Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Fourth Bureau

The three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are responsible for monitoring and maintaining the current system of creditworthiness.  These three companies are responsible for proper maintenance and protection of all of the sensitive information relating to your credit history.

But, did you know there are other companies collecting your personal and financial information? These companies collect information that the credit bureaus do not, such as rent payment history, utility payment history and prepaid card purchases.

Collectively, these companies are referred to as “The Fourth Bureau” because the information collected by them can be used to create a type of credit profile for you.

The Fourth Bureau fills a particular niche left open by the three credit bureaus – it enables consumers to build up a type of financial history without relying on traditional credit cards or loans and allows businesses to view a different type of financial history. Data collected by these companies can be used to create a credit profile for those who would normally have no credit.

This collection of this additional information can have its downsides.  If you are late on a utility bill payment, for example, that information can be tracked and sold to various data collections.  In some cases, this can come back to haunt you in instances like an employment background screen which collects data from these companies as well as the major credit bureaus.

Federal regulation surrounding The Fourth Bureau collective is hazy at best.  Currently, there are no exact provisions as to what data can be collected or what notification should be provided to consumers.  These businesses are not required to notify you if they collect your information – because of this, it is nearly impossible to track down all of the information that is bought or sold to various businesses across the nation.

Data collection can be a difficult process for consumers even with the three major credit bureaus.  A simple mistake or inaccuracy can lead to a mound of problems later on, and it is now more important than ever to keep an eye on your credit.

August 31st, 2011 by jamil

Back to School – How to Protect Your Children

It’s that time of year again when the kids return to school. Whether your children are just beginning elementary school or embarking onto their first days of college, there is likely one thing that was not on your back-to-school list – identity theft protection.

Children represent the largest growing segment of the population victimized by identity theft. While a child cannot purchase a car, a house, or open a credit card, their identity can be stolen. And, when a child’s identity is stolen, the possibilities for the thief are endless.

For most parents, their child’s credit is pristine, their social security numbers are untapped, and there is little reason that any irregularities would be noticed.

Because children have no use for credit, when identity theft is finally detected, the damage can be devastating. A recent study by Carnegie Mellon found:

  • 10.2% of children were victims of identity theft within the last year, compared to 0.2% of adults.
  • The youngest victim was 5 months old.
  • A 17-year-old’s identity was used to open 42 accounts racking up $725,000 in debt.

Why you should care….

Because of the former practice of assigning social security numbers at birth based on a child’s location and date of birth made it easy for people to obtain access to a child’s social security number.

In July, the SSA announced it would begin assigning social security numbers in a random fashion. Read here to learn more about the SSA Randomization Project.

Did you send your son or daughter off to college with an emergency credit card or maybe they are thinking about opening on campus for the first time. How about the general disclosure of your children’s personal information at schools and doctor’s offices? All of these practices have the potential to put their identities at risk because these institutions often fail to adequately protect personal information and are slow in responding should a data breach occur.

What you can do…

There are a number of basic precautions that you can take to keep your children’s personal data safe.

  • For starters, exercise extreme caution and protect it just as you would your own sensitive personal data.
  • When asked for your child’s personal data, do not hesitate to ask why it is needed.
  • Ask if alternate identification is accepted.
  • When disclosing personal data, ask how it will be stored and protected, or how it will be destroyed.

Always practice identity safe guards at home and teach your children why it is important to protect their personal information. Common tips include:

  • Do not carry social security cards with you. Always keep them locked in a safe place.
  • Shred documents containing any personal information before throwing them away.
  • Do not give your children their social security numbers until they understand their importance and how to protect them.
  • Teach your children the importance of sharing personal information, especially online.

Although it is not recommended to routinely monitor your child’s credit, it is suggested that you do keep your eye out for a tell tale indicators, which include receiving any type of preapproved credit cards sent under your child’s name or any offers that signal an open line of credit. Additionally, the FTC suggests that parents run their child’s credit report on their sixteenth birthday to look for possible irregularities. Doing so offers enough time before the child will apply for employment, student loans, apartments, or any other credit related responsibilities.

You can’t protect your children from everything, but taking a few, easy precautions can help ensure their identities and futures are protected.

 

 

 

August 24th, 2011 by ID Watchdog Security Team

Heading Out for Labor Day?

Just because you’re on holiday, doesn’t mean that identity thieves and cyber criminals are… in fact, your carefree mood makes you a greater target. Here are a few tips and suggestions on how to protect yourself whenever you are traveling.

Empty Your Wallet

Keep your personal documents to a bare minimum – you don’t really need to bring your deck of credit cards, membership cards or frequent diner cards. Carrying an excessive number of cards with personal information on them puts you at a greater risk of identity theft, should your wallet be stolen. A helpful tip is to write down all of the numbers foyour credit companies, so that you have them handy should your cards go missing.

If you are traveling abroad, make sure to keep your passport in a secure location. Consider carrying a photocopy rather than the actual passport. Should you need to carry your passport – protect it as you would a child. A lost passport is not only vacation ruining, but also a treasure trove of personal information.

Secure Your Devices

iPads and laptops make traveling much more enjoyable, but you should take extra precautions when using them. Ensuring that your devices are password protected is the best place to start.

Think about all of the passwords and account numbers saved on your laptop…what would happen if those should fall into the wrong hands? Believe it or not:

A recent survey of 5 airports in the United States found that travelers left behind more than 11,000 laptops, tablet PCs, smart phones and USB sticks in the past year. http://bit.ly/r35Jv8

Nearly all phones have the ability to be password protected, so be sure to take advantage of that feature. If you own an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, a helpful tool is the “Find My iPhone” feature, which enables owners to locate, lock or remote wipe their devices. Find out more.

Additionally, take precautions when signing on to unsecured wireless networks or public computers, whether in the airport, hotel or a cafe. These unsecured networks are probably not the best place to check your bank balance or send any sensitive personal information.

Keep these simple precautions in mind while travelling to keep your vacation relaxing and ensure the only threat to your identity will be those embarrassing beach pictures your kids just uploaded to Facebook.

 

August 17th, 2011 by ID Watchdog Security Team

Social Security Number Randomization Project

The Social Security Administration recently begun its implementation of the Social Security Number Randomization project to combat fraud and extend the longevity of the current 9 digit Social Security Number system.

The Social Security Number Randomization project eliminates both the geographical area code (***-**-****) and the group number code (***-**-****). Meaning that Social Security Numbers will now be assigned in a completely random fashion.

This change is important to the future of Social Security Numbers in the United States as it eliminates security problems that arose from the sequential numbers that could give away identifying information, such as state of origin, or pose a security risk to family members whose Social Security Numbers may be alike.

The Social Security number Randomization project went into effect on June 25, 2011, and will be implemented moving forward. Existing Social Security Numbers will not be affected by this change.

For more detailed information, visit the Social Security Administration website.

August 10th, 2011 by jamil

Welcome to Avira, Our Newest Partner in the Fight Against Identity Theft

ID Watchdog is announcing our newest venture with leading Internet security specialist, Avira. This partnership is our fourth in the Internet security space and validates the ever-growing need for consumers to have a one-stop, easy-to-use security solution that protects their personal data beyond the PC.

Don’t be fooled – cybercrime and data theft are highly organized and increasingly motivated by monetary gain. In fact, as a recent CNN article by David Goldman points out:

These aren’t petty thieves. They’re committing breaches like the Sony (SNE) attack that stole credit card information from 77 million customers and the Citigroup (C,Fortune 500) hack that stole $2.7 million from about 3,400 accounts in May.

They’re organized, smart, and loaded with time and resources.

There may not be much you can do to prevent identity theft or data breaches, but it is extremely important to educate yourself in order to maintain the integrity of your identity. Our newest partnership with Avira will present yet another opportunity for consumers to do just that.

Keep up with latest data breaches and threats to your personal data by Following us on Twitter and joining us on Facebook.

 

August 4th, 2011 by ID Watchdog Security Team

Is Your State Selling Your Personal Information? Yes.

A recent article at a local Florida news site about the State of Florida selling driver information to various companies for revenue is making waves with drivers across the state.

The State of Florida made roughly $73 million between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011 by selling driver information like the first and last name of the driver, personal address, date of birth, and make and model of vehicle.

Who is the State of Florida selling driver information to?  Data collection companies are like Lexus Nexus and Shadow Soft are two of the buyers identified in the article.

According to federal guidelines, the state is not permitted to sell personal data to any business that would use the information to directly solicit drivers.

The fact is that this has been going for some time now, and it is not just the State of Florida that can legally sell driver information without consent or knowledge of the driver.

The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act was passed in 1994 to control the amount of information that the state departments of motor vehicles can pass on to third parties; however, there are exceptions that still leave the door open for your information to be passed on to data collection companies.

 

How many businesses have purchased your information?

Your data will inevitably be bought or sold by countless companies creating even more potential for one of your records to be mishandled, lost, or stolen.  It is increasingly difficult to control public, and private, data because we are caught in a cycle between the corporations (organizations, businesses, government, etc.) we trust and those that want to use or misuse this information.

We think that the question isn’t how do you prevent this from happening, but how do you maintain and preserve your identity knowing that there is the ever-present potential for identity theft?

In an earlier post – Data Breaches Happen – we talk about what you can do to take a more active role in the process and what some of the early warning systems are that can become an early warning system that your personal data has been compromised.

August 3rd, 2011 by ID Watchdog Security Team