Read this tip to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Online Identity Theft and other Identity Theft topics.
The new “organized crime” isn't confined to big city streets and dank dark alleyways. It's a global community that specializes in online identity theft and online credit card theft. And it doesn't matter who you are or where you're located – your information is fair game.
Online black markets are a booming business with information being bought and sold as easily as buying and selling on eBay. Although an underground operation, there are no shortage of sites selling credit and debit card numbers, complete with the cardholders' names and verification codes. You can even buy data in bulk – batched in lots of 100 cards or more at a discounted rate.
As rampant as online scams are for gaining access to individuals' personal information, the big money for hackers and cybercriminals isn't through direct contact with you but, rather, hacking into corporate computers – banks, credit card companies, and retail store computers – to steal entire databases. Your information could be in any one of them. The Secret Service is the federal agency that investigates cybercrime, but that happens after the fact. What can you do to help protect yourself?
Ask questions about security. When you are required to give personal information, perhaps for a loan or other credit application, ask how the information is handled, stored, and secured on their database. Also ask how accessible the stored data is to employees.
Educate yourself. Protecting your sensitive information is first and foremost your responsibility. Check the Federal Trade Commission web site for prevention and protection advice. You can also view information about online identity theft at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) web site.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|