Identity Protection

Location: Scotts Valley, CA, United States

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Jury Duty ID Theft Scam Spreads

(CBS) A new form of identity theft is targeting one of the nation's most important obligations, jury duty.

The Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen reports that scam artists are banking on the seriousness most people attach to jury duty.

Koeppen explains that the scammers figure their targets are good citizens who are willing to give up some key personal information because they're needed in the courtroom.

One target of such a ploy, Bellevue, Colorado grandmother Diana Koenig, tells Koeppen she "was definitely duped, definitely, and it was so slick I didn't know it."

Koenig knew better than to give out personal information over the phone but, several weeks ago, got a call from a woman saying she was with the district court.

"When she told me she was a clerk from the courts, I trusted her," Koenig says.

The caller said Koenig and her husband were up for jury duty, and she needed their birthdates and Social Security numbers to send them a summons.

"I thought about it real quickly and decided, 'She must need this,' so I gave it to her," Koenig says.

But when the summons never came, Koenig called the district clerk and got the shocking truth: That call wasn't from the court, but from a scam artist looking to steal her identity.

"I thought I was gonna have a heart attack right then. I knew I was in trouble," Koenig says.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Medical Identity Theft: The Dark Side of Health Care Privacy

Larry Sobal column: Identity theft: the dark side of health care privacy

Posted November 20, 2005
As a patient, your greatest fear is not your neighbors finding out about your most sensitive medical conditions, it's that your "nonpublic" information will be exploited by identity thieves gaining access to your clinical information. What this means is that your medical privacy and your overall identity, is more vulnerable than any time in history.

The term "identity theft" often is used to describe financial crimes, but true identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information to create new accounts to obtain money, goods, services, prescriptions, a driver's license or even commit crimes in your name. Unfortunately, the relationship between medical privacy and identity theft is growing stronger.

Think about it. How many places is your health information, including your Social Security number, stored these days? Considering database redundancy and the ease of electronic transmission, from your hospital to your insurance plan to your physician to your pharmacy and multiple points in between, it is not unusual for your personal data to reside in literally hundreds of sites.

Not only does this increase the odds of a breach in your medical security, but identity theft is now the No. 1 crime in the country.

Health care organizations are prime targets, and potentially prime leaks, because of their vast reservoirs of personal data. If you aren't worried about all of this, you certainly should be.
Back in the old days (paper) you had two primary risks for inappropriate discovery and use of your health information. The first was a result of "shoulder surfing"— where nosey individuals simply listened in on your discussions or read it from your open medical record or a computer screen. The second was "Dumpster diving" where your records or billing receipts were picked from the garbage can.

The health care industry recognizes the challenge it faces and is using a vast array of resources to protect your information. One key step was the passage of sweeping legislation in 1996 known as HIPPA. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was created to focus on the security of health data.

Health care organizations, however, are just one place of potential risk. Due to stunning widespread corporate carelessness, representing all industries, the personal information of more than 46 million Americans was lost or stolen in the first half of 2005 alone.

The scary part is that your most likely thief may not be a stranger. According to a recent study by Javelin Strategy & Research, in 26 percent of all cases the fraud victims knew the person who had misused their personal information.

The TowerGroup, a unit of MasterCard International, reports that as much as 50 percent of identity fraud occurs with a family member or friend. Most experts recommend these steps:

  • Avoid carrying your Social Security card, birth certificate or even your checkbook with you.
  • Never give out your Social Security number.
  • Add passwords to online and offline accounts and don't use your mother's real maiden name, your real name, or birthday as identifiers.
  • Have your mail delivered to a locked box.
  • Buy a crosscut shredder and destroy all paper or CDs with your information on it, including unsolicited pre-approved credit offers and blank courtesy checks.
  • Get a regular copy of your credit report and review its activity.
  • Don't preprint your Social Security number, driver's license number or even your phone number on your checks.
  • Restrict online purchases to sites that use encryption.
  • Report any lost or stolen checks or cards to the appropriate institution within 48 hours to obtain maximum protection.

In addition, progressive employers are taking action on behalf of their employees. According to local expert Teri Rose of Prepaid Legal Services in Neenah, many employers are offering identity theft coverage as a voluntary employee benefit.

Whatever you do, perhaps the single most important aspect of identity theft prevention is an awareness of this issue combined with a program of healthy vigilance to protect your personal data and help minimize your risk.

Larry Sobal is chief executive officer of Appleton Cardiology Associates, a member of the Appleton Heart Institute.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Identity Theft Victim Arrested

Texas Woman Learns Of Theft While Arrested By Richardson Police

DALLAS -- A North Texas woman says a thief stole her good name and then police took her freedom. Now, she warns the same thing could happen to you.

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