Identity Theft – Be Scared

Are you worried about having your identity stolen? I am. It

has happened to two people that I know. My mother and a friend

of mine in Myrtle Beach. Once your identity is stolen, your

life is forever changed. Even after you spend weeks upon weeks

squaring everything away with your credit card company, things

will never be right. You begin to dread answering the phone

because it may be someone that erroneously thinks you owe them

money. My mother was close to tears still getting phone calls 5

years after the alleged deed took place. It certainly wears on you.

Second is Tom Garber. Tom is a musician in Myrtle Beach, SC and

he is still suffering the consequences of identity theft. He is

also the one that wrote the PC Pitstop identity theft song,

“You’re Not Me!”. When we wrote the song, it was meant to be a

song of frustration. I hope you can feel the helplessness.

In my view, there are two types of identity theft. The first

and easier method is to steal someone’s online identity. When

you steal someone’s online identity, it enables them basically

pretend they are you. For example, this person could pretend to be you in an online forum. But much more malicious, if they assume your identity and start buying things in your name.

This is in fact what happened to both my friend and my mom. They high jacked their credit cards. Worse yet, the authorities have no clue. Still today, neither knows who perpetrated these crimes upon them. There is only sure way to avoid identity theft – extreme caution.

The fact is that it is very easy to hijack someone’s online identity. In order to do a credit card transaction in someone else’s name, typically, the perpetrator would only need the following information:

What an ID Thief Wants

  • Your credit card number
  • The expiration date
  • The billing address zip code
  • The CVC number (that 3 digit number on the back)
  • Your name

See our free ID theft assessment tool.

If someone has your credit card in their hand, they can know 4 out of the 5 critical pieces of information. They are only missing the zip code, and they are ready to do transactions in your name.

Now here is the scary part. Guess where all this information is stored? In your computer. That’s why we made our identity assessment theft tool – to see what personal identity information your computer is storing. We had each employee at PC Pitstop use the online tool, and the results were shocking. Over 1/2 of our employees had their personal identity information stored in their computers.

Note: our online tool is NOT a major advancement in technology. In fact, the opposite, it is a simple form using commonly known field names. I suspect the identity theft professionals have far more sophisticated tools. The bottom line is that you don’t want your computer storing this information. I don’t have a problem with my PC knowing my browsing habits, but when it comes to my credit card and billing information, I don’t want it in my computer.

But let’s take the next step. The second, and more nefarious, level is when thieves can pretend they are you on the telephone. When doing telephone transactions, they usually have several security questions to establish that it is indeed you.

More ID Theft Info

  • Social security number (or last 4 digits)
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • email address
  • telephone number

See our free ID theft assessment tool.

If the thief can establish they are you, they can truly ruin your life. They can transfer money out of your bank account. They can cancel your cell phone. They can change all of your passwords. And on and on. Then, when I personally ran the our online tool, I see that my social security number is inside of my computer, as is my email address and telephone number. Yikes!

This has become a major awakening for me. Yes, it slows you down, but so is putting on your seat belt, and the risks of not doing so are just about as bad.

Practical Steps to Avoid Becoming the Next Identity Theft Victim

  • Only do online transactions on your computer. Don’t do it at work, don’t do it on your friend’s computer, and never never do online transactions at a public terminal.
  • Run our free ID theft assessment tool.

  • Sweep your designated computer to remove any traces of your online identity from your computer. Note: this means that you will have type in your credit card number each time you make a transaction. Yes, this might take a little extra time, but you want your credit card number in your head, not in your computer. Personally, I have all of this information memorized, so I don’t need my computer to do it for me.
  • Run a malware scan regularly. When we think of malware, we think of spam bots, denial of service attacks, and other web mischief. Although it’s not mentioned much, another malware is to trap your online identity.
  • Secure your PC. Put a password on your PC and make it a password no one can guess. The name of your wife or the name of your child does not cut it.
  • Log off your PC when you are not in front of it. It is such a simple thing to do. On Vista, Start, the little right arrow, logout. On XP, Start, logout. For me, I just close the lid of my laptop.

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29 thoughts on “Identity Theft – Be Scared

  1. Another factor of Identity theft, could be keyloggers. They catch every keystroke you generate, and then the hacker uses your personal information you typed in, grabbed by the keylogger for fraudulent purposes. Software that monitors online behaviour could be the most common convict of “IT”(Identity theft)

  2. When you delete info from your computer it isn’t trully gone until it is overwritten several times.

    Make sure when you erase your sensitve data you use a secure algorithm like the gutmann algorithm which overwrites data 35 times.

    4 Programs that I can think of from the of my head that make use of the gutmann algorithm are.

    CCleaner – Temp, cache, recently opened files cleaners, etc.

    http://www.ccleaner.com/

    ——————————————————————-

    Darik’s Boot And Nuke (DBAN) – Entire Hard Drive Disk Wipe –

    http://www.dban.org/

    ——————————————————————-

    FileShredder – Securely wipes files (docs, archives, pics, or pretty much any other file you may have) also securely removes folders –

    http://www.fileshredder.org/

    ——————————————————————-

    Heidi Eraser – Securely wipes files (docs, archives, pics, or pretty much any other file you may have) also securely removes folders –

    http://www.heidi.ie/

    ——————————————————————-

    NOTE: YOU WILL HAVE TO MODIFY THE PREFERENCES IN ALL OF THE ABOVE APPS TO TELL THEM TO USE THE GUTMANN ALGORITHM INSTEAD OF THE DEFAULTS.

    ALSO, IF YOU USE DBAN TO WIPE YOUR HARD DISK DRIVE, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE AN OPERATING SYSTEM RESTORE CD, AS DBAN WILL OVERWRITE THE ENTIRE DRIVE AND NOTHING WILL BE LEFT, INCLUDING WINDOWS.

    WHEN WIPEING AN 80GB HARD DISK DRIVE USING DBAN WITH THE GUTMANN ALGORITHM IT WILL TAKE ABOUT 24 HRS.

    IF YOU DECIDE TO USE DBAN, YOU COULD PROBABLY USE THE PRNG OPTION WITH 8 ROUNDS AND IT NOT TAKE AS LONG AS THE GUTMANN ALGORITHM.

    FOR SOME TASKS THE GUTMANN ALGORITHM MAY BE OVERKILL.

    INSTEAD, YOU COULD PROBABLY USE DOD (7 PASSES) OR DOD SHORT (3 PASSES).

    PS: WHEN I SAY DOD,I MEAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE.

    ALL SOFTWARE MENTIONED ABOVE IS FREE!!!

  3. Hello Shar.
    I use Internet Explorer as my default browser so I open it and go to:

    Tools/Internet Options/Content/Auto Complete/Make sure all items are UNCHECKED and then click CLEAR FROMS CLEAR PASSWORDS.

    That should do it.

  4. How do I get this information out of my computer. I run CCleaner, AVG,Adaware, Trendmicro/housecall, spybot search and destroy, reg cleaner, and other cleaners. However, everytime I go to certain personal sites choices are made for me to fill in the boxes or the boxes are filled in. I want them out.

  5. using cards online is a lot safer than in a brick & mortar store/restaurant imo…as long as your not on wifi, that is. Usually online, the merchant uses a third-party service and so they don’t even see your CCN at all. No paper receipt and no one swiping your card to steal info. Try to use a major credit card for transactions rather than your debit card. You can always refuse to pay a credit card but debit comes right out of your bank and a CC company will then have motivation to help solve any problems.

  6. The tips for staying safe fall a little short. Users need to develop a habit of clearing the CACHE daily. Not to make your life inconvenient, but to make sensitive information disappear. Don’t let windows remember your passwords, use a password safe such as the FREE KeePass or the safe taht comes with McAfee Suite. Also, an easier logoff is to use the Windows key with the L key, it will log you off in an instant and no one can access your computer without the password. It’s especially great at work when you have to leave your desk in a hurry.

  7. Thank you everyone for the comments. For those of you that are skeptical of PC Pitstop, I say BE SKEPTICAL. Skepticism is very necessary in this day and age. The internet is probably the greatest invention of my lifetime, but it is also has its dangers.

  8. Plain and simple people, don’t store your CCN on your computer, let alone passwords!! Investigate a not well-known retailer/supplier be4 buying online 2! U just can’t trust the BBB, and Secure Server emblems @ the bottom of some websites because they can B faked!

  9. I worked for internet provider for years. So I have seen and heard all kinds of things. First, your bank never emails you asking you to update your information. They could careless if your information is update and it’s your job to go through statements to caughts any bogus charges. Some of the best advice I have recieved from the bank is use my intial for my first name and then sign my name as I normal do. Your social Secrity number is used in so many area of your life but not on the internet. Use paypal for buy internet purchase or green dot Visa card. This kind of CC save a lot of headache. This kind of Visa dead ends, it’s linked to no bank, and if fraud does hit this card it only goes until the cash limit on it. Shread application and such with your name on it that comes in the mail. Because more ID theft accord to local police departments are done from trash diggers.

  10. I did the test by clicking the space two or three times to see what might appear; the drop down menus had usernames, passwords, and CC#s… if you don’t select one of those, nothing goes into their form; it just shows you the choices that someone else could find….THANK YOU for this article, after deleting the recommeded files, my second test showed nothing. one small step….

  11. I have had two incidents happen to me this year, 2008. One was an employee left a company and took a list of CCN’s with him, mine happened to be one of them. The CC co. told me and sent me a new CC immediately and blacklisted the old one. Nothing ever happened with that one. They did have me call Equifax for a free 6-mo watch anyway and it also includes TransUnion and another one. About 6 mo. later, someone stole a computer from one of a company’s offices in another state and my name was in it. They told me to do the same thing and not to worry about it because they have a double code to get into any account and all the info on a person is not kept in the same place (smart, I think). They finally gave me a free year of 3-in-1 monitoring with a credit reporting company for the inconvenience and I added the identity theft protection. I also keep my account locked so no one can even see it or use it unless I let them in.

    I have a SIL who had his identity stolen and he didn’t even know it. He passed all tests to become a policeman and was rejected at the end because of it…that is when he found out; but, he lost the opportunity for the job when he was no. 1 on the list of applicants. So, any info you can get about identity theft is so important to know and use. They steal it for different reasons.

    I was blessed that someone was watching out for me. Now, I wouldn’t be without protection. I am still extra careful and change nos. sometimes or buy over the phone instead of online. There is always a chance of an employee being a bad guy/gal even over the phone.

  12. There are too many things beyond your control, If you think that these precautions are adequate, they are not. I am a pathologist who is careful about identity protection. Last week I received a letter from a corporation that processes medical claims for an insurance company, stating that a laptop and external hard drive were stolen from an employee’s car. The laptop had a database including my ssn, upin, NPI numbers as well as medicare and medicaid numbers (probably also my addresses and phone numbers). Why all of this sensitive data was on a laptop is what my attorney is going to determine.

    There are too many factors beyond your control, so invest in a credit monitoring service and an identity theft protection service like Debix or Lifelock. Monitor your credit card transactions frequently (I monitor mine every other day)and set alerts on creit card monitoring services to prevent against frequent purchases and large purchases.

  13. I run a Ccleaner every time I log off a site I where need to use my sensitive data. Also before I turn my PC off every time I am going to be gone or at night before I go to bed. It’s password protected and I learned years ago to never have a password that could be recognized by a dictionary.
    I run SpybotSearch & Destroy and manually keep the immunizations up to date. When I run a scan I rarely if ever find anything. I don’t bother with Adware anymore because it doesn’t find anything.
    I am not a PC techie but received my 1st pc from my mom in 2001 (Win95) I didn’t know after you download a program (like an Anti-virus) you had to know where it went and you had to install it. 😛 I just have been fascinated by pc security and self taught. Most people I run into have no clue or a desire to learn to be safe online. They see it as “too much work”.
    I hope your knowledge gets through and some people wake up before it’s too late.
    Thank you,
    Diane

  14. This is aimed at the person who said not to use your CCN online: Is using Paypal any safer? Should I use Paypal whenever I can, or does it matter?

  15. First off, good article. Very informative and makes sure people know (who don’t already) what to do to prevent theft.
    Second, you people thinking that places like PCPitStop and online virus scans are taking your information…need to learn. Sure there are a lot of places out there that are scams and phishing sites, but if you’re dumb enough to go to them, that’s your problem.
    PC Pit Stop has a reputation, they’ve been around for years, been truthful and loyal for years, and respected for years, do you really think they’re going to steal your information?
    Point is, there are a lot of sites out there including virus scans that are completely safe. You know how I know? because millions of people have been using them for years and no one has had a problem with them.

  16. JB,

    You missed the point of the form. You’re not submitting your info to PC Pit Stop, you just start to fill in the boxes to see if your browser will auto-fill them for you, then you know the info is stored in your computer.

    For instance, when I went to the ‘First Name’ box, as soon is a typed ‘M’ a list dropped down with ‘Mike’ and ‘Michael’ in it. So I know my first name is stored on the computer.

    If you type ‘4’ or ‘5’ (the first # for a Visa or Mastercard account) in the credit card box, and your entire card # pops up then you know it is stored on your computer.

  17. continued … information as any other transaction. If the credit card or company data is compromised, it doesn’t matter how the information got there.

  18. If someone has physical access to your computer, all kinds of mischief can occur. Identity theft really does happen less with knowledgeable users. Secure websites are as safe places to give

  19. I will forward this on.
    I clean all cookies and browsing history at least once a day and run an AVG scan.
    Although I’m very careful with my computers and your little test yielded no results, I still managed to get nailed last month.
    We think someone got into my postal mail when my debit card renewed.
    Caught the fraud the first day it started, am so far only out ninety-nine bucks.

  20. You know JB I was wondering the same thing???

    When we do online virus scans, how do we know these company’s aren’t scanning for more then viruses?

    I really want to know about this, if anyone has an answer please tell.

  21. Oeh, I’m so scared!…

    The joke would be on the thief; there isn’t anything in the bank. XD
    Well, there is, he can pay my debts. 🙂

  22. You forgot the most important tip – NEVER leave all the creditcard numbers on the signed receipt the store keeps. I always scratch out four of the digits after being advised by the cop who investigated my loss. He said those slips are the largest source of stolen identity because MOST stores eventually throw them whole into a dumpster, but won’t admit it. Thieves dumpster-dive looking for the slips with complete numbers and names.

  23. I tried the link to run the test, but the centre section where you normally run the programs from was blank. I sthere a problem with the link?

  24. Good stuff I guess, and you probably want to sell that program. I hope you do. That said, anyone today who uses their CCN online is just asking for trouble. There are many programs out there that avoid this disaster. For example, FREE from Discover Cardm you can install a CCN generator which works only one time. It’s good for that purchase and can never be used again. You can have every CCN on my computer because they became invalid the instant I used them. Other banks have similar programs, most all are free.
    Th

  25. good stuff ..keep the public informed
    as you say keep the most important stuff in your head
    but what about those little key press’s those need to
    be looked at as well ….
    somebody next door could have the techno if your on WiFi
    ?

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