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Be My Valentine – ID Theft & the Broken Heart

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There was a song from the ’30s or ’40s entitled, “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You When You Know I’ve Been A Liar All My Life.” In an age where the worlds of online dating and identity theft collide with disastrous results, for many this tune might as well be a personal soundtrack.

Across the cyber universe, people are sitting in dark rooms, in front of computer monitors, anonymously typing to people they don’t know, convincing them that they have met the love of their life. And unfortunately in too many cases, the promise of love and intimacy – which all of us are looking for – often gets us to do things we ought not to do… like e-mailing our bank account and Social Security number to people we’ve never met. Sometime we may even suspect something nefarious, but we take the risk. We give into the dream.

ID Theft & the Broken Heart

Valentine’s Day is all about the dream. If you ask most people, the dream is more for florists, jewelers, restaurants and hotels than star-crossed lovers. In honor of Valentine’s Day, this post focuses on the schemers who take advantage of the dreamers – when the heart is not “The Lonely Hunter,” but rather the hunted.

Love and the Smart Phone. E-mail and texting is a gateway to the lovelorn. Here are a few tips on how to best protect your hand-held, ear friendly mini-computer against those whose love letters and poems may have malware attached, lest they get their hands on every other byte of your sensitive personal information.

  • Remove any sensitive data or documents from your smart phone that you don’t need to carry with you.  Keep hard copies of that info locked away in a safe deposit box.
  • A phone lock alone won’t keep out prying eyes. You need to encrypt the data on your phone’s drive, too.  Most smart phones give you this option.
  • Look into third-party security apps that include antivirus protection, automated data backup and a device tracking.
  • Hackers love exploiting WiFi weaknesses.  If you’re not on a trusted network, don’t enter your personal information or check sensitive accounts.

Hooking up with Hackers. Hackers that reach out and touch your bank account through phony wire transfers while jamming your personal phone lines to prevent your notification and confirmation of the movement of funds. One is definitely the loneliest number when it represents the amount of dollars left in your bank account.  Watch out if your new online “friend”:

  • Offers only vague information about themselves.
  • Gives you numerous phone numbers or addresses in different countries by which to contact them.
  • Makes convoluted requests for money.

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Identity Theft 911 to the Rescue. We discuss a case in which Credit.com’s sister company, Identity Theft 911, showed a little love to a consumer and helped her resolve a horrible situation that almost destroyed her life.  Here are a few initial steps you can take to reduce your risks:

  • If you suspect you may be a victim of identity theft, contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion – and ask them to place a fraud alert on your credit files. This alerts potential creditors to call you before opening a new account.
  • Check your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies every year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Look out for No. 1. If you want to better protect yourself from identity theft if you “Leave on A Jet Plane,” or any other mode of transportation and move to another home in another town:

  • Don’t move old documents and risk exposing them. Instead, send all documents that you don’t need through a cross-shredder.
  • Don’t send your most valuable information – such as financial documents, deeds, checkbooks, medical records and address books – with the movers.  If possible, carry these items with you on moving day.

Think of this as our heartfelt gift of identity management flowers or box of chocolates. It is our profound hope that the better we can help you insulate yourself from exposure to identity theft, the more time you will have to stop and smell the roses, get a date, or spend some quality time with loved ones.

Read more from Identity Theft 911’s February 2011 newsletter »

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