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Tips to Protect Against Identity Fraud

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Chelsea Demello
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The security breaches that led to issues with credit cards used at some major retailers has brought attention to the problem of  identity theft.

Shepherd University recently held an open workshop for students on how prevent becoming just another statistic. 

Students were quizzed on their knowledge at the beginning of the workshop and then again after the workshop to see what they had learned.   

During the workshop, BB&T Spokesman Robert Hennen gave several tips to protect against identity theft and fraud, such as:  

  • Don’t walk away from the computer or phone before logging out of the online banking site/app
  • Review credit card statements often
  • Go paperless with banking statements
  • Shred documents with personal information
  • Always make purchases from a reputable company
  • Before entering a credit card number, look for an unbroken key or padlock symbol to ensure it is a secure site

In addition, BB&T Spokeswoman Allena Johnson Shingleton also said another way to protect against identity theft is to make up answers to challenge questions, like putting a false mother’s maiden name. 
“Never tell the truth; those companies don’t care what you put in the challenge questions, all they care is that you can answer it,” said Shingleton.

For example, Shingleton talked about the effects of having a Facebook account.  While a mother’s maiden name might not be that important to us right now, because it is listed on Facebook, in the future it will be.

Students should be asking themselves, “If I’m willing to share this, how can I mitigate that risk?”

“Criminals are looking for pieces that connect,” said Shingleton.

With social media sites listing user information such as favorite movies and books, it makes it much easier for criminals to guess security questions if the right answers are provided.

In addition to these steps to protect against identity theft, spokesman Hennen said to always get a copy of a yearly credit report.

According to Shingleton, the statistics are staggering if precautions aren’t taken to protect against identity fraud. One identity is stolen every three seconds. Moreover, the majority of information is stolen from documents in mailboxes, wallets and the trash.

The average victim can expect to spend at least 21 hours and $600 clearing their good name.

A report released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2010 said West Virginia had nearly 5,000 complaints of combined fraud and identity theft. Three of the biggest fraud types were credit card fraud, phone and utilities fraud and government documents or benefits fraud. 

Editor's note: Chelsea DeMello is an intern from Shepherd University and editor of the student newspaper The Picket.


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