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Cyber Crime

Identity Theft

In the course of the day you may write a check at the drugstore, charge tickets to a concert, rent a car, call home on your cell phone, or apply for a credit card. Chances are you don't give these routine transactions a second thought. But others may.

Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in America, affecting half a million new victims each year. Identity theft or identity fraud is the taking of a victim's identity to obtain credit, credit cards from banks and retailers, steal money from a victim's existing accounts, apply for loans, establish accounts with utility companies, rent an apartment, file bankruptcy, or obtain a job using the victim's name. Thousand of dollars can be stolen without the victim knowing about it for months or even years.

The imposter obtains your social security number, your birth date, and other identifying information such as your address and phone number. With this information and a fake driver's license, they can apply in person for instant credit or through the mail posing as you. They often claim they have moved and provide their own address. Once the first account is opened, they can continue to add to their credibility.

They get the information from your doctor, lawyer, school, health insurance carrier, and many other places. "Dumpster divers" pick up information you may have thrown away, such as utility bills, credit card slips, and other documents.

To prevent this from happening to you:

  • Do not give out personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or know whom you're dealing with. Identity thieves will pose as bank representatives, Internet service providers, and even government officials to get you to reveal identifying information.
  • Shred all documents, including pre-approved credit applications received in your name, insurance forms, bank checks and statements you are discarding, and other financial information.
  • Do not use your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your social security number, or a similar series of numbers as a password for anything.
  • Minimize the identification information and the number of cards you carry. Take what you'll actually need. Don't carry your social security card, birth certificate, or passport, unless necessary.
  • Do not put your social security number on your checks or your credit receipts. If a business requests your social security number, give them an alternate number and explain why. If a government agency requests your social security number, there must be a privacy notice accompanying the request.
  • Do not put your telephone number on checks.
  • Be careful using ATMs and phone cards. Someone may look over your shoulder and get your PIN numbers, thereby gaining access to your accounts.
  • Make a list of all your credit card account numbers and bank account numbers with customer service phone numbers and keep it in a safe place.
  • When you order new credit cards in the mail or previous ones have expired, watch the calendar to make sure you get the card within the appropriate time. If the card is not received within that time, call the credit card grantor immediately to find out if the card has been sent. If you don't receive the card, check to make sure a change of address was not filed.
  • Do not put your credit card number on the Internet unless it is encrypted on a secured site.
  • Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if bills don't arrive on time. A missing credit card bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your credit card account and changed your billing address.
  • Cancel all credit cards that you have not used in the last six months. Open credit is a prime target.
  • Order your credit report at least twice a year. Reports should be obtained from all three major sources: Equifax at 800-685-1111; Experian at 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); or TransUnion at 800-680-7293.
  • Correct all mistakes on your credit report in writing. Send the letters return receipt requested. Identify the problems item by item and send with a copy of the credit report back to the credit reporting agency. You should hear from the agency within 30 days.
  • Write to Direct Marketing Association, Mail Preference Service, PO Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735 to get your name off direct mail lists.

Protecting Your Privacy: Keeping an Eye On Your Private Information

E-mail, the Internet, automated teller machines (ATM), computer banking, long distance carriers, even credit cards make our lives more efficient. However, as our lives become more integrated with technology, keeping our private information confidential becomes more difficult. Electronic transactions can leave you vulnerable to fraud and other crimes. Following a few simple tips can help keep your code from being cracked.

A Word On Passwords

Whether you are on the Internet or an online banking program, you are often required to use a password. The worst passwords to use are the ones that come to mind first -- name, spouse's name, maiden name, pets, children's name, even street addresses, etc. The best passwords mix numbers with upper and lowercase letters. A password that is not found in the dictionary is even better. There are programs that will try every word in the dictionary in an effort to crack your security.

Don't be a "Joe" -- someone who uses their name as their password.

The weakest link in a security system is the human element. The fewer people who have access to your codes and passwords the better. Avoid breaks in your security by

Changing your password regularly

Memorizing your password. If you have several, set up a system for remembering them. If you do write down the password, keep it at home or hidden at work. Don't rewrite your password on a post-it note and stick it on your monitor or hard drive.
Setting up a special account or setting aside a different computer at work for temporary help and other unauthorized users.
If you have the option of letting your computer or a Web site remember a password for you, don't use it. Anyone who uses your machine will have automatic access to information that is password protected.
Don't send confidential, financial, or personal information on your e-mail system.

Shopping In Cyberspace

Ordering merchandise from the Internet is the trend of the future. You can prevent problems before they occur by:
  • Doing business with companies you know and trust. If you haven't heard of the company before, research it or ask for a paper catalog before you decide to order electronically. Check with your state consumer protection agency on whether the company is licensed or registered. Fraudulent companies can appear and disappear very quickly in cyberspace.
  • Understanding the offer. Look carefully at the products or services the company is offering. Be sure you know what is being sold, the quality being specified, the total price, the delivery date, the return and cancellation policy, and all the terms of any guarantee.
  • Using a secure browser that will encrypt or scramble purchase information. If there is no encryption software, consider calling the company's 800 number, faxing your order, or paying with a check.
  • Never giving a bank account or credit card number or other personal information to anyone you don't know or haven't checked out. And don't provide information that isn't necessary to make a purchase. Even with partial information, con artists can make unauthorized charges or take money from your account. If you have an even choice between using your credit card and mailing cash, check, or money order, use a credit card. You can always dispute fraudulent credit card charges but you can't get cash back.
  • Spam -- unsolicited e-mail. Report it to your online or Internet service provider.

Using ATMs, Long Distance Phone Services, and Credit Cards

Protect Your Personal Identification Number (PIN)

The PIN is one method used by banks and phone companies to protect your account from unauthorized access.

A PIN is a confidential code issued to the cardholder to permit access to that account. Your PIN should be memorized, secured and not given to anyone, not even family members or bank employees. The fewer people who have access to your PIN, the better.
  • Never write your PIN on ATM or long distance calling cards.
  • Don't write your PIN on a piece of paper and place it in your wallet.
  • If your wallet and care are lost or stolen, someone will have everything they need to remove funds from your account, make unauthorized debit purchases, or run up your long distance phone bill.

Protect Your Privacy and the Privacy of Others

  • Be aware of others waiting behind you.
  • Position yourself in front of the ATM keyboard or phone to prevent anyone from observing your PIN.
  • Be courteous while waiting at an ATM or pay phone by keeping a polite distance from the person ahead of you. Allow the current user to finish before approaching the machine or phone.

Protect Your ATM Cards

  • An ATM card should be treated as thought it were cash. Avoid providing card and account information to anyone over the telephone.
  • When making a cash withdrawal at an ATM, immediately remove the case as soon as the machine releases it. Put the case in your pocket and wait until you are in a secure location before counting it. Never use an ATM in an isolated area or where people are loitering.
  • Be sure to take your receipt to record transactions and match them against monthly statements. Dishonest people can use your receipt to get your account number. Never leave the receipt at the site.

Protect Your Credit Cards

  • Only give your credit card account number to make a purchase or reservation you have initiated. And never give this information over a cellular phone.
  • Never give your credit card to someone else to use on your behalf.
  • Watch your credit card after giving it to store clerks to protect against extra imprints being made.
  • Destroy any carbons. Do not discard into the trash can at the purchase counter. Keep charge slips in a safe place.
  • Protect your purse or wallet, especially when traveling or in crowded situations.
  • Save all receipts, and compare them to your monthly statement. Report any discrepancies immediately!
  • Keep a master list in a secure place at home with all account numbers and phone numbers for reporting stolen or lost cards.

Lost or Stolen Cards

  • Always report lost or stolen cards to the issuing company immediately. This limits any unauthorized use of your card and permits the company to being the process of issuing a new card.
  • Crime can be random. But there are steps that limit your chances of becoming a victim. Being aware of the threat of crime, and alert to what you can do to prevent it, will go a long way toward making your electronic transactions safe and private.

Safe and Secure in an Electronic World

Enterprising criminals can gather enough information about you through the debris of everyday electronic transactions to pretend that they are you. Once this happens, they can gain access to all your financial information.
  • The most common way thieves go about getting this information is by stealing your wallet. However, other ways include:
  • Looking over your shoulder at ATM's and phone booths to capture your PIN number
  • Stealing mail from your mailbox
  • Digging though your discarded trash
  • Fraudulently ordering a copy of your credit record
And before you think, "I don't have a credit record," think again. As soon as you open a bank account, get a credit card or a loan, or start a store account, you've got a credit record.

To prevent this from happening to you:

  • Don't give out your social security number. If your state allows it, use a number other than your social security number on your driver's license.
  • Tear into small pieces all credit card offers, ATM receipts, bank statements, credit card statements, and other printed materials that have your account numbers on them. Use a paper shredder if possible.
  • Don't send personal information over the Internet, through e-mail, or over cellular phones.
  • Don't use passwords that are obvious: names (yours or those of your friends, relatives, or pets), birth date, even street addresses. The best passwords mix numbers with upper and lowercase letters. A password that is not found in the dictionary is even better because there are programs that will try every word in the dictionary in an effort to crack your code.
  • Avoid break-ins by changing your password regularly and memorizing it. If you have several, set up a system for remembering them. Don't write your password on your notebook or stick it on a Post-it® note in your locker.
  • Pay Particular Attention When Using ATM Cards and Credit Cards

One of many conveniences of a checking account is the debit or automated teller machine (ATM) card. This card allows you to get money from your account through a machine 24 hours a day. A money machine is useful, but there are a few precautions you should take.

Protecting Your Personal Identification Number (PIN)

Just like passwords on the computers, a PIN is a confidential code issued to you that lets you have access to your account. Memorize your PIN, and don't give it to anyone, not even family members or bank employees. The fewer people who have access to your PIN, the better.

Never write your PIN on your ATM card or write it on a piece of paper and place it in your wallet. If your wallet and card are lost or stolen, someone will have everything they need to take all the money from your account.

Using the ATM Safely

An ATM card should be treated like cash. When using the ATM machine, select one that's code-door or double door secured and visible to street traffic. Use when others are around. Also,
  • Be aware of others waiting behind you
  • Position yourself in front of the keyboard to prevent anyone from seeing your PIN
  • Be courteous while waiting by keeping a polite distance from the person ahead of you. Allow the person to finish his or her business before approaching the machine
  • Remove the cash as soon as the machine releases it. Put the money in your pocket and wait until you are in a secure location before counting it. Never leave the receipt at the site.

Protecting Your Credit Cards

Having a credit card is a big responsibility. If you don't have your own card, a parent may lend you one for certain purchases. Whether the card is yours or your parents', here are a few tips to keep it safe.
  • Give your credit card account number out to make a purchase or reservation only when you have initiated the call. Never give this information over a cellular phone.
  • Never give your credit card for someone to use on your behalf.
  • Watch your card when giving it to store clerks to protect against extra imprints being made.
  • Destroy any carbon papers from receipts. Tear them up ? don't toss them into the trash at the purchase counter. Keep the actual charge slips in a safe place.
  • Save all receipts and compare them to your monthly statement. Report any differences immediately.
  • Keep a master list of all your card numbers in a secure place, preferably with your parents or another trusted adult, with all account numbers and phone numbers for reporting stolen or lost cards.
  • Immediately report lost or stolen cards to the issuing company and to the police.

Safe Surfing

Cyberspace is a gigantic community of millions, where people research information for school, learn about movies, shop, listen to music, watch video clips, even develop sites of their own. As in any community, there are people and places you should avoid to reduce your crime risk.

Rules of the Road on the Internet

The best tool you have for screening material found on the Internet is your brain. If you come across sites that are pornographic, full of hate literature, or excessively violent, move on. Here are a few reminders for safe browsing on the World Wide Web:

  • Never give out your name, address, telephone number, password, school name, parent's name, pictures of yourself, credit cards, or any other personal information to others online.
  • Never agree to meet face to face with someone you've met online without discussing it with your parents. Only if your parents decide that it's okay to meet your "cyber-friend," arrange to meet in a familiar public place, and take an adult with you.
  • Never respond to messages from unfamiliar persons.
  • Never enter an area that charges for services without getting your parents' permission first.
  • If you receive pornographic material or threatening e-mail, save the offensive material, tell your parents, and contact that user's Internet service provider and your local law enforcement agency.

The Sites You See (and Visit)

E-mail

E-mail is a great way to communicate with your friends and family. Sometimes you may receive messages trying to sell you something or encouraging you to visit a Web site.

It is probably best not to respond to e-mail from people or groups you don't know. These sites might be a scam to sell you something you don't want. Remember, the sender might not be who he or she seems to be. If you respond, you are confirming that you have a valid e-mail address. That information can encourage the sender to forward inappropriate e-mail or put your address on even more lists.

Chat rooms

When someone is posting a message in a chat room, other users have no way of knowing who that person really is. Though the anonymity of a chat room can be liberating, it's cool to create a different identity, some use it as a way to meet people they want to harm. Never say anything in a chat room that you wouldn't say in public. Many chat rooms have monitors or speakers who maintain order. These monitors can kick people out of the room for inappropriate behavior.

If you meet someone online and strike up a good relationship with them, they may want to go to a private chat room. Most of these rooms are unmonitored. There will be no filter for inappropriate conduct.

Harassment

Not everyone online minds their manners. When you are in chat rooms or bulletin boards there is a chance that you'll get messages that are harassing, demeaning, or just plain mean. Just ignore them. Some messages, however, may constitute harassment, which is a crime under federal law. If someone sends you messages or images that are obscene, lewd, filthy, or indecent, with the intent to harass or threaten you, report it to your Internet service provider. One trick to avoid harassment is to choose a gender-neutral name to use in a chat room and other public places on the Internet.

Assessing a Web Site

Aside from the fun ways to keep in touch with people, the Web can be a powerful research tool. But you need to be able to evaluate the pages you visit to know whether the information is accurate.

As you visit new sites keep these pointers in mind:
  • Look for Web pages that have a proper title, additional resources, a contact person with his or her e-mail address, an announcement of the last time the page was updated, and current links.
  • Know who are the authors or sponsors of the site. What gives them the authority to discuss the issue at hand?
  • Know the code. Check the URL (Web site address) to see what the domain name includes: a .com (commercial), a .gov (government), an .org (organization), .net (network), an .edu (educational organization), or a two letter country code (country of origin). This will provide an idea of the author or sponsor of the site. Not all commercial sites want to sell you something and not all educational sites will educate you. Be an educated consumer as you sort through the information.
  • Know what's happening. Is the main purpose of this site to sell, inform, or persuade you?
  • Check with the author first, if you find information that you want to use for your research, about copyright privileges and permission.

Take Action

Educate your parents

  • Take the time to show your parents what you do online. Show them your Web site, if you have one. Tell them who you are communicating with on a daily basis. Most likely you will be teaching your parents some new tricks.
  • Talk to your parents about where you can go online and how long you can stay online. Also, tell them about activities you participate in online.
  • Teach other teens about keeping safe on the Internet.
  • Know your rights, where to report crimes and what you can report.

Shopping Safely Online

In the course of the day you may write a check at the drugstore, charge tickets to a concert, or apply for a credit card. Chances are you don't give these everyday transactions a second thought. But others may.They may be trying to steal your identity.

You just found the perfect antique lamp at an online auction site.You send off the check to the seller, but never receive the merchandise.Your mother has decided to begin purchasing her medicine online. Is it safe to do so?

The Internet is an exciting tool that puts a vast amount of information at your fingertips. With the click of a mouse you can buy the latest bestseller, make travel arrangements, rent a video, or purchase a gift for a friend.

Convenience, good deals, and choices are all good things that the Internet offers. But before you use it, be cybersmart and make your online experience a safe one.

  • Shop with companies you know. Anyone can set up an online shop under almost any name. If you are not familiar with a merchant, ask for a paper catalog to get a better idea of their merchandise and services. Also be sure to determine a company's return and refund policies before making your purchase.
  • Keep your password private. Never give your password to anyone. Avoid using a birthday or a portion of your Social Security number. If possible, use a combination of letters and numbers.
  • Use a secure browser. This is the software you use to navigate the Internet. Your browser should comply with all industry security standards. These standards encrypt or scramble purchase information you send over the Internet. Most computers have a browser installed. Some browsers may be downloaded from the Internet free of charge.
  • Pay by credit card. If you pay by credit card, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this law, you have the right to dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates them.
  • Keep personal information private. Do not give out your Social Security number, e-mail address, telephone number, or address unless you know who is collecting the information, why they're collecting it, and how they'll use it.
  • Save all transaction information, including e-mails and records of any phone conversations.

Crime Prevention Tips Provided by: National Crime Prevention Council