Identity Theft. Avoid Rip-offs, Scams and Opportunists - Part 1
Identity theft is only one of the crimes that we have seen an increase in over the previous year.
Burglaries, robberies, petty theft, grand theft and assaults are on the rise too.
Private Investigators spot rip-offs and scams all of the time. We can help you identify and avoid them whenever possible. You should be wary of the most common rip-offs and scams of the past, they are popular again.
Identity Theft Protection, Part 1.
With all of the new laws, endless regulations, restrictions and agencies looking over our shoulders you would think this would have some positive effect on curbing the activities of the bad guys. Help us somehow in our daily lives, in our dealings with companies that claim to be here to be of service, to help us navigate through the hard times? Right?
All of the technology that is growing at a seemingly exponential rate is not only a help and convenience it's also another way for people to more easily take advantage. We can't live our lives fearful of the next rip off waiting just around the corner, but how bad is it? We all need a little protection from identity theft.
To begin with, here are just a few of the most basic rules of thumb that you should either already know or should start taking advantage of. If you aren't diligent when it comes to protecting yourself, your family and your business, you can only blame yourself. I can promise you your information is already too available and in the hands of people with whom you really do not want to have that access.
- Shred Your Mail - Protect Your Identity
When you receive mail that you aren't going to keep on file, from solicitors to your existing accounts and personal letters, you better not just toss it in the trash. You are asking to be a victim of identity theft. Anyone can get access to your trash and trust me, they do, even envelopes with return information. As private investigators, we notice people's mail all the time. What do you think the bad guys who want to do harm will do? Get a micro-cut type personal shredder. You will be glad you did.
2. Consider a P.O. Box to Protect Your Identity
I recommend post office boxes to many of my clients, especially the women. You can list your post office box address on your driver's license too. I have used the same P.O. Box since 1982. It now costs me $70.00 per year. You can spend less or more depending on the size you choose. Remember, you don't need a big P.O. Box since the post office will hold packages for you at no charge. I recommend official post offices over the private mail places because they are less likely to go out of business, for now. I do enjoy using mail service companies for their other benefits though.
*Have you seen the privacy stamps you can buy at office supply stores? These are used primarily when returning something to the sender; you simply stamp over your identifying information. It makes a big black rectangle over the address information. This is another good way to fend off some of the bad guys. It's easy and a cheap way to start your own identity theft protection.
3. Avoid Surveys
Some forms of marketing can quickly lead to identity theft. Avoid attractive raffles, surveys, drawings and registrations for new products you buy. You almost never need to register your product to take advantage of a warranty.
If a manufacturer requires this, you should think twice before buying their products. The mail-in or on-line registration form is not only to monitor your personal information and purchasing trends for future marketing schemes, but your information will then be re-sold to marketing list companies that pay a premium and add your personal information to your growing on-line profile. Protect your identity. Do not believe companies that say your information will not be used for marketing purposes or be sold to third parties. That's just not true. They do not need your information to sell you a toaster, period.
- Do not fill out the registration forms for all of the "stuff" that you buy.
- Do not take surveys for the prize offered and don't enter the raffle or the drawing or any of these attractive methods for drawing in new meat for the mail room of the marketing company and the robo-callers.
- You should know by now that this old marketing tool is used to sell your information to anyone. Your information also continues to grow every time you fill out something or provide your information on-line or over the phone.
- You may not mind now, maybe you don't care at the time and just want to receive something as a result of the survey you completed. You think it is worth it to gamble in the drawing or other tantalizing thing some marketing genius has dreamed up.
- You may not see anything in the near future, but its coming. I can promise you. Most marketers know to wait for a few months or longer. Do you ever wonder where the junk emails are coming from? Where the phone calls are coming from? Did you know that even when you place your information on an OPT OUT list and national do not call list that these companies can still legally solicit you because you played their marketing game and legally, by doing so you have agreed to accept their terms. You agreed to it whether you know it or not.
- When you receive hang up calls and call them back. You receive a recorded message telling you that you can be removed from the call list by pressing a key or calling the number. The same thing applies to faxes you receive. DO NOT respond without giving it some serious thought. When you respond, even to be removed, you are not removed. Now the marketing company has learned that you, one in 1,000 numbers their computer auto dialed or robot-called, got the call and reacted. You are now on more lists and will continue to receive calls, emails, faxes and more. You are also becoming a perfect victim for crime.
We have become too complacent with freely giving our private information. It has gotten much worse than most care to admit. There is no end in the near future. I can promise you this is going to get worse.
Here is a typical real example we see more and more;
The creative scammers, Criminals, many are in organized crime, can call your mother or, say your grandmother, on the phone. The bad guys call her by her correct name; confirm they are your friend by telling her some of your and her personal information. They proceed to tell her that you have been in an accident, give your name correctly, tell her you are in jail now, or in the hospital, or are unconscious and need assistance. These very experienced callers will ask that she does not say anything to your parents, providing their correct names and address too. They request that she forward lots of money as soon as possible, so everything will be alright. This money is typically supposed to be used for bail or medical costs to save you, etc. The predators end up with very little risk of exposure and lots of money, they then disappear.
This scam actually works very well. It was made possible by all of us who continue to provide our personal information in so many forms. For details of why this can work, and what you need to do to prevent it or stop it, you are welcome to contact us.
4. Destroy your old computer hard drive to prevent identity theft
This is important. Did you get a new computer? Where's the old one? Are you going to give it to your kids or grandkids or donate it? You must exercise caution. Is there or was there ever any sensitive information on that computer? Even deleted files or downloads?
If you do not know how or what to do, you are welcome to call me for free or go to a trusted computer person to have this done. When you are not going to keep a computer, you do not just rewrite or overwrite or wipe the hard drive. You destroy it.
It is easy and it is the only way to be sure your information is not retrievable by identity thieves. You can overwrite a hard drive, wipe it clean, and bad guys, computer people, private investigators, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, exes, relatives, enemies, the government, police and practically anyone else, can still retrieve your data from your hard drive. It's usually not very difficult.
Just unplugging a computer and leaving it in the garage is a bad idea. The best computer shops will tell you, remove the hard drive and smash it with a hammer. Yep, that's what you do. We recommend this seemingly archaic method to our clients. They sleep better.
5. Loan modifications and Repair Shops
Hard times bring out more desperate people willing to do anything to get money. When we are going through desperate times most of us make easy prey for the scumbags waiting for us.
The horrible economy and real estate problems have seen more con men and con groups than ever before. One major industry of note is loan modifications and areas related. They get us because we feel we have no other option available. Right? You can't trust anyone it seems.