Identity Theft – Monitor Your Credit ReportWritten by Charles Essmeier
The recent security breach at credit card processor CardSystems Solutions has many consumers worried. Thanks to a well-placed computer virus, nearly forty million credit card numbers were stolen, and cardholders nationwide are justifiably concerned about identity theft. Should a thief steal your identity, he or she could run up thousands of dollars worth of debt in your name and it could take years to sort out ensuing financial mess.
Fortunately, a relatively new tool is available to consumers to help alert them to potential fraudulent activity on their credit record. Each of three main credit bureaus offer a subscription-based credit monitoring program, as do numerous banks and financial institutions. Fees vary, but $50 or so per year is typical. The bureaus will notify consumers of activity conducted under their names, including opening of new accounts, changes of address, credit inquiries from lenders, late payments and lawsuits and liens. Notification can come in form of e-mail or even a message to your cell phone, if you like.
Should you be notified
Identity Theft – Beware of Phishing Attacks!Written by Charles Essmeier
“Dear Bank of West customer”, message begins. I’ve just received an e-mail message, purportedly from security department at Bank of West. The message explains that certain features of my account have been suspended due to “suspicious activity” on my account. The message then provides a link that I can follow in order to fill out an online form confirming my identity. It’s certainly nice that Bank of West is worried about status of my account. There’s just one problem – I don’t have an account at Bank of West. In fact, I’ve never even heard of Bank of West.
This message is an example of “phishing”, a relatively new problem found on Internet. Unscrupulous individuals are sending spam e-mail messages by millions, purporting to be from credit card companies, PayPal, eBay, or banks. Each message warns recipient of questionable activity on his or her account, as asks that recipient click on a link to verify personal information. The requested information is usually a username or password. Sometimes it’s a credit card number and expiration date. These messages are almost always fraudulent, and consumers are falling for them by thousands. The messages certainly look legitimate, and often mimic style of legitimate company’s messages exactly. How can you tell difference between a real message from your bank and a fake one designed to