National Consumer Protection Week

Protecting Your Child From Child Identity Theft

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protect your child from identity theft

Imagine learning that a thief has stolen your child’s identity and used it to get a job, government benefits, medical care, utilities, a car loan – even a mortgage. You can do a lot to protect your kids’ personal information – and to minimize the damage that child identity theft can cause.

Warning Signs

Several signs can tip you off to the fact that someone is misusing your child’s personal information and committing fraud. For example, you or your child might:

  • get bills or notices for products or services  you didn’t receive, including medical care
  • be turned down for government benefits because the benefits are being paid to another account using your child’s Social Security number
  • get a notice from the IRS saying the child didn’t pay taxes on income or that the child’s Social Security number was used on another tax return

Check for a Credit Report

If you suspect that your child’s information may be at risk, check whether your child has a credit report by contacting each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies:

Ask them to search using your child’s name and Social Security number; if nothing turns up, ask for a so-called manual search using just your child’s Social Security number.

If there is a credit report for your child, follow up with each credit reporting company. You’ll need to provide proof that your child is a minor, and that you are the parent or legal guardian. Ask each company to remove all accounts, account inquiries, and collection notices from any file associated with your child’s name and Social Security number.

Repair the Damage

If you know that your child’s identity is being misused, call one of the credit reporting companies and ask for a fraud alert on your child’s credit report:

  • Equifax 1-800-525-6285
  • Experian 1-888-397-3742
  • TransUnion 1-800-680-7289

That company will contact the others, and shortly, all three will have placed fraud alerts on any reports associated with your child’s name or Social Security number. These alerts are in force for 90 days.

Next, file a report with the FTC. Do it at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 877-438-4338. If the fraud relates to medical services or taxes, you might need to file a police report, too. Finally, contact every company where your child’s information was misused. Ask each to close the fraudulent account and flag it to show it resulted from identity theft.

Prevention = Protection

You can take some steps to protect your child’s identity from misuse:

  • Keep all documents that show your child’s personal information locked up.
  • Don’t share your child’s Social Security number unless you know and trust the other party. Ask why it’s necessary and how it will be protected. Ask to use another identifier, or at the very least, the last four digits of the Social Security number.
  • Shred all documents that show your child’s personal information before throwing them away.
  • Be pro-active in the face of certain personal circumstances, say an adult in financial hot water who might “adopt” a child’s identity to start over; a lost wallet or stolen purse that had your child’s Social Security card; a break-in at your home; or a notice that your child’s information was compromised in a data breach.

When Your Child Turns 16

It’s a good idea to check whether your child has a credit report close to the child’s 16th birthday. If there is one – and it has errors due to fraud or misuse – you will have time to correct it before the child applies for a job, or a loan for tuition or a car, or needs to rent an apartment.

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Protecting Your Child’s Privacy Online

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protect your childs identity

 

As a parent, you have control over the personal information companies collect online from your kids under 13. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act gives you tools to do that. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the COPPA Rule. If a site or service is covered by COPPA, it has to get your consent before collecting personal information from your child and it has to honor your choices about how that information is used.

What is COPPA?  

The COPPA Rule was put in place to protect kids’ personal information on websites and online services — including apps — that are directed to children under 13. The Rule also applies to a general audience site that knows it’s collecting personal information from kids that age.

COPPA requires those sites and services to notify parents directly and get their approval before they collect, use, or disclose a child’s personal information. Personal information in the world of COPPA includes a kid’s name, address, phone number or email address; their physical whereabouts; photos, videos and audio recordings of the child, and persistent identifiers, like IP addresses, that can be used to track a child’s activities over time and across different websites and online services.

Does COPPA affect the sites and services my kids use?

If the site or service doesn’t collect your child’s personal information, COPPA is not a factor. COPPA kicks in only when sites covered by the Rule collect certain personal information from your kids. Practically speaking, COPPA puts you in charge of your child’s personal information.

How does COPPA work?

COPPA works like this: Let’s say your child wants to use features on a site or download an app that collects their personal information. Before they can, you should get a plain language notice about what information the site will collect, how it will use it, and how you can provide your consent. For example, you may get an email from a company letting you know your child has started the process for signing up for a site or service that requires your child to give personal information. Or you may get that notice on the screen where you can consent to the collection of your child’s personal information.

The notice should link to a privacy policy that’s also plain to read — and in language that’s easy to understand. The privacy policy must give details about the kind of information the site collects, and what it might do with the information — say, if it plans to use the information to target advertising to a child or give or sell the information to other companies. In addition, the policy should state that those other companies have agreed to keep the information safe and confidential, and how to contact someone who can answer your questions.

That notice also should have directions on how to give your consent. Sites and services have some flexibility in how to do that. For example, some may ask you to send back a permission slip. Others may have a toll-free number you can call.

If you agree to let the site or service collect personal information from your child, it has a legal obligation to keep it secure.

What are my choices?

The first choice is whether you’re comfortable with the site’s information practices. Start by reading how the company plans to use your child’s information.

Then, it’s about how much consent you want to give. For example, you might give the company permission to collect your child’s personal information, but not allow it to share that information with others.

Once you give a site or service permission to collect personal information from your child, you’re still in control. As the parent, you have the right to review the information collected about your child. If you ask to see the information, keep in mind that website operators need to make sure you are the parent before providing you access. You also have the right to retract your consent any time, and to have any information collected about your child deleted.

What if it looks like a site or service is breaking the rules?

If you think a site has collected information from your kids or marketed to them in a way that violates the law, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

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Cramming – Unauthorized Charges on Your Phone Bill

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Cramming - Unauthorized Charges on Your Phone Bill

 

 

What is cramming?

Cramming is the illegal act of placing unauthorized charges on your wireline, wireless, or bundled services telephone bill. The FCC has estimated that cramming has harmed tens of millions of American households.

Deception is the hallmark of cramming. Crammers often rely on confusing telephone bills to trick consumers into paying for services they did not authorize or receive, or that cost more than the consumer was led to believe.

Wireless consumers should be particularly vigilant. Smartphones are sophisticated handheld devices that enable consumers to shop online from wherever they are or charge app purchases to their phone bills. The more your mobile phone bill begins to resemble a credit card bill, the more difficult it may become to spot unauthorized charges.

How does cramming occur?

Cramming most often occurs when telephone companies allow other providers of goods or services to place charges on their customers’ telephone bills, enabling a telephone number to be used like a credit or debit card account number for vendors. Crammers may attempt to place a charge on a consumer’s phone bill having nothing other than an active telephone number, which can be obtained from a telephone directory.

What do cramming charges look like?

Cramming comes in many forms.  Charges – such as those described below – may be legitimate if authorized but, if unauthorized, are cramming:

  • Charges for services that are explained on your telephone bill in general terms such as “service fee,”  “service charge,” “other fees,” “voicemail,” “mail server,” “calling plan” and “membership.”
  • Charges that are added to your telephone bill every month without a clear explanation of the services provided – such as a “monthly fee” or “minimum monthly usage fee.”
  • Charges for specific services or products you may not have authorized, like ringtones, cell phone wallpaper, or “premium” text messages about sports scores, celebrity gossip, flirting tips or daily horoscopes.

How can I protect myself against cramming?

  • Carefully review your telephone bill every month, just as closely as you review your monthly credit card and bank statements.
  • Ask yourself the following questions as you review your telephone bill:
    • Do I recognize the names of all the companies listed on my bill?
    • What services were provided by the listed companies?
    • Does my bill include charges for calls I did not place or services I did not authorize?
    • Are the rates and line items consistent with the rates and line items that the company quoted to me?
  • When in doubt, ask questions.  You may be billed for a call you placed or a service you used, but the description listed on your telephone bill for the call or service may be unclear.  If you don’t know what service was provided for a charge listed on your bill, ask your telephone company to explain the charge before paying it.
  • Make sure you know what service was provided, even for small charges.  Cramming often goes undetected as very small “mystery charges” – sometimes only $1, $2, or $3 – to thousands of consumers.  Crammed charges can remain on bills for years.
  • Keep a record of the services you have authorized and used. These records can be helpful when billing descriptions are unclear.
  • Carefully read all forms and promotional materials – including the fine print – before signing up for telephone or other services to be billed on your phone bill.

What should I do if I think I’ve been crammed?

Take the following actions if your telephone bill lists unknown or suspicious charges:

  • Call the telephone company responsible for your bill, explain your concerns about the charges, and ask to have incorrect charges removed. You can also call the company that charged you, ask them to explain the charges, and request an adjustment to your bill for any incorrect charges.
  • If neither the telephone company sending you the bill nor the company that provided the service in question will remove charges you consider to be incorrect, you can file a complaint:
    • With the FCC about any charges on your telephone bill, whether they relate specifically to telephone service or to other products or services that appear on your bill
    • With your state public service commission for telephone services within your state (http://www.naruc.org/commissions.cfm)
    • With the Federal Trade Commission (http://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov) about charges for non-telephone services on your telephone bill

Filing a complaint

You have multiple options for filing a complaint with the FCC:

  • File a complaint online
  • By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322); ASL: 1-844-432-2275
  • By mail (please include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible):

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20554

Truth-in-Billing

The FCC’s Truth-in-Billing rules require:

  • Clear, non-misleading, plain language describing services for which you are being billed.
  • The billing telephone company to identify the service provider associated with each charge.
  • The billing telephone company to distinguish between charges that will result in disconnection of basic, local service if not paid and charges that will not result in disconnection if not paid.
  • The billing telephone company to include one or more toll-free numbers you can call to ask about or dispute any charge.

In addition, wireline telephone companies must:

  • Inform consumers of any blocking options offered for third-party billing.
  • Place third-party charges in a distinct section of the bill separate from carrier charges.
  • Include a separate subtotal for the third-party charges in the distinct bill section and on the payment page.
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Credit And Debit Card Blocking

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Credit and debit card blocking

 

Have you ever gone to the store and made a purchase, then gone to another store to make a purchase only to find your credit or debit card declined; when you know there is more than enough money to cover the purchase? If so, there is a name for it. It is called “card blocking”.

  Fast facts

When you use a debit or credit card to pay for gas at the pump, a restaurant meal, check into a hotel or rent a car, the estimated amount of the transaction is usually “blocked” from your credit line or checking account balance immediately as a “pre-authorization”. At the gas pump, expect your card to be charged anywhere from $1 to $125 or more as a pre-authorization depending on the financial institution that issued the card. When renting hotel rooms or cars, ask representatives how much is being blocked on your card to avoid potential problems. In some cases, the amount blocked from your credit line or checking account balance may remain for several days, depending on the card or financial institution’s policies.  When renting a car or hotel room, if you choose to pay your bill with the original card, the block is usually removed within a day or two once the final charge has been settled. When selecting a credit or debit card, ask the card issuer how long credit lines or account balances are blocked for transactions.If you pay your bill with a different credit card or cash, ask the representative if they can release the block or “authorization.”

How card blocking works

If using a debit or credit card to pay for gas at the pump, for a restaurant meal, check into a hotel or to rent a car, the merchant contacts the card issuer electronically with the estimated cost. If the card issuer approves the transaction, your available line of credit or checking account balance is reduced by this amount. This is called a “block” or “pre-authorization.” At the gas pump or in a restaurant, this is usually a set amount in the range of $1 to $125 or more determined by the financial institution that issued the card being used. In the case of renting a car or checking into a hotel this could be much more depending on the length of use or stay. For example, suppose you use a debit or credit card to check into a $100-a-night hotel for five nights. At least $500 would most likely be blocked on that card. In addition, hotel and car rental companies sometimes add extra anticipated costs for incidentals such as food, beverages, or parking. These amounts can vary widely among merchants. If you pay your bill with the same card you used at the beginning of the transaction, the final charge will replace the block, typically within a day or two. If, however, you use a different card, cash or check to pay for the final bill, the card issuer of the first payment method presented may keep the block on hold after you checked out of the hotel or returned the rental car. This occurs because the card issuer does not receive notice of the final charge and therefore, is not aware that the transaction has been completed by another method of payment. These blocks ensure that card holder’s do not use their entire credit limit before checking out of the hotel or returning their rental car, leaving the merchant unpaid. Most card issuers have automated processes to release all blocks that have not been replaced by final charges after a specific number of days. The number of days blocks are retained varies widely among card issuers. You will want to contact your card issuer directly to find out what their specific policies are.

Why card blocking can be a problem

Consumers who are far below their credit limit probably will not be affected by card blocking. But for those close to their credit or account balance limit, card blocking can present problems. For example, consumers who need to use their cards for emergencies may find that, because of a temporary block, they have no available credit left to use. Consumers who pay for their hotel room or rental car with a different method of payment than originally presented may also have problems. They may find they do not have access to the blocked funds for several days, even though the bill has already been paid in full. How to protect yourself If you do not want the embarrassment or aggravation that blocking may cause, you may want to:

 Find out how much will be held as a pre-authorization at the gas pump or in restaurant to ensure that your credit or account balance will remain above zero. Check if you can pay for gas inside to remove or reduce the pre-authorization amount.

 Consider paying for all hotel or rental car expenses with the same card you used at the beginning of the transaction.

 When you check into a hotel ask the representative how much is being blocked on the card and how that amount is determined.

 If you pay with a different payment method, ask the representative if they can remove the block or authorization.

 

tracie threadford4

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Avoid “Card Skimming” At ATM’s And Other Money Machines

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Avoiding ‘Card Skimming’ at ATMs and Other Money Machines
Don’t Be Scammed!

Be wary when you use automated teller machines (ATMs) and other payment processing machines. Thieves may be using high-tech tools in scams to capture your account information to steal your money. These scams, known as “card skimming,” involve attaching devices to money machines that read the information on your debit and credit cards when you swipe them. When combined with a nearby concealed camera to record your personal identification number (PIN), the thieves can get everything they need to drain your account or to make unauthorized purchases. In addition to using the information directly, thieves may sell your information to others. ATMs and automated payment machines in airports, convenience stores, hotel lobbies, and other welltraveled, public places may be most vulnerable to thieves who may think these machines are not regularly inspected by the machine owners. However, card skimming may take place at any ATM or card processing machine, including those on bank premises. As technology makes these devices smaller and more powerful, the risk of card skimming grows.

How High-Tech Thieves Operate

Thieves have many ways to steal your account information. They may attach a card skimmer that looks and acts like a genuine part of the ATM or other type of money machine. The device may be a simple, curved plastic sheath over the card slot. The skimmer reads the magnetic strip or computer chip on your card and transmits your account information to the thieves or saves the information until the skimmer is retrieved. Thieves may also use a wireless camera concealed nearby in a box holding brochures or in a light fixture. The camera photographs or videotapes your fingers as they enter your PIN on a keypad or screen. Like a card skimmer, the camera can transmit images instantly or save them until the thieves retrieve the camera later. A camera and card skimmer can be used together.

Safeguarding Your Personal Bank Account Information

To help protect you, banks and retailers take measures to minimize the risk of fraudulent use of your debit or credit card, particularly when those purchases are made by telephone or online. Before approving telephone purchases, retailers typically confirm your identity by asking for personal information. They may ask for your address, the last four digits of your social security number, or answers to security questions you created when you set up your account. Retailers also may ask for the three-digit security code printed on the front or back of your debit or credit card. To protect your online transaction from electronic fraud, many commercial Web sites require you to unscramble a word or a number displayed as a fuzzy or distorted image that is difficult for software to read.

Protecting Yourself With Common Sense Security Measures

Ultimately, you must protect yourself against thieves and the tools they use to access your accounts to steal from you. To protect yourself, follow these common-sense precautions.

• Walk away from an ATM if you notice someone watching you or if you sense something wrong with the machine; immediately report your suspicions to the company operating the machine or a nearby law enforcement officer

• Before using an ATM, examine nearby objects that might conceal a camera; check the card slot for a plastic sheath before inserting your card.

• Never keep a written copy of your PIN in your wallet or purse as it could be stolen; instead memorize your PIN and keep a paper record hidden at home.

• When entering your PIN, stand close to the machine and hold your hand over the keypad or screen to make it more difficult for a person or camera to watch you.

• Beware of strangers offering to help you with an ATM that appears disabled and notify someone responsible for the security of the machine.

• Regularly review your account statements, either online or on paper, and check for unauthorized withdrawals and purchases. If you find one, immediately contact your bank or credit card provider, as this will limit your financial liability for fraudulent charges.

Federal laws limit your liability from debit and credit card fraud. Two federal laws, in particular, protect you.

The Truth in Lending Act generally limits your liability to $50 for any unauthorized use of your credit card. However, you are not responsible for unauthorized charges on your account—if you report a lost or stolen credit card before the card is used. Also, you are not responsible if the fraud results from someone using your credit card number alone rather than your credit card.

The Electronic Fund Transfer Act also limits your liability for unauthorized use of your debit or ATM cards—if you quickly report the lost or stolen card. You are not held responsible for unauthorized charges if you report the fraud before unauthorized transactions are made. If unauthorized transactions occur before you report your card missing or compromised, your liability depends on how quickly you report the loss.

So there you have it, protect yourself from card skimming

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10 Way’s To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

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10 way;s to protect yourself from identity theft
Protect Your Identity

Shielding your private information with no risk of a breakdown may be impossible these days. There are some simple ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim of Identity Theft.

1. Destroy private records and statements.  Tear up – or, if you prefer, shred – credit cards statements, solicitations, and other documents that contain private financial information.

2. Secure your mail.  Empty you mailbox quickly, lock it or get a P.O. box so criminals don’t have a chance to snatch credit card pitches. Never mail outgoing bill payments and checks from home. They can be stolen from your mailbox and the payee’s name erased with solvents. Mail them from the post office or another secure location.

3. Safeguard your Social Security number.  Never carry your card with you, or any other card that may have your number, like a health insurance card. Don’t put your number on your checks. It’s the primary target for identity thieves because it gives them access to your credit report and bank accounts.

4. Don’t leave a paper trail. Never leave ATM, credit card or gas station receipts behind.

5. Never let your credit card out of your sight.  Worried about credit card skimming? Always keep an eye on your card or, when that’s not possible, pay with cash.

6. Know who you’re dealing with.  Whenever anyone contacts you asking for private identity or financial information, make no response other than to find out who they are, what company they represent and the reason for the call. If you think the request is legitimate, contact the company yourself and confirm what you were told before revealing any of your personal data.

7. Take your name off marketers’ hit lists.  In addition to the national Do-Not-Call registry (1-888-382-1222), you can also cut down on junk mail and opt out of credit card solicitations.

8. Be more defensive with personal information.  Ask salespeople and other if information such as Social Security or driver’s license number is absolutely necessary. Ask anyone who does require your Social Security number about their privacy policy and that you do not want your information given to anyone else.

9. Monitor your credit report.  Obtain and thoroughly review your credit report (check for a free copy at http://www.Annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228) at least once a year to check for suspicious activity. If you find something, alert your card company or the creditor immediately. You may also look into credit protection services, which alerts you any time a change takes place with your credit report.

10. Review your credit cards statements carefully.  Make sure you recognize the merchants, locations and purchases listed before paying the bill. If you don’t need or use department-store or bank-issued credit cards, consider closing the accounts.

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