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Cyber-crime and Identity Theft

May 10, 2013

Cyber Crime What is cyber-crime?  Cyber-crime refers to crime conducted online.  It includes tax and welfare fraud, credit card fraud, and the non-delivery of purchases.  It also includes scams, such as fraudulent investments and online auctions.

How does it affect people?  Cyber-crime costs the victims and society as a whole, billions of dollars.  Consider an example:  Mary received an email that she assumed was from her bank asking her to update her online banking details.   Minutes after sending her personal particulars, she was alarmed to see that $4000 (U.S) had been transferred from her account to a foreign bank.  Mary soon learned she had been scammed.

What can you do?

Be very careful – Don’t be fooled by professional looking Web sites and always keep in mind that legitimate financial institutions will not ask you to email highly confidential information.   Be shrewd!  Try to ascertain the company’s reputation before buying on-line.   Be careful when dealing with companies in foreign lands.  If problems arise it can be harder to resolve them.

Analyze a company and its policies – What is their physical address?  Is their phone number correct?  Are there any hidden costs?  When will my order be delivered and can it be returned or refunded?

Be suspicious if an offer looks too good to be true – The greedy and lazy are prime targets to become online thieves.  The bait may include big money for minimal work, a loan or credit card even though you have a poor credit rating or large returns for “low-risk” investments.  The U.S. Federal Trade commission or FTC says “take your time in evaluating the legitimacy of any investment offer.   The higher the promised return, the higher the risk.”    Don’t let a promoter pressure you into committing to an investment before you are certain it’s legitimate.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft involves illegally obtaining and using information about someone else’s personal identity in order to commit fraud or some other crime.  People are affected as thieves may use your identity to obtain credit cards or loans or to open new accounts.  Debt is then racked up in your name!  Even if you eventually get the debts cancelled your financial reputation can remain tarnished for years.  One victim said that having a zero credit rating was worse than having money taken. 

What can you do?

Protect sensitive information – If you shop or bank online change your passwords regularly, especially if you use a public computer.  Be suspicious of emails requesting sensitive personal information.  In addition to computers, identity thieves will try any means they can to get their hands on important documents such as bank statements, check books, credit cards and social security numbers.  So keep all things safe and shred all sensitive documents before discarding them.  If you suspect that a document has been lost or stolen report this immediately.

Keep track of your accounts – The FTC says “Awareness is an effective weapon against identity theft.  Early detection of a potential identity theft can make a big difference.”  Get a copy of your credit report from a reputable agency and note the credit cards and accounts linked to your name.  Check your accounts regularly and look out for unusual transactions.

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