Weekly business rail, with identity-protection tips, BBB warning about seasonal rip-offs, and more.
Tip of the Week
Identity thieves can strike at any stage of your life. However, the more you know, the better prepared you can be to take proactive steps to reduce your risk. For every milestone from graduation to marriage, from buying a new home to joining the military, or even becoming a new parent, identity theft poses a risk. Here's how people at different life stages could be targeted for identity theft.
- To the graduate: Up until now you probably haven't thought to worry about your credit and have only used your Social Security number when filling out forms at your doctor's office or on various applications. Even more likely, you've left the responsibility of all of this to your parents. But as you're headed off into the world for the first time and signing up for your first credit card, there is a chance that a thief could be out to steal your good name, be careful who you give your information to.
- To the newlyweds: Who knew that changing your last name or adding your spouse to your credit card or bank account would take so much time? After the excitement of the wedding and honeymoon settles down, there is often real work to be done in updating your personal information. Identity thieves know what you need to do to change your information, so they determine weaknesses in security systems in order to get what they want, the puzzle pieces that identify you.
- To the homeowners: Congratulations on your new investment. Owning a home is often part of the American dream, but just how many organizations did you have to provide your name, date of birth and Social Security number to in order to complete this transaction? Thieves know that you are often linking your new home purchase to your line of credit and can look for these types of forms to steal pieces of your personal information.
- To the servicemen and women: You have made a tremendous sacrifice to protect our great nation, but unfortunately identity thieves can look at your deployment as prime time to target you. You may face an increased risk of identity theft as a result of being away from home for long periods of time and not having access to your mail and accounts, giving the upper hand to thieves.
- To the new parents: Sleepless nights are common with new parents. Following the arrival of your new bundle of joy, you most likely applied for a Social Security number for your child in order to include him on your insurance plan and to claim him as a dependent when filing your income taxes. Unfortunately, identity thieves who compromise your child's identity can cause more sleepless nights down the road. Children can be prime targets for identity thieves because often their identities go unmonitored for years.
The Better Business Bureau offers tips to consumers to avoid theft, fraud and scams during the holiday season.
- Think twice before clicking a link sent to you via email: Links may lead to viruses and allow scammers to get your personal and banking information. Instead, independently find the sites you want to shop on and check www.bbb.org for free Business Reviews. Use only secure sites. Look in the address box for the "s" in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the "lock" symbol before paying. If there are any doubts about a site, the BBB recommends right-clicking anywhere on the page and select "Properties." This will let you see the real URL (website address) and the dialog box will reveal if the site is not encrypted.
- Remember criminals and scammers don't take a holiday: Check out businesses' privacy policies before entering personal information. If shopping online be sure your computer has the most up to date anti-spyware software.
- Keep all receipts and read the fine print: Online businesses are required by law to send your product within 30 days unless otherwise stated or you get your money back. Understand that refund and exchange policies can differ significantly from one seller to another.
- Pay with a credit card instead of cash or bank card: If it's a scam you'll have record of it and are more likely to get your money back by disputing the charges if you don't receive the item or dispute false charges made to your account. No other form of payment offers this protection. Also, make sure to check your credit card statements often and not just when your bill arrives.
- Beware of gift card scams: Con artists can get important numbers off of gift cards before you have even bought them by scanning the identifying number before hand. They can then go onto the website and see when it is activated, and use it to purchase items. Instead, ask for gift cards behind the counter instead of the ones displayed and use your gift cards as soon as possible.
- Don't leave your purchases in plain sight in your car: The holidays are a car thief's prime time to break in and steal your purchases. Either remove your purchases from your car or make sure they are out of sight.
- Verify the validity of a particular charity: The sneakiest Scrooges will often adopt a similar name to known charities, so make sure you do your research and always make out your payment to the charity and not individual solicitors. Visit www.bbb.org/charity for free info.
- Make a list and check it twice: Often consumers will head out to the malls and spend more money than intended, so make a list of what you want to spend and keep track of how much you are spending.
- If going with a layaway plan check out their policy, and if they are BBB Accredited: Layaway is an excellent option when paying for something expensive. Make sure to find out all the details, like how much you need to put down, interest costs, when payments are due, and return policies so that there are no surprises.
- Beware of deals that sound to good to be true ... they probably are: When shopping online there are hundreds of websites offering to beat out great deals. Make sure to check if the website is legitimate at www.bbb.org. Sometimes paying less can cost you more.
According to The Street, here are the top five resolution apps:
- Jillian Michaels Weight Loss
- Livestrong MyQuit Coach
- Pay it Forward
After having problems with its Maps app, Apple has decided to let Google Maps back on iPhones. Reviews of the new Google app are glowing.
GateHouse News Service