About Identity Theft

What is identity theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.

The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft.
The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn’t make—or until you’re contacted by a debt collector.

Identity theft is serious...

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FTC Releases Top 10 Consumer Fraud Complaint Categories

Identity Theft Again Leads the List

The Federal Trade Commission today released its annual report detailing consumer complaints about fraud and identity theft in 2005. Complaints about identity theft topped the list, accounting for 255,000 of more than 686,000 complaints filed with the agency in 2005. The complaints, filed online or at a toll-free number, are shared via a secure database with more than 1,400 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and law enforcement and consumer protection agencies in Canada and Australia.

“With a call or a click, consumers can file complaints with law enforcers across the country and around the world,” said Deborah Platt Majoras, Chairman of the FTC. “These reports provide ammunition that helps law enforcers fight fraud and identity theft...

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FTC Releases Survey of Identity Theft in the U.S. Study Shows 8.3 Million Victims in 2005

The Federal Trade Commission today released a survey showing that 8.3 million American adults, or 3.7 percent of all American adults, were victims of identity theft in 2005. Of the victims, 3.2 million, or 1.4 percent of all adults, experienced misuse of their existing credit card accounts; 3.3 million, or 1.5 percent, experienced misuse of non-credit card accounts; and 1.8 million victims, or 0.8 percent, found that new accounts were opened or other frauds were committed using their personal identifying information.

“Whether you’re from Malibu or Manhattan, Tacoma or Tallahassee, no one is immune to identity theft,” said Lydia B. Parnes, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection...

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Work-At-Home BizOpp Marketers Settle FTC Charges

A group of business opportunity marketers who told consumers they could make substantial income processing medical claims from home have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they misled consumers in violation of federal law.

The settlement is a result of Project Fal$e Hope$, an FTC-led effort that targeted bogus business opportunities and work-at-home scams in 2006, producing more than 100 law enforcement actions by the FTC, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and law enforcement agencies in 11 states.

According to the FTC, in mass mailings to consumers throughout the nation, the defendants offered a business opportunity – electronically processing health care providers’ medical claims for insurance reimbursement – and that they would help con...

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Adult Website Operation Settles FTC Charges Unwitting Consumers Exposed to X-Rated Spam

An X-rated Web operation that paid affiliates who used illegal e-mail to drive customers to its Web sites will pay a $413,000 civil penalty under a settlement reached with the FTC and the Department of Justice. The settlement also bars the illegal marketing practices in the future and requires the operator to monitor its affiliates to ensure that they are complying with the law.

In 2005, the FTC cracked down on seven companies that illegally exposed unwitting consumers, including children, to graphic sexual content, in violation of federal laws. Five of those cases were previously settled. The settlement announced today with Cyberheat, Inc., ends the litigation in that case, and brings the total combined civil penalty amount in these cases to over $1.6 million.

The FTC’s Adult Labeling R...

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Glossary

Adware

A type of software that often comes with free downloads. Some adware displays ads on your computer, while some monitors your computer use (including websites visited) and displays targeted ads based on your use.

Anti-virus Software

Protects your computer from viruses that can destroy your data, slow your computer’s performance, cause a crash, or even allow spammers to send email through your account.

Bandwidth

A measure of the “speed” of an Internet connection.

Bizopps

Shorthand for “business opportunity;” some schemes involve extravagant and unfounded earnings claims and are actually fraudulent business ventures.

Bookmark

A web browser feature that allows you to save the addresses of interesting or frequently used websites, so that you can readily revisit them.

Browser

A program t...

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Minimizing the Effects of Malware

Malware, short for “malicious software,” includes viruses and spyware to steal personal information, send spam, and commit fraud.  Criminals create appealing websites, desirable downloads, and compelling stories to lure you to links that will download malware – especially on computers that don’t use adequate security software.  But you can minimize the havoc that malware can wreak and reclaim your computer and electronic information.

If you suspect malware is on your computer:

  • Stop shopping, banking, and other online activities that involve user names, passwords, or other sensitive information.
  • Confirm that your security software is active and current.  At a minimum, your computer should have anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall. 
  • Once your security software i...
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Laptop Security

Thinking of taking your laptop on the road? It’s a great way to work and stay in touch when you’re out and about, but you need to take some steps to keep your laptop safe–and in your possession. Here are some things you can do to keep track of your laptop:

  • Treat it like cash.
  • Get it out of the car…don’t ever leave it behind.
  • Keep it locked…use a security cable.
  • Keep it off the floor…or at least between your feet.
  • Keep passwords separate…not near the laptop or case.
  • Don’t leave it “for just a sec”…no matter where you are.
  • Pay attention in airports…especially at security.
  • Use bells and whistles…if you’ve got an alarm, turn it on.

Keeping Laptops From Getting Lost or Stolen

A laptop computer defines convenience and mobility...

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INVESTING WISELY ONLINE

Santa Fe Classifieds

The Internet allows investors to access account information 24/7, initiate securities transactions from virtually anywhere, and quickly and inexpensively research investment opportunities.  But the Internet is not fail-safe.  To invest wisely online:

  • Protect your passwords for your online investment accounts.  Keep passwords in a secure place, and don’t share them on the Internet, over email, or on the phone.
  • Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall, and keep them up-to-date. If your firewall was shipped in the “off” mode, be sure to turn it on and set it up properly.
  • Avoid using public or other shared computers to access your financial accounts online, and use extra caution when using your own computer in a wireless “hot spot.”
  • Don’t believe everything you read i...
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Cross-Border Scams

If you’re using the Internet:

  • Know who you’re dealing with. In any electronic transaction, independently confirm the other party’s name, street address, and telephone number.
  • Resist the urge to enter foreign lotteries. These solicitations are phony and illegal.
  • Delete requests that claim to be from foreign nationals asking you to help transfer their money through your bank account. They’re fraudulent.
  • Ignore unsolicited emails that request your money, credit card or account numbers, or other personal information.
  • If you are selling something over the Internet, don’t accept a potential buyer’s offer to send you a check for more than the purchase price, no matter how tempting the plea or convincing the story. End the transaction immediately if someone insists that you wire back funds.

Th...

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