Saturday, July 30, 2005

Reducing your attack surface for identity theft

While this does not have anything to do with Exchange, I have gotten seen some good advice over the years and have learned some interesting tips. Even my own mother got phished about two and a half years ago. So, we have to be diligent.
  1. Don't sign the back of your credit cards. I put "REQUIRE PHOTO ID" on the back of mine.
  2. Don't get your checks pre-printed with your social security number.
  3. Never follow a link in an e-mail from your financial institutions, eBay, etc... Always type them in to the URL line of the browser yourself. I get at least two phishing schemes in my mailbox per day; many of them are VERY convincing. I even got one supposedly from MY OWN bank (First Hawaiian Bank). I clicked on the link out of morbid curiosity, and they had my full name and address pre-filled in.
  4. Use only your initials (instead of your first and middle names) on your checks. This makes it difficult to identify your gender and if someone steals your checkbook, they don't know if you sign your check with your full name or not. Your bank, however, does have this on file.
  5. When you pay credit card bills, write only the past few numbers of your credit card number in the "For" section of the check.
  6. Keep a record (such as photo copies) of all of your credit card and financial information; make sure this information includes customer service numbers that are used if you have to lose your card. This helped me immensely a few years back when I got robbed (yes, robbed at gun point.) Keep these records, of course, in a very safe place.
  7. Don't leave important outgoing mail in your mailbox with the little red flag up. Take it to a postal service drop box.
  8. When throwing things away, shred everything relating to your finances.
  9. If your bank calls you, ask them for a telephone number and a way to call them back. Then do it!
  10. Run a credit report on yourself a couple of times per year.

If you suspect any of your credit card or banking information has been compromised, call all releveant companies immediately. The longer you wait, the more likely it will be that you will be responsible for some of the charges.

Call the three national reporting agencies and tell them to place your name and social security number on a fraud alert. This will help halt issuance of new credit cards in your name. Do this right away.

  • Equifax: (888) 766-0008
  • Experian (formerly TRW): (888) 397-3742
  • Trans Union: (800) 680-7289
  • Social Security Administration (fraud line): (800) 269-0271
  • Federal Trade Commission (ID theft line): (800) 438-4338

Call the police and file a police report immediately. Keep copies of the report if you need to provide proof to the credit agencies.

Keep records of all conversations you had, with whom, and the date and time. Record the details of these conversations along with what you have been told will be done.

"The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance."
- John Philpot Curran (though often attributed to Thomas Jefferson or Patrick Henry)


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