Christmas is a time when some people make wish lists online and these can be fun but they can inadvertently give away a lot of information to scammers.
Amazon maintains wish lists so in theory other people can buy gifts for you that you do want rather than having to figure out what you might want. Amazon has three levels of privacy – Public, Shared or Private. Choosing Public lets anyone see the list, Private means just you and shared is where you can choose who gets to see the list.
Allowing this information to be public should be harmless, but people who are trying to steal your identity can use this information to get critical details about you.
Michelle Black works with Hope 4 USA in Ft. Mill. She spends several hours a day helping people recover from ID theft, which is one of the fastest growing crimes.
Black says “A scammer can log into these public websites, public wish lists. From there they might have such information as your city and state, your date of birth, your children’s names and perhaps their dates of birth and they can use that to start putting together the pieces of the puzzle they need to fully steal your identity.”
The thieves then create a fake website by making it look like Amazon or the online wish list company.
They tell you someone has purchased an item on your list and all you have to do is login to confirm the mailing address.
And if you click on that link and login, the scammer has the information needed to access your account and maybe even for identity theft.
Make sure any online wish list or gift registry is set to Private.
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Billions of people use social media networks – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and more.
Many people share lots of information about themselves and sometimes that can give fraudsters what they need to scam you, specifically to steal your identity.
Identity theft is where a fraudster acquires confidential information about you – sufficient that she can access your online accounts, take out credit cards or loans in your name, commit crimes and use your name etc.
This can be a devastating experience for some and once your identity has been stolen it’s very difficult to reclaim it without a lot of help.
How Identity Theft Can Happen Through Social Networking
To make full use of social media you need to divulge information about yourself but you should be aware of the following risky activities:-
- In Settings – choosing privacy to be “low”
- Accepting invitations to connect from unknown people
- Downloading free APPS – games etc.
- Sharing your password
- Clicking on links that lead you to other websites, even if the link was sent to you by a friend or posted on your friend’s profile
- Clicking on links in phishing messages or replying to them
E.g. A woman receives a message from one of her friends on social media recommending a cat video for which there is a link. She trusts her friend so clicks on the link, but it doesn’t bring up a video. She didn’t know that her friends profile had been hacked and taken over and the link was to a malicious website. A computer virus has now downloaded to her computer from that website.
She later finds that emails have gone out in her name to all of her contacts asking them to click on the malicious link.
Be aware and stay safe.
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The Identity Theft Resource Centre (ITRC) is a non-profit organization that supports victims of identity theft in resolving their cases, and broadens public education and awareness in the understanding of identity theft, data breaches, cyber security, scams/fraud and privacy issues.
It is for American citizens only. You can call the ITRC on a Freephone number and they provide no-cost case mitigation and consumer education to approximately 10,000 victims and consumers annually. ITRC maintains records of data breaches and publish the list each week.
ITRC aim to:-
- Educate consumers, corporations, government agencies, and other organizations on best practices for fraud and identity theft detection, reduction and mitigation
- Serve as a relevant national resource on consumer issues related to cybersecurity, data breaches, social media, fraud, scams and other issues.
The ITRC also conduct research and surveys in collaboration with partners and sponsors resulting in white papers, fact sheets, and solutions to educate consumers and businesses.
They believe that prevention and reduction of identity theft will require education and cooperation between consumers, businesses, law enforcement agencies, and legislators.
ITRC is a very useful organisation and they help a lot of people each year.
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Identity theft has always been a problem as fraudsters take out loans in someone else’s name or use a false name and address when arrested or take out credit cards in the victim’s name.
Nowadays, identity theft is prevalent as it has become much easier in the electronic age. Every day, millions of phishing emails are sent out by scammers trying to get your confidential information so they can defraud you.
A phishing email is one that pretends to be from some trusted organisation and seeks to get you to provide your confidential information e.g. credit card details, banking details, passwords etc.
The key information they want is of course name, date of birth and financial information. But whatever the criminal starts with, they may seek further information to make their fraud easier to commit. They may call you claiming to be from the council or the authorities or your bank etc. and use the information they have to convince you of their authenticity and then gain more from you in the guise of confirming your ID etc.
Or they may send you phishing emails – seeking under various guises to get more details from you.
To access your Amazon account, the scammer just needs your login and password.
To set-up a new bank account in your name they need proof of ID (passport or drivers licence being the most common) plus proof of address, date of birth etc.
Watch out for suspicious emails or phone calls that try to trick you into disclosing personal information, based on already having some information about you.
Check out http://www.fightbackonline.org/index.php/guidance/12-explanations/50-the-mechanics-of-identity-theft for more information.
If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.