Increased spending due to holiday shopping gives thieves more access to much more of our sensitive information. We are offering our information to more people as shopping increases, including opening new lines of credit at retail stores to receive the offered holiday discounts.
During this time of year -and always, take some time to review your account statements, credit reports and always pay attention to who is around you and whether or not the website you are on is secure. Shopping with a credit card is much safer than a debit card. If a thief gets your debit card account number, they will rush to clean out your account and it's far more difficult to recoup that money than it is to clear the charges off your credit card! For more tips on identity theft prevention, see a couple of the earlier blogs:
Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Tips to Shop Safely this Holiday Season...
A couple of today's headlines that show how little control we have over our information;
Dozens of identity theft cases tied to restaurants
Credit card numbers likely stolen after use at Longmont eateries
LONGMONT, CO-- Police are working to disentangle a rash of reports of identity theft apparently connected to local restaurants, according to Cmdr. Tim Lewis.
Last Thursday, police had three reports that credit card numbers were likely lifted after the cards were used at a local restaurant and then used to purchase items out of state. The number of reports exploded to 32 over the weekend.
"From what I have gleaned, the banks had removed the charges," Lewis said, adding he hasn't been through all of the reports, so it is possible consumers lost money.
He has assigned fraud detectives and a crime intelligence officer to look for patterns in the thefts.
Last week, media reports named the East Moon Cafe as one of the restaurants, but Lewis said detectives had not made a solid connection to the restaurant.
He said Monday it appears reports show thefts also happened at one to two other restaurants, which are apparently unrelated. MORE
For more information on "skimming" see earlier blog: ATM's converted to steal customers identity
ID theft ring targeted N.J. home equity lines of credit
Four men were arrested yesterday in connection with an international identity theft scheme that siphoned at least $2.5 million from home equity lines of credit at dozens of banks, including at least 11 in New Jersey, authorities said.
The suspects targeted homeowners with big credit lines at large and small financial institutions, including Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and credit unions in Basking Ridge, Bridgewater and Toms River, authorities said. They used stolen personal data and technological tricks to fool bank employees into transferring funds to accounts in at least seven countries, authorities said.
"Home equity lines of credit are an expanding front in the battle against mortgage fraud," U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said.
Reports of suspected mortgage fraud have increased nearly sixfold in the United States since 2003, according to an FBI report released in April. It found the problem particularly vexing in New Jersey.
In the days of easy mortgages, identity thieves targeted people with shaky credit, taking out illegal loans in their names from subprime lenders who required little documentation, according to the report. But the credit crisis hobbled that scheme, and the FBI report found identity thieves have turned to homeowners with good credit and deep home equity in places like the Garden State.
Yesterday's arrests follow an FBI investigation that began in November 2007 and, authorities said, uncovered a sophisticated scheme.
The alleged plot hinged on the personal information that is the bedrock of most identity theft scams -- Social Security numbers, mothers' maiden names and online passwords, authorities said.
They mined some of that data from public records, authorities said. Some came from associates overseas. And some, authorities said, came from unwitting bank employees tricked into releasing personal information over the phone.
Once armed with data, the men called banks and posed as customers. They used a dial-pad code to block the banks' caller identification system and asked to transfer big chunks from the victims' home equity lines. In one case, they moved $675,000 from Affinity Federal Credit Union in Basking Ridge to the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, authorities said.
The suspects also circumvented the banks' attempts to verify the transfers with telephone calls, authorities said. MORE
Our personal information is a commodity, bought and sold in multiple underground online chat rooms, to multiple thieves. For more info on these chat rooms, see earlier blog: Cyber Underground Identity Theft Chat Room "Dark Market" Exposed by FBI: