identity theft
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Credit Card Skimming is on the rise as a technique used by identity thieves to steal your identity when you provide your credit card for a routine transaction. identitytheft.info worked with Identity Theft Expert Bob Sullivan of MSNBC to create this video warning consumers about the dangers of Credit Card Skimming and demonstrating how an actual credit card skimmer works.

To see pictures of credit card, debit card and ATM skimmers click here.

In a perfect world, when it comes to preventing identity theft, everyone would treat their personal information as if it is the most precious trade secret or a matter of national security.  Unfortunately, the reality is most people hand over their personal information and documents to just about anyone who asks. 

From name, address, date of birth and phone number, to Social Security number, credit card numbers, bank account numbers and even passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs), the majority of citizens will hand over their identifying information without thinking about why they’ve just surrendered the keys to their personal and financial lives.

There are two dangers associated with providing your personal information to anyone who asks – even if the request seems legitimate and reasonable.

First, by unnecessarily providing too much of your personal information to legitimate businesses and government agencies, you have an increased risk of identity theft if that business or agency suffers a security breach that reveals your personal information.

Second, by getting in the habit of reflexively providing your information to anyone who requests it – on the assumption that they have a lawful and legitimate need for it – you increase the odds that you will provide your information to an identity thief posing as a representative of a legitimate business or government agency.

So, how can you prevent providing too much personal information to a legitimate business or government agency and also prevent providing information to an identity thief posing as a legitimate business or agency?

Here’s a simple rule of thumb you can use to reduce the amount of personal information you supply to anyone requesting it and thereby reduce your risk of identity theft.

Always know exactly who you are providing your personal information to, why you are providing it, and if the requestor has a legitimate and lawful reason to obtain the information.

In order to make an informed decision about when you should or should not provide your personal information, you need to know who is requesting the information.  This is extremely critical if the request is by phone, email or traditional mail and you did not initiate the request.  Identity thieves will try to con you into providing your personal information by claiming to represent legitimate organizations when they contact you and then by enticing you to provide personal information in response to what seem like normal business requests.

If you receive a request for personal information by phone, email or traditional mail that you did not initiate, you should assume the caller or mailer is not legitimate.  Even if you are convinced the call or email is legitimate, do not provide any information or click on any links in the email.  Contact the individual, business or government agency through a phone number or web address published in a reputable directory like the Yellow Pages or Google.

If you determine the individual, business or agency requesting your personal information is legitimate, you need to ask why they are requesting your personal information. 

Does the doctor or dentist really need your Social Security number to provide service?  Or, are they collecting it out of habit and for internal billing and record keeping purposes?  Does the retailer really need your phone number or zip code when you buy a product?  Or, are they collecting it so they can sell it to direct marketers?

Don’t be afraid to challenge anyone asking for your personal information – especially if they request your Social Security number, date of birth or any other biographical information – by politely demanding to know why they want the information and what they will do with it.  Further, if the requestor is asking for your Social Security number, politely demand they provide you a written statement documenting why they believe they are legally entitled to obtain your Social Security number.

Finally, don’t be afraid to refuse to provide your personal information – especially your Social Security number – to a business or government agency that can not prove to you why they legitimately need it and that their request is legal.  You will often find that if you refuse to provide your personal information, the business or agency will still provide the service you seek.

Remember! Your goal is to reduce the number of people, businesses and government agencies that have your personal information in order to reduce the odds of your information falling into the hands of an identity thief.

 
     
     
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