Spring Clean Your Identity Theft Risks

Spring cleaning should include more than decluttering your garage and closets. Take these simple steps to reduce your risks of identity theft: Shred — don’t just trash — unnecessary documents with your name, birth date, address, and account or Social Security numbers. Typically, bank deposit slips and ATM and credit card receipts should be shredded as soon as the transactions appear on statements, credit card statements within 45 days, and pay stubs and medical bills after one year. Never simply discard …

Prep for Safe Tax Filing … and for Scammers

There’s good reason — several, actually — why Monday kicks off Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. As the tax-filing season gets under way for 2014 returns, the Internal Revenue Service faces massive budget cuts while two widespread tax scams continue. In addition to the epidemic IRS impostor scam, in which scammers pose as agents of that agency or the U.S. Treasury Department to extort supposedly “owed taxes,” there is another threat in the coming weeks: early filing of bogus tax returns to …

Staying a Step Ahead of the Bad Guys

By Doug Shadel, AARP Washington state director An identity thief with just a few bits of information about you can max out your credit cards, raid your bank account, even mortgage your house. In this digital age, a criminal can literally become you financially and take over your life. Alice Lipsky (not her real name) did this all the time. Using both high-tech computer skills and low-tech methods like car prowls and stealing purses, she took on the identities of …

Data Breach Hits Major Banks

JPMorgan Chase and at least four other major U.S. financial institutions are reporting hack attacks by cyber criminals who lifted customers’ personal information, according to published accounts. The attacks, which apparently took place in August, stole customer data that could be used to drain checking and savings accounts, Bloomberg News said, citing sources briefed by law enforcement. News accounts didn’t name the other banks targeted in the cyber theft or disclose how many customers may be at risk. Banks must …

Protect Your SSN, and Be Thankful It’s Not 078-05-1120

Seventy-nine years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, birthing that most important government program and, as a result, a coveted prize of identity thieves: your Social Security number. You know why you need to guard your SSN like an amped-up Rottweiler: In the wrong hands, it’s the quickest and arguably most common way for an ID thief to pose as you to open credit accounts and get medical care, your tax refund, even a job. …

Half of U.S. Adults Hacked: Are You Among Them?

In the past 12 months your personal information has likely been stolen, leaving you vulnerable to identity theft. About 432 million online accounts belonging to 110 million Americans – roughly half of all adults – were hacked in cyberattacks during the past year, according to new findings by the Ponemon Institute, a data-collection research firm. Meanwhile, Consumer Reports estimates that some 11 million Americans fell victim to email scams in 2013. And in the first four months of this year, at least 260 …