Banks and corporations have found it easier to write off a loss rather than to prosecute it. The majority of State district attorneys have set $5000 as the benchmark before they will consider prosecuting a case against forged checks. The U.S. Attorney’s office criterion for prosecuting white collar crime is $250,000. An unspoken FBI directive is not to investigate crimes under $100,000. Compound these closed book regulations with governmental agencies and municipalities’ lack of manpower and resources to prosecute crimes of these type and it is easy to understand the major problems in fighting and halting identity theft.
Computer hardware and software advances, along with the expansion of the internet has created an increase in the number of phishing pranks. These pranks, via the Internet, have resulted in significant financial losses for many citizens who fall prey to these insidious identity theft scams. Phishing is an online tactic where unsuspecting consumers are sent official looking emails informing them they need to click on a hyperlink to update their personal information with a company they do business with. You should never provide personal or financial information over the Internet, unless you initiated the contact with the other party and you are absolutely confident the parties you are dealing with are trustworthy.
An identity thief that obtains your personal and financial information can, and most likely will, use the information to harm you in a number of different ways. For instance they may;
Open new credit card accounts in your name
Open new bank accounts in your name
Buy cars or other large ticket items and take out loans in your name
Buy cell phones in your name
Use your name when committing crimes of fraud
If discovered to be fraud, you may not be held responsible for the fraudulent charges. But that is only part of the solution. The real problem with identity theft is cleaning up the aftermath. The same computer that serves the identity thief who created the problem is also the culprit that maintains the information of the wrong doings and disrupts the victim’s life until they are able get all traces of the crime removed from their records.
The computer resources of the creditors, law enforcement agencies, and other organizations who became involved as part of the identity thief’s crimes is the mechanism used to disseminates the information of the wrong doings to the three major credit reporting bureau’s. Because the wrong doings occurred in your name, they are reported as your personal indiscretions. The resultant negative comments that become attached to your credit report can affect your future credit arrangements, your employment prospects, as well as insurance and loan applications you submit.
Clearing away the negative information and restoring your name and credit is both time consuming and stressful. The best thing to do is to protect yourself from become an identity theft victim. Over the Internet, phishing is the most popular technique used to surreptitiously obtain personal information. The companies most often imitated by phony phishing websites are eBay, Citibank, AOL, PayPal, and a number of local and regional area banks. Email is the tool of choice.
When online and reading your email, be on the lookout for the following signs that may help you from becoming an identity theft victim;
PayPal never asks for personal or financial information or refer to previous transactions in their email. Any email you receive from PayPal violating these rules should be deleted immediately.
If the email sender’s address began with a random number or alpha-numeric sequence this usually indicates a phishing email message. Also review the email sender’s domain name (the part of the email address that follows the “@” sign). It will not match the company name domain.
By hovering your mouse cursor over the hyperlink in the email message and looking at the lower left corner of the status bar, it will reveal the true destination url you will be forwarded to when you click the link. A phishing email destination url will not match the hyperlink url listed on the email.
Legitimate commercial and financial enterprises use secure SSL technology on their web sites. This can be confirmed by the locked, golden padlock icon displayed on the lower right corner of your browser’s status bar. This indicates all information inputted on that web site is encrypted before it is sent over the internet. Phishing operation will lack this important detail. If that icon is missing when you arrive at a hyperlink page requesting personal or financial information, it most likely is a phishing page.
Instead of clicking on the hyperlink found in an email, try typing the url listed into the address bar of your browser and note what title that appears within your browsers title bar at the very top of your browser window. This will give you some indication of the true owner of that page. Most phony web sites will display a welcome title on every page.
It is hard to know if you have been a victim of a phishing prank until after the fallout begin. These techniques will provide you some security however; more preventative measure may be required. Remain keenly aware of all email messages your receive requesting that you provide personal and financial information via a web site. Email is generally not the standard operation procedure or request for information medium used by any legitimate commercial or financial organization who desire to make contact with you. Some of the phishing letters can be quite convincing and be a response to a recent news event. If you have the slightest doubt, make a telephone call to the organization. A byte of prevention may be worth a gigabyte of cure.