mail has anything on it other than your name and address (which the company already knows), shred it – don’t just throw it in the garbage.

Phishing – Not to be found in Webster’s Dictionary, this is one of the new internet words that pepper the world today. This word means an e-mail message that looks like it was sent to you by your financial institution. Typically, it has the correct logo, a collection of what seem to be appropriate disclaimers and a request for verification of some personal information. The financial institutions with whom you deal do not need to “verify” any information they have on file and they would never do this via an email – only in person the next time you went to their office. Just mark any such emails as SPAM or JUNK and delete it immediately. Under no circumstances click on any of the links, nor should you reply to the email in any manner. If you follow the link, thieves will obtain enough information about you, and probably your accounts, to allow them to steal either or both your money or identity.

Pump and Dump – Nothing new here but they seem to be cropping up again. For this to work, a fraudster buys (or creates) a block of penny stocks and sends out millions of spam e-mails. Many times, they follow the email with a personal phone call. Both the e-mail and the phone calls are quite compelling and look like a hot tip. Buyer beware (caveat emptor for the Latin readers) because those that fall for this actually fuel a demand for the stocks the fraudster then re-sells at an even more inflated price. Ignore all unsolicited e-mails like this.

Vishing – Similar to phishing, the fraudsters call you directly and pose as an employee of your financial institution or other company with which you do business. Sometimes you will get an email that asks you to call a number – perhaps even a 1-800 number. With current technology, callers can disguise their identity and spoof your call display so it all looks legit! Ignore the calls and hang up.

Shoulder Surfing – Use of credit and debit cards is constantly increasing so your level of awareness needs to improve as well. If you see someone hovering nearby while you are entering your PIN – stop the transaction until they move away. If necessary, turn and face them and ask them to move away: don’t be shy! If someone gets your PIN and manages to skim your card (phoney machines used to steal digital information from your card) or pick your pocket or purse, your account is as good as empty. Some scammers are even using the digital cameras built in to every cell phone (or other e-device) to record your PIN key strokes while appearing to have a normal phone conversation. Shield the keypad when you are entering your PIN (use your other hand or your body as necessary). If you think someone could be aiming a cell phone camera at the PIN pad, stop until they leave or turn away.

Who Is Watching You?

Criminals are lazy scum. If they had ambition and brains they would be out creating something rather than being dirt bags that leach off of the efforts of others. Identity Thieves like easy targets, and here are some simple ways to cover your ass.

Guard your personal information. Take a lesson from the British and keep your mouth shut. Information you don’t blab can’t be easily stolen.

Don’t leave personal information unattended. Take your purse or wallet with you at all times. It only takes a moment to photograph credit cards, driver’s licenses, and other identification. Don’t give thieves the opportunity.

Shred personal information. If it has your name on it, SHRED IT! Dumpster diving is a popular sport for Identity Thieves. Don’t leave them the gems they are looking for.

Keep your SIN to yourself. There are only three people / agencies that need your SIN: your bank, your employer, and your financial advisor because they all have to report financial activities to the government. Anyone else asks you for your SIN the answer is NO!

Protect your credit and debit cards. Make sure if you give your credit card to a clerk or waiter / waitress that you get your card back. When using debit put in a false PIN code. If it says approved, leave and call the police.

Be aware of billing cycles or missing mail. Identity Thieves have been known to intercept and steal mail that contains personal and financial information.

Cover the keypad when entering your PIN. Cell phones have cameras and video. Protect your space and your privacy whenever you use an ATM of debit machine.

Use difficult passwords. If it is easy to guess, someone will. And please don’t make the mistake of writing them down. Murphy Law lets you know that will be found and used against you.

Hang Up on Telephone Solicitors. If you didn’t phone them, why in the world would you give them ANY personal or financial information?

Check your credit reports. If there is stuff on the reports that aren’t yours, get them corrected immediately. Also look into who has been making inquiries into your credit.

“Distrust and caution are the parents of security.”
Benjamin Franklin