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Where are you most vulnerable to identity theft?

by Marc Bennett CNET staff/forum admin / November 15, 2005 4:21 AM PST

Where, in your opinion, are you most vulnerable to identity theft?

On the Web (why?)
Over the phone (land/mobile) (why?)
Through the mail (why?)
Wallet theft (why?)
Home break-in (why?)
Credit applications at stores (why?)
From the papers in my trash (why?)
In the mirror (hey, that's MY face!)
Other (what is it?)

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Postal mail is most vulnerable
by lewisedge / November 15, 2005 8:09 AM PST

When mailboxes are on the street and unlocked it doesn't take a genius to steal the pre-approved credit card offers and credit card checks that arrive by the dozens in the mail. That's how my neighbor had her identity stolen. Although I shred all such offers after I've collected them from my mailbox, they are vulnerable to theft if I'm not home to collect my mail within moments of its delivery.

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I agree with lewisedge and ...
by ChimericPhantom / November 15, 2005 9:51 AM PST

Yes lewisedge, I agree with you especially if you have a curbside mailbox. I almost had 4 outgoing letters with personal checks in them stolen when my apartment complex's outgoing mailbox was raided. Thieves ripped the big door off its hinges to get at the outgoing mail. They also exposed individual boxes. I was lucky and barely missed it.

I also received a call from a debt collection agency today. I checked them out on the web and they made Bud Hibbs' top ten list of the worst ones. A man is or was using my address as contact info!

If enough of us are vocal enough I am sure Congress will listen. Every vote counts. English was chosen over German as our national language by just one vote. How different 20th century history would have been if German were the official American language.

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My 2
by mrkillerman / November 15, 2005 11:30 AM PST

You mean I would've had to learn German? Back to the topic. I see what you guys are saying about credit card companies sending out too many offers this is what I did. Call the number(1-888-5OPTOUT)(888-567-8688), or the website unfortunately you may still recieve some offers. I thought it would be the internet but most sites have boosted their security, but puting your personal info in a phased page is just as bad as someone steeling out of you mailbox.

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Websites boosted security?
by deium / November 15, 2005 12:17 PM PST
In reply to: My 2

Watch the back end. Too many times websites acquired SSL certificates and secured their forms and page communication with 128 bit security only to follow-up with plain text emails confirming the transaction and containing way too much transactional and personal information in the open.

Security like that is hardly boosted.


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Identiy theft thru mail
by rebafan / November 15, 2005 10:57 AM PST

I had a credit card statement taken out of my mailbox which is on the street. From that statement, they had my account number and it took no genius to figure out my expiration date. They charged over $2000.00 over the internet. I have now stopped all my credit cards

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Identiy theft thru mail
by rebafan / November 15, 2005 10:58 AM PST

I had a credit card statement taken out of my mailbox which is on the street. From that statement, they had my account number and it took no genius to figure out my expiration date. They charged over $2000.00 over the internet. I have now stopped all my credit cards statements from being mailed. I get them from the companies themselves over the internet... I have also had my wallet stolen, which is just as bad for identify theft. Rebafan

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The MailMan is # of 150 people..........
by getsteppin / November 15, 2005 11:07 AM PST


SO IS THE MAILBOX OUT ON THE STREET IN FRONT OF OUR HOME, NOTHING OF HI-VALUE>>>...PERSONAL INFO, check or any money orders;is enetering the mailbox.....all that stuff IF absolutley necessarily GOES TO THE LOCAL POST OFFICE...FOR "SAFE KEEPING"



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Dishonest? Possible. Dumb? Absolutely.
by bill321 / November 15, 2005 3:59 PM PST

Five days a week, I have a great mailman. On the "fill-in" day of the week, I get an idiot in a postal uniform, who is just worthless. When he's all done delivering, the neighbors all get together & play musical mail with all of his misdeliveries. This has gone on for quite some time. He's not gotten any better at his job, and I think I'm gonna have to complain, and get the guy "reasigned." Hate to see the guy lose his job, but too much is at stake. I worry more about the dishonest people in my rapidly declining neighborhood, that might be getting my personal info handed to them by the bumbling mailman.

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100% Agree
by rhanam / November 15, 2005 8:01 PM PST

The best prevention for this is to opt out of receiving unsolicitated credit offers. If you read the fine print on the offer there is a number to call just like for the unsolicated phone calls.

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lewisedge re:mailboxes
by Swampgal / November 16, 2005 7:54 AM PST

Not only do they get stolen from the mailboxes, or trash if they are not cut up into tiny pieces, are they easily accessible but the ones we all receive from companies that are pre-approved and activated by the first use trap us. We were victims, were sued without our knowledge and two years later we accidentally learned about it. After four years of lawyers, etc. we have finally succeeded in fixing it. Don't think we are the same happy go lucky people we were back then. Please check your credit and request a hold on your credit reports so anyone asking about you must contact you personally!!!!

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Postal mail is most vulnerable
by goldie22 / November 16, 2005 2:49 PM PST

I totally agree that identity theft occurs more through postal mail. Credit card companies send out unsolicited credit card applications all the time, and they are very easy to spot in someone's mail. Loan paperwork and bank statements are also easy to spot. Sending this type of information in a different type of envelope might help - it certainly wouldn't hurt.

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Postal mail vulnerable?
by JohnRichards / November 19, 2005 9:27 AM PST

I don't know what kind of bad neighborhood you live in, but in my neighborhood a stranger rifling through curbside mailboxes would ne noticed in a few seconds, and the police would be called. Also, I don't tempt fate by putting outgoing payments in the mailbox. I do all bill payments through my bank's online BillPay. That way the payment is guaranteed to be on time.

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by bilacuda / November 15, 2005 8:26 AM PST

The banks and credit card companies do not report stolen cards to any law enforcement agency.
The banks and credit card companies hold the merchants responsible for all loses even thought they have the audacity to sell credit card protection. The merchants have absolutely no power of investigation. The merchant gets a chargeback, which is both a black mark on their record, another fee charge from the credit card company and the loss of both the merchandise and the funds. In other words the credit card company, by ranging up another fee for the credit card fraud, has made a profit. Do you really think that they are interested in stopping credit card fraud?

The Secret Service will ignore any loss below $100,000. No law enforcement agency anywhere tracks credit card losses below this amount.

It is time for the banks and credit card companies to be held responsible for encouraging theft and loses.

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Lack of cooperation from Banks
by DepKurf / November 15, 2005 8:59 AM PST

About 2 years ago I investigated a burglary where a checkbook was stolen. I advised the victim to contact her bank and report the stolen checkbook. She was given a case number and this was given to the bank. I was present when she called the bank and requested that if the checks were used to hold on to them for evidence purposes.

About 2 weeks later I received faxes of the stolen checks. The fax copies were extremely poor (I still don't understand with today's technology, why faxes still look like crap). All the fax copies had a visible ink fingerprint (from the suspect). So natually we contacted the bank and requested the original checks so I could get the fingerprints of the suspect, since I couldn't read the name on the fax copied checks.

The bank's response, "We shreaded them." The dates on the fax copy checks were after when the victim notified the bank, so they knew to hold on to them. So I went off on a poor teller, who had nothing to do with the destruction of evidence.

The bottom line, banks don't like to help law enforcement. I haven't figured out why, but I figure that their logic is that it's easier to pay the victim back a couple of $1,000 dollars instead of investing the time to investigate, and possibly prosecute a criminal.

I guess our high mortgages have to pay for something.

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by Joriel / November 15, 2005 10:20 AM PST

the only way to stop that would be to start charging the banks or their officers with obstruction of justice and fining them steeply. It would take police manpower and resources, but hitting them with penalties and records like that are probably the only way to change that.

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I can vouch for this...
by Joriel / November 15, 2005 10:17 AM PST

it happened at the company I work for. I'm not allowed to give details out of the office, but there was absolutely nothing we could do, and we had no rights, because the merchandise was bought with a stolen credit card.

I read an article, but I forget where, that it's in the credit companies interest for things to be this way. They make billions a year now (that figure stunned me, but the author provided statistical sources for it) in those chargeback fees, and don't lose anything, and the general consumer is happy and doesn't lose anything, the only person to lose are the merchants, who people tend to view as the 'bad guys' ripping them off with overinflated prices or whatever anyway.

It would be foolish for the credit card companies to change this, as they'd lose al that chargeback fee revenue and incur security expenses.

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Well, actually its a combo of fun
by jtr716 / November 16, 2005 12:11 AM PST

Having been an identity theft victim, I can tell you that its usally a network or ring that pulls it off. Personally, my identity was stolen from employees at my credit card company who were collaborating with employees at a car rental company. So, between the two, they assembled my identity and many others, and then sold the information in sets to a third party who would use it on the street.

These people are not stupid (usually) - its a highly coordinated activity. The end-user of one's stolen identity is usually the dumbest of the bunch.

The saddest part of this, is that its easiest for us to blame a company or a faceless entity, but the reality is that, "at the end of the day", its people screwing eachother over for money - how pathetic!

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vulnerability on the net is high.
by maggiesweetpea / November 16, 2005 8:05 AM PST

I live in Canada,Last year I applied for a second credit card from Master card and as I was filling out the form my Norton stopped the action ,and said there was an intruder trying to access my pc.I contacted The Bank of Montreal and explained what happened.They had meetings to find out what happened.

The bank kept in touch with me by phone letting me know what was happening?I do as little as possible buisness on line.
I realize that the convenience of some of the modern accessories,but it seems to be the price we pay for our lifestyle.
Cell phones are geat,but most of us can do with out them,especially ,in the car driving,shopping for clothes etc.
No one can convince me that you can,t shop,drive or walk down a street without a cell phone sticking out of your ear.
It is getting to look like a status symble,it looks silly.
I think twice before doing many things on line or cell phone.We have become a society of machine oriented people .

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Credit Cards at hotels & stores
by Bageech / November 15, 2005 8:27 AM PST

My credit card has been used several times in the past, but each time the card Co. cancelled my card and gave me a new one. several times it was a hotel clerk who got it when I checked in. Another time it was a store clerk.

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That one is a problem.
by Joriel / November 15, 2005 10:14 AM PST

Yeah, and what fun that is trying to avoid. They tell us not to travel with large amounts of money, use our credit cards. And...wham. I suppose there are always money orders, but then you still have to show your id, and give out information that can be used against you with that. Catch 22.

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Me too- hotel check in clerks are most dangerous
by Triangular / November 15, 2005 2:15 PM PST

My one brush was from checking into a Inn Suites hotel. Since then, I've destroyed any plush-looking cards and use only basic low-level cards with a puny introductory credit limit, that are less attractive to CC hijackers.

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by Trailhop / November 15, 2005 5:16 PM PST

I don't give hotel clerks my card. I make them charge the stay to my company account. Luckily, the company I work for has adopted this practice, rather then do reimbursements.

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Credit Cards in General
by JackRat / November 23, 2005 3:59 AM PST

Just using a CC at any store makes you vulnerable. Look at the camera above your head watching the cash register. Think about it when you enter your pin or any other confidential data. Who's watching you as you use your CC.

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In the home but not from break-ins
by fdittrich / November 15, 2005 8:38 AM PST

What about the people we invite into our homes, friends and strangers.

How about that house-cleaner, repair person, friend, or relatives? Many stolen checks, credit card numbers, etc. are stolen everyday by people we invite into our homes, not just during a break-in.

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Re: In the home but not from break-ins
by sjordanmom / November 15, 2005 9:34 AM PST

Well, that depends on whether you leave checks, credit cards, etc. lying around. Whether you leave the service people in your house unattended, etc. We have a formal office that we keep all our papers, checks, etc. in and also out of sight and the door is closed and locked when service people come over. If someone needed to go in there for some reason, they would be supervised. I think just using some common sense here goes a long way.

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Credit applications
by satt3rfd / November 15, 2005 8:44 AM PST

If I recall correctly, many of those credit applications filled out by the public, whether online or via paper, are processed by prisoners.
To you and me, this makes no sense, but to the credit card companies? it?s cheap data processing labor.

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Identity Theft
by zzmel / November 15, 2005 8:59 AM PST

It is interesting to note that the options to this question is quite broad and obviously more than one answer is correct. The majority chose the web but others chosen was only a few percentage points difference. Lastly looking into the mirror would be way down the line of choices, unless you don't see yourself. (ha, ha).

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identity theft
by alanmids / November 15, 2005 9:04 AM PST

I think the biggest problem with identity theft is that most of us users who are in our 50's+and have just started to use the computer are behind the scale as to just what is involved with the whole problem. I.E. How and what we need to do to protect ourselves from identity theft. I was 54 when I started on the computer and had to learn everything the hard way,four years later I am still learning things dailey. Since there are many Millions, Billions or Trillions of bytes now on the internet web there is know way of knowing for sure that My computer will be safe after being on the Web even with the best anti-virus and spyware installs, there are still no gaurantees that you are protected from some hacker that is smarter then all your protection, as,the hacker ,works by the minute to defeat the best out there.So I guess My question is,is there really anyway to be 100% protected? I think that the best protection is to use as little as possible of your cedit cards and bank accounts at this time. Yours truly S Campbell

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Just one thing...
by Joriel / November 15, 2005 10:12 AM PST
In reply to: identity theft

You're focus on being new to computers kind of leaves out that identity theft occured long before computers were even invented. It's just only recently hit the big time in the media. But people have been pasisng themselves as others, both dead and alive, for centuries, both for the purposes of evading the law and stealing assets. There may be new ways to do it, but it's not a new problem.

Remember ripping up those carbon copies when they were part of every credit card purchase becuase they were likely to be stolen and used?

Even if you don't use a computer at all, you're vulnerable.

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Solutions to Identity Theft
by deium / November 15, 2005 11:49 AM PST
In reply to: identity theft

Under the spirit of the constitution, I believe that privacy is afforded. If not directly then by virtue of the pursuit of happiness.

There are solutions to the identity theft problem that require diligence without paranoia. Most things used to prevent identity theft simply keep honest people honest, but you can make it extremely hard for the crooks as well.

On the Web - use SSL https://websiteaddress/ like PayPal does. If the site doesn't provide SSL then consider shopping around until they do.

Over the phone, refuse to yield information until you have proof that the person you are speaking to is indeed the people you need to speak with directly.

Through the mail - use a PO Box. It saves a whole lot of problems, and get to know your postmaster. Do not yield information to wild claims, rewards, and prizes.

Wallet theft - first off, never carry your SSN and make sure you know your card numbers and their telephone numbers to cancel everything quickly.

Home break-in - Staples has safes, get one.

Credit applications - use a bank Visa/MasterCard. Do we really need the credit and the debt load? If we do, go to your bank and see about a loan. I trust very few financial institutions with my data, and drastically limit who I ask to borrow from. A cheap $300 limit 1.9% APR card is not worth enough for me to sell my personal data to a credit card company and the application goes to the trash. If I am that broke that I need the card, I would say that I am too broke for the purchase.

From the papers in my trash - Staples has shredders. Shred everything, shred it all! Makes great lining for hamster cages.

My face? Well, pity the guy that desires to look as bad as I do - I might not call that a theft but a plea for help.

Other - Gee, I noticed that email was not mentioned and would like a great opportunity to share more on this one. But I am holding out for a spot on CNN.

Electronic information can and should be locked down in a very high end secure ''For your eyes only'' fashion. All sensitive electronic information should be encrypted and not with the little tools you find selling on eBay. This is not a sales call, but you would be surprised to learn that you probably already have some software for this and are just uninformed. Do you use Windows 98 or above? Then you already have the software to needed secure your email.

For more detail, ask CNET to ask me to do a series. This is not a zero cost, but a low cost solution. Identity theft falls in line with what I would call info terrorism and should and needs to have an information lockdown. Information and communications shut down, and accessed in a ''for your eyes only'' fashion. The big boys already have it and have had it for 7 years (IBM products mfg 1998) and maybe longer.

More later.

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