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Protect Your Packages this Holiday Season!

Almost 20 billion packages will be delivered through the mail this holiday season. Even at $5 per package, that’s more than $100 Billion in value going through the mail–a scale too large and tempting for criminals to ignore.

Why do thieves target us during the holidays? In addition to the volume and value of holiday mail, criminals are taking advantage of the perfect winter storm:

  • Trucks are overloaded, mail & UPS carriers are overworked and shoppers are overwhelmed, which makes theft easy and attractive
  • Thieves take advantage not just of our good nature during the holidays, but of how distracted we are
  • Criminals see our generosity of giving as a goldmine waiting to be exploited

But picking packages off of your doorstep isn’t the only type of crime that skyrockets during December. Thieves don’t just want to steal the gifts inside your packages, they want the identity information that goes along with them: credit card numbers, bank accounts, invoices, even the checks that grandma sends in a holiday card. Check washers want to soak your checks in acetone, erase the Pay To field and replacing it with the word CASH.

How do we protect our mail and packages during the holidays, or any day?

  • Install a locking mailbox at your home and retrieve your mail early in the day, before criminals have a chance to steal it
  • Get a PO box during heavy mailing times and use that address for packages, sensitive documents or payments
  • Instead of putting outbound packages in your mailbox, drop them directly at the post office. Even the blue USPS boxes are commonly emptied by thieves at night.
  • Tell Grandma to stop sending cash! It’s too easy to steal and impossible to trace.
  • If you must send a physical payment through the mail, use high security checks like those provided by Deluxe.
  • Use UPS or FedEx to ship packages so that you can track their progress, insure the contents and require a signature at the other end.
  • If you generally aren’t at home when packages are delivered, have them shipped to your work so that they don’t sit on your porch for hours.
  • Check out our 12 Days to a Safe Christmas for more tips on protecting yourself against cyber crime, party crashers and Facebook stalkers during the season.

Take these simple tips when sending gifts and cards and you won’t lose your valuable data and goods to the identity theft Grinches.

 

I Left My Credit Card @ The Restaurant, Now What?! – Privacy Project Episode #8

So I’m out to dinner with a professional speaker whose name I’ll drop so that you’ll be impressed. Larry Winget. Larry is the Pitbull of Personal Development and he’ll probably kill me for not putting a trademark after that title, because he owns it. If you have somebody in your life (kid, employee, boss) that doesn’t take responsibility for the life they lead and the work they’re supposed to do, Larry’s your man. Google his name and find out, or go to LarryWinget.com.

But back to my story. I treated Larry to dinner in Phoenix because I owe him a thousand meals for the coaching he gives me and we’re leaving the table when his wife (who is much nicer than Larry) asks if I’ve taken my credit card out of the folder. Nope. God I hate when that happens! Small oversight for someone who lives and breathes security and privacy. I left my card in the folder, on the table and was fully prepared to leave the restaurant!

Anyway, this brings up a good point. Now matter how much you know, no matter how hard you work at protecting your identity,sometimes you will slip up and be your own worst enemy. There are just simply times when identity is out of our control. But you don’t have to stress about it. A quick response solves a lost credit card without much pain. Take a look at the video for steps on what to do if you lose or misplace your card.

How to Prevent Child Identity Theft

Why are our kids, the very people we most want to protect, so vulnerable to identity theft? Because they have unused, unblemished credit profiles. According to Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab 10.2% of the children in a recent report had someone else using their Social Security numbers. That figure is 51 times higher than the rate for adults of the same population.

Thieves steal a child’s identity early on, nurture it until they have a solid credit score, and then abuse and discard it. If it’s not discovered in time, fraudulent use of your child’s identity could mean the loss of educational and job opportunities and starting off adulthood at a serious disadvantage with someone else’s bad credit in her name.

Oddly enough, credit checks do not have any way to match your child’s date of birth with that listed with the Social Security Administration. Therefore, the criminal can put down any date of birth and gain access to your child’s credit. The most unsettling part is thatthe age of the applicant (in this case,the person posing as your child) becomes official with the credit bureaus upon the first credit application.This makes clearing a sabotaged credit record even more difficult because you have to prove to the credit bureau that your child is a child and not responsible for thousands of dollars of debt.

In most cases, you won’t discover the illegal purchases and identity theft until your child applies for a job, tries to get a driver’s license or enters college. At that point, you are left with the time-consuming dilemma of cleaning up someone else’s fraudulent mess. If only clearing up a credit report was as easy as cleaning up after your kids.

Common Sources of Child Identity Theft

  1. Undocumented Workers who need identities to keep working in the US (see NBC News Video Above).
  2. Organized Criminals who reap huge financial gains with little risk of prosecution.
  3. Friendly Fraudsters (friends and relatives) who abuse their relationship with the child to cover debts and expensive habits.

Here are some of the ways your child’s information is stolen:

  • When registering for daycare, schools and recreational sports
  • On medical, dental and hospital records
  • When joining organizations like the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, etc.
  • When their identity is stored and accessed by volunteers or employees
  • When one of the above organizations is breached by a hacker or malicious software
  • When an adult befriends your child on a Facebook and socially engineers private information out of them

For parents, cleaning up the disaster of identity theft for their children is costly and incredibly time consuming. Getting a new Social Security number is almost impossible, and rarely the best option. Taking steps right now to protect your child from this horrible crime is one of the greatest investments you will ever make in their financial and emotional future.

Consequences of Child ID Theft

Acting now on behalf of your child will protect them from consequences common to child victims:

  • Starting adulthood with a credit rating low enough to scare away the hungriest of loan sharks.
  • Being denied a loan, credit card or apartment rental because of a crime committed 10-15 years earlier .
  • Being denied access to college, financial aid or a new job based on a past criminal record, falsified earnings or tarnished reputation.
  • Having an arrest warrant for crimes your child didn’t commit.

Protecting Your Children

In the same way that you can’t protect your children from every bruise and scrape, you can’t entirely remove the risk of identity theft. You can, however, prevent or soften the fall if it does happen. Take these steps first:

  1. Watch for mail in your child’s name. This is a potential sign that credit has been established using their identity. The most common types of mail that signal identity theft are financial (pre-approved credit cards, etc.).
  2. Consider ordering a free credit report for your child. If you suspect foul play, write to the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to see if your child has a credit profile (no profile, no chance that it is being used illegally). If they do have an active credit profile, you will need to resolve this with the specific credit bureau. Please note that requesting your child’s credit report repeatedly can actually establish a credit profile in their name. For a more convenient option, use an identity monitoring service for you and your family that alerts you when credit is established in any of your names.
  3. Stop giving out your child’s personal information. Until you are confident that it is absolutely necessary to receive the services desired, withhold their personal information. More than 80% of organizations that ask for your child’s Social Security number don’t actually need it to establish services. If you must give it, ask them how they will use it, how long they will keep it and how it will be protected while they have it.
  4. Protect your child’s identity documents. Birth certificates, passports, bank account information, wills and trusts involving children should all be locked securely in a fire-safe or bank’s safety deposit box. Physical document theft is one of the most prevalent ways kid’s identities are stolen.
  5. If you find evidence of fraudulent activity, contact the police, the source of the fraud and all three credit bureaus. Filing a police report helps to establish your child’s innocence in an official way.Have the credit bureaus FREEZE your child’s credit for maximum protection. Keep detailed records of all correspondence between yourself, the police, the merchant and the credit bureaus. It will come in handy should you ever find yourself in court, as I did.
  6. Educate your children on the importance of protecting their personal information. Teach them about the value of their personal information: their name, address, phone numbers, email address, Social Security Number and any passwords and PIN numbers. Reinforce that they own their private information and that it should not be shared with friends, over the internet or with anyone whom they don’t know or trust.Education is absolutely the best financial gift you will ever give to them.

In the case of child identity theft, an ounce of prevention is worth a lifetime of financial security. Don’t let the center of your universe become just another statistic. Because you love and protect your children as much as I do, start this process immediately.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

ID Theft – Five Tips for Vacation Protection

Holiday travel brings various levels of challenge and stress. Don’t let identity theft risk add to your anxiety.

Here are five tips to help you to avoid becoming a victim while on vacation:

1. Stop your mail and newspaper. Avoid letting un-invited credit invitations sit in your mail box. You can stop your mail by phone or online at usps.com. Also, ask a trusted neighbor to watch for package & parcel deliveries and to hang on to them until you return. If you receive a daily newspaper, put your subscription on hold. A pile of un-retrieved newspapers in your driveway is a “Welcome” sign to thieves.

2. Don’t advertise that you’re on vacation. Make sure if you are going to post vacation updates on your e-mail, on social networking websites, or on your voice mail greeting, that you post generically, no specifics. Put a few lights on timers so that your home doesn’t look unoccupied for the entire time you’re gone. Replace the front porch light bulb.

3. Enroll in a protection product that safeguards your most valuable asset, your identity. You may think you have all your bases covered, but it can be harder than you think, especially once you need to recover from a theft. One way to make sure you’re protected is by using a product that monitors if you are vulnerable to having your identity stolen. A number of quality service providers offer alerts via text or email of potentially suspicious activity as well as resolution assistance to help you cut through the red tape should you need it.

4. Leave your checkbook & debit card at home. If you don’t want to use cash or credit cards, purchase traveler’s checks instead of bringing your checkbook or debit card. A stolen checkbook has your bank account number and routing number on the checks – valuable tools a thief can use to steal your identity or clean out your bank account. Traveler’s checks require a signature when you purchase them, and then another when you use them at a store or restaurant on your travels. And, usually a photo ID is required when you use them. A thief that steals them will find them much harder to use. A debit card is essentially an immediate cash transaction.

5. Give your credit card company a heads up. This is especially important if you are traveling internationally, because any activity that happens domestically will raise a red flag. If you don’t let them know, they may become concerned when they see overseas transactions and freeze your card, potentially ruining your holiday.

A good measure of common sense and basic precaution can go a long way to protect you and your family.  Taking some of these simple steps can give you the peace of mind you deserve during your hard-earned vacation. Travel safely (and securely)!

John Sileo is an award-winning author and speaks worldwide on the dark art of deception (identity theft, social media privacy, data breach) and it’s polar opposite, the powerful use of trust to achieve success. He is CEO of The Sileo Group, which advises teams on how to multiply results and increase positive impact by building a culture of deep trust. His satisfied clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, the FDIC, Homeland Security, Experian UK and Blue Cross. Contact him on 800.258.8076, follow him on Facebook and Twitter, or view his work on YouTube.

Use a Credit Freeze to Stop Financial Identity Theft and Secure Your Wealth


Freezing your credit is the number one way to protect against financial identity theft. If everyone in the country applied for a Credit Freeze, identity thieves would quickly be out of business. At least, a major part of their business. Take 30 minutes and lower your chances of identity theft drastically (see the online Freeze links at the bottom of this post).

To go directly to placing a security freeze on your 3 bureau accounts, page down to the bottom section.

Every time you establish new credit (e.g., open up a new credit card, store account or bank account, finance a car or home loan, etc.), an entry is created in your credit file which is maintained by companies like Experian, Equifax and TransUnion (listed below). The trouble is, with your name, address and social security number, an identity thief can pretend to be you and can establish credit (i.e., spend your net worth) in your name.

A credit freeze is simply an agreement you make with the three main credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – listed below) that they won’t allow new accounts (credit card, banking, brokerage, loans, rental agreements, etc.) to be attached to your name/social security number unless you contact the credit bureau, give them a password and allow them to unfreeze or thaw your account for a short period of time. Yes, freezing your credit takes a bit of time (maybe an hour of work), can be a little inconvenient when you want to set up a new account (that said, let’s face it, businesses want to make it as easy as possible to unfreeze your credit because they benefit when you set up new accounts and spend more money) and it can cost a few dollars (generally about $10 to unfreeze, a small price compared to the recovery costs of identity theft). And it is worth it! It’s like putting locks on your doors.

Since all states don’t allow you, by law, to freeze your credit, the three credit reporting bureaus have begun to offer credit freezes on a national basis. This is a major step forward in the prevention of identity theft, even if they are offering it for profit reasons (they make money every time you freeze/unfreeze your credit). If your state does not currently offer credit freezes by law, you can now apply with each credit reporting bureau individually. Regardless of where you live, freeze your credit today.A credit freeze doesn’t affect your existing credit – it doesn’t freeze credit cards, bank accounts or loans you already have. It only freezes access to your account unless someone has a password to get in. It’s like having a PIN number on your ATM card. It also doesn’t lower (or raise) your credit score.

Equifax Credit Freeze
P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta, Georgia 30348credit-freeze
Toll-Free: 1.800.685.1111

TransUnion Credit Freeze
Fraud Victim Assistance Department P.O. Box 6790 Fullerton, CA 92834
Toll-Free: 1.888.909.8872

Experian Credit Freeze
P.O. Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013
Toll-Free: 1.888.397.3742

John Sileo is an award-winning author and international speaker on the dark art of deception (identity theft, data privacy, social media manipulation) and its polar opposite, the powerful use of trust, to achieve success. He is CEO of The Sileo Group, which advises teams on how to multiply performance by building a culture of deep trust. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, the FDIC, and Homeland Security. Sample his Keynote Presentation (he shares how he lost $300,000, 2 years and his business to data breach) or watch him on Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes or Fox Business. 1.800.258.8076.