"Are you getting excited about the upcoming holiday season? So are identity thieves. "There's more money flowing around, and there's a lot less time for proper due diligence and a proper sense of awareness," said Jack Vonder Heide, an identity theft expert and president of Technology Briefing Centers Inc. in Oak Brook, Ill. He'll be in Dallas on Thursday to speak to clients and prospective clients of wealth management firm U.S. Trust Corp. on how to protect your identity. Read up on these latest schemes so you can be on guard during the holidays. Some are new, while others intensify during this time of the year. You might even clip this list and carry it around with your holiday shopping list.
Credit card kiosks
"That involves an identity thief who goes into a legitimate bank and says he or she is on the board of a condominium association and they need about 500 MasterCard and Visa applications because they want to put these in people's mailboxes," Mr. Vonder Heide said. The crooks then take the applications to a mall, where they set up a kiosk and invite consumers to apply for the credit cards. "They offer a free gift for applying," Mr. Vonder Heide said. "They have a number of clipboards attached to them with the application. People give out their whole life history, and then the identity thief takes all of this information. They now have all the personal information they need to steal someone's identity." The scheme, which popped up last year, "will escalate this year because it's so successful," Mr. Vonder Heide said. Consumers who have caller ID installed on their telephone want to screen calls before they answer, but criminals have found a way around this with new technology. "A thief can alter the caller ID on the victim's phone," Mr. Vonder Heide said. "They could display the phone number for the local hospital, pose as a doctor and say, 'Your wife has been injured, and we need to run insurance information.' " They'll ask the victim for the spouse's name, Social Security number, date of birth and other personal information. "Of course they're panicked, and they'll give it up instantly," Mr. Vonder Heide said. "It's kind of like phishing, but instead of coming by e-mail, it comes over the telephone." Don't give out information over the telephone unless you've initiated the call. Get the caller's phone number and say you'll call back. Verify the phone number, and you can verify whether the person is who they say they are.
This is very popular during the holidays. When a customer makes a purchase with a credit or debit card, an unscrupulous store clerk will surreptitiously run the card through a pocket-sized skimmer, which captures the card's account information. "They recode that information onto another card and go shopping," Mr. Vonder Heide said. The crook then swipes the card through the cash register for the legitimate transaction. "Pay close attention that your card is only swiped once," Mr. Vonder Heide said.
Jury duty scam
An identity thief calls and pretends to be a court employee. He tells you that a warrant has been issued for your arrest because you didn't report for jury duty after being notified repeatedly. You say you never got a jury summons. "They say, 'We may have made a mistake. Please give us your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number,' " Mr. Vonder Heide said. Again, don't share any personal information with someone who has telephoned you. "If it is indeed someone from the court, they'll be more than happy to have you call them back," Mr. Vonder Heide said.
Phishing, the softer side
"For a long time, the main tool of the phishers has been a sense of urgency," Mr. Vonder Heide said. "Consumers are starting to get wise to this, so the new trend that we'll probably see early in 2006 is a much softer approach." Phishing refers to fraudulent e-mail designed to deceive consumers into divulging their information. The new version of phishing may come in the form of a customer satisfaction survey.
"It will come from a person's bank and say, 'As a token of our appreciation, we're going to put $50 in your bank account after you complete the survey,' " Mr. Vonder Heide said. "They will ask, 'Please tell us the account number where you'd like us to deposit it. Please verify your Social Security number, date of birth, please give us your ATM PIN or your online-banking password.' " By that time, you're hooked.
"Now, the person has invested so much time into this, their guard is down and they just put it in,"
Mr. Vonder Heide said. "Don't respond to any e-mails that appear to come from a bank. Call the bank."