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Jim is the Founder of Identity Theft Wall.

What are Credit Card Skimmers?

A credit card skimmer is a device designed to steal your sensitive personal and financial data when you’re accessing either a point of sale, such as at a gas station pump, or at your bank, on an ATM machine. Last year The Consumerist highlighted a card skimmer on a Bank of America ATM and at a gas pump.

There are two types of skimmers:

  • Cameras: A microscopic camera capable of capturing your card’s visual information, like your name, your card number, the expiration date, and your PIN when you enter it on the keypad.
  • Magnetic capture: A device that sits on top of the card scanner that captures your card’s magnetic information, which includes all the visual data and more.

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Should I Change My Social Security Number?

If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you’ve probably contemplated changing your Social Security Number to prevent future attacks. Unfortunately, changing your Social Security Number doesn’t necessarily protect you the way you think it might. It’s a difficult process and, if you are assigned a new number, your old Social Security Number remains assigned to you. The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t delete or void SSNs, it’s not like a credit card number.

So how do you go about changing your number? You will only be approved for a new number if you can prove that you’ve tried to resolve the problems caused by identity theft but continue to be hurt by your old social security number. The key term is “disadvantaged by misuse” and you have to have experienced financial or personal hardship within the last year. If you can’t get a mortgage loan because your ID was stolen, that’s considered “disadvantaged by misuse.” If the IRS audits you because someone else is reporting income on your SSN, that’s considered “disadvantaged by misused.” The Social Security Administration has a brief bit of information explaining other reasons why you should get a new SSN and unless you actually qualify, you won’t get a new number.

The process for changing your social security number is much like applying for a new social security number – completely Form SS-5 (Application For A Social Security Card), bring documents proving US citizenship (must be originals or certified copies), and evidence you need a new number. Bring all this to your local Social Security Office and apply for a new number.

NOTE: It’s crucial that you request a letter from the SSA explaining why you were issued a new Social Security number. (after you’ve received it) You will need this letter when you go to change over other documents, like your driver’s license, so get this in writing to help avoid headaches down the road.

ProtectMyID.com 30-Day ID Protection 30 Day Trial Review

I’ve never heard of ProtectMyID before, however after some quick research online, they seem to be an up and comer in the Identity Theft Protection world.  I decided to give them a once over and sign-up for their 30-day ID Protection free trial but I also had to sign-up for a $1 credit report in the process.  An inconvenience but a small price to pay for a full 30-day free trial.

Signing up is as simple as the rest I suppose.  You enter your personal information, credit card information, then answer a couple of questions about your identity.  As long as everything checks out, you’re through to the dashboard however if you’ve mistyped anything, you may be asked to call in and answer a few more questions.

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How to Place a Fraud Alert

You can call up the credit bureaus and put a fraud alert on your account. Once you call one, it will notify the other two and the fraud alert will be active at those bureaus as well. The fraud alert warns a potential creditor to do additional due diligence before extending credit. The idea is that credit reports with a fraud alert have already been compromised so the creditor should do extra work to ensure they are giving credit to the right person. They aren’t required to but they probably will because ultimately they lose money if they give money to a thief.

There are two types of fraud alerts, initial fraud alert and extended fraud alerts. The initial fraud alert stays on file for 90 days while the extended version lasts for 7 years. You will need to confirm your identity to place either but an extended report requires an actual identity theft report (initial 90-day fraud alert doesn’t require this). This will make it more of a hassle to obtain credit (you’ll have to provide more information) but this is one of the things many identity theft services do on your behalf.
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Review Your Social Security Statement

Social Security AdministrationEvery year, three months before your birth month, the Social Security Administration will send you a copy of your Social Security Statement. It’s a document that, among other things, lists how much you can expect to receive from the SSA when you reach retirement age. Here’s a sample Social Security statement that should look very similar to yours.

If you’re far from retirement, this document isn’t going to be very important to you because you aren’t planning on receiving benefits yet. You probably shred it the moment you received it, but that would be a mistake!
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zendough by TransUnion 7-Day Free Trial Review

Zendough, a new and fresh idea to the identity theft and credit score space, is offering a 7-day free trial for those in need of protecting their credit and making sure their score is where it needs to be.  Unlike other free trial offers, zendough not only provides you the credit information you’re looking for but they also provide you a zen score, which rates your overall financial well-being.

Zendough is part of TransUnion, one of the three main credit bureaus.  While you will have access to all credit score and report information during your 7-day free trial, you will only have it from TransUnion.  If you decide to continue your service beyond the free trial, you will be granted access to reports and scores from all bureaus.

I decided to give them a try and signed up for the 7-day free trial myself.  The sign-up process is just as simple as many other services, as you’re required to submit your personal information, payment information (should you decide to keep the services beyond the trial period) and answer a few questions about your identity.  The submission process takes a few minutes and the form is easy to fill out.

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What is a Credit Freeze or Security Freeze?

Credit FreezeIf you’ve been the victim of identity theft, a credit freeze is one of the best ways to stop additional fraud in its tracks.

A credit freeze effectively “seals” your credit reports with a personal identification number (PIN) so that only you, and those you give that PIN to, can access your reports. With a fraud alert, whether it’s the shorter 90-day version or the much longer 7-year variety, creditors are simply warned that they should be doing a little more diligence before extending you credit. It results in a little more work on your part, asking for information that, hopefully, an identity thief doesn’t have.
Continue reading What is a Credit Freeze or Security Freeze?

Dispute All Credit Report Inaccuracies

A few years ago, as I reviewed my credit report, I noticed something very strange. There were two social security numbers listed on my report as well as a strange address and a Verizon account I’d never seen before. I had always thought social security numbers were unique to a report, that a credit report should only have one number, but the credit bureau told me that sometimes the numbers get keyed in incorrectly and reports have two!
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Review Your Credit Reports Every Year

CreditJavelin Strategies reported that of the 11.1 million consumers experiencing identity theft fraud in 2009, it took an average of 21 hours to resolve them. Part of the reason it takes so long has to do with when people discover the theft in the first place. If you discover someone has stolen your identity because a debt collector is calling, you have many sleepless nights ahead of you. This underscores the importance of checking your credit report every single year. Like an annual physical, checking your credit report will serve as an early detection alarm if you have been the victim of identity theft.
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Welcome to Identity Theft Wall

Identity theft is a huge business and every year, millions of Americans succumb to one form of identity theft or another. It might be a thief going through your garbage and stealing your credit card statements. It might be a relative “borrowing” your information and opening a credit card in your name. Javelin Strategies, an independent research firm that studies identity theft, reported that 11.1 million adults are affected by identity theft in 2009, with the total fraud increasing by 12.5% to $54 billion. Fifty-four billion dollars in fraud.

This underscores the importance of being diligent and protecting yourself against this type of fraud. Whereas you are protected, by law, against credit card fraud, there isn’t much that limits your liability when it comes to identity theft. If a thief uses your information to sign up for a utility, say water or electricity, and then fails to pay, the utility is coming after you for the money. They don’t know that your information was stolen and they don’t really care, they just want to be paid for the services they rendered.

On Identity Theft Wall we’ll share tips and techniques to protect yourself against identity theft and help you avoid becoming one of the 11.1 million afflicted by this white collar crime.