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Beware of High-Tech Identity Theft Tactics

For the eighth year in a row, identity theft led the way in 2007 as "the number one consumer complaint category". The list of Top Consumer Fraud Complaints also reported that the most common form of identity theft was credit card fraud, which accounted for a large portion of the $1.2 billion in consumer fraud losses last year. It's clear that identity theft is not only here to stay, but it's one of the fastest growing crimes in America. So are there simply more identity thieves these days, or are they just getting better at what they do? It's probably a combination of the two.

While we like to think of highly-trained criminals in far-off countries using sophisticated technology to steal our identity, the fact is most identity theft cases are quite low-tech and involve someone the victim knows. It's sad, but true. You are more likely to have your identity stolen by an immediate family member than by some mobster in a distant land who figures out how to hack into your wireless home network. Of course, that's still a possibility, so remember to always secure your system and use encryption methods to prevent attacks. If your wireless network is still called Linksys and everyone in your neighborhood can see it, you're taking a great risk.

Check fraud, mail theft, dumpster diving, social security fraud, and child fraud are still the most common forms of identity theft and among the favorites of old-school thieves. They're basic, and they're not going anywhere. However, there are some new kids on the block who have more hi-tech tricks up their sleeves. The following are three tactics you should understand and be aware of in order to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft:

1. Skimming

This is a common technique used in restaurants or stores where you must give your credit card to someone else when paying. Utilizing a small "skimming" device, the identity thief swipes the credit card, stores the information, and then sells the data or uses it a later time to create fake credit cards.

2. Phishing

Have you received one of these emails lately? Designed to look like they are official messages from PayPal or eBay, they ask you to reply and confirm personal account information. Of course, as soon as you enter the information online, it's sent directly to the identity thief who created the fake email. Some are obvious, while others are not so easy to identify.

3. Pharming

Similar to phishing, identity thieves develop fake websites that are search engine friendly and appear to be official sites for well-known companies. If you happen to type in the wrong URL or get redirected to the fake site without knowing, any personal information you enter is immediately collected by the identity thieves.

Other than using common sense to avoid strange emails, fake websites, or shady restaurants, there isn't much else you can do to protect your identity from these more high-tech methods. However, you have already reduced your chances of falling victim to identity theft by simply reading this article and developing an understanding of how these tactics can be used against you. If you are interested in a more proactive approach, browse through Creditnet.com's ID Theft & Monitoring Section to compare the most trusted services in the marketplace and apply securely online.

on Sat, 2008-09-20 17:00