It can happen to you. And what you can do about it…

March 6, 2014
By: Christopher Budd (Global Threat Communications)

We’ve heard the phrase “it can happen to anyone” many times in life in many different contexts. The point of the saying is to humble us and remind us that no matter how smart and careful we are, bad things can still happen to us. We’re not so smart and careful that we can control everything.
In the realm of security and privacy, it’s very easy for people to start thinking that they can prevent bad things from happening if they’re smart and careful enough. There’s a tendency to think “Oh, people get malware because they’re stupid or go to bad sites like porn” or “people’s credit cards get stolen because they used it on dangerous sites or got malware on their system.”
While I’ve never gone so far as to think these things, I certainly think of myself as a relatively savvy, sophisticated user. I’ve been in the security and privacy business for over fifteen years. I do all the best practices, I’m careful. I’ve never had malware on my system to date (touch wood). I’ve never had my credit card stolen.
That is, until a few weeks ago.
My charmed life came to an end via email from my credit card company one Friday evening. It asked, did I make a charge for $268 with an online vitamin seller in Florida? I knew I hadn’t made that charge. I checked with my wife and she hadn’t either. So that would be no, that’s not my charge.
Fortunately I was home when I got the message and so immediately logged into my online account.  I verified online the number for their anti-fraud division and called them while I was reviewing my pending charges. I saw the charge for dinner that I had just made, that was OK. I saw a couple of other charges of mine from the past day or two, those were OK. Then I saw a charge for $4.11 at a hotel in Naples, Florida. I’ve never been to Naples, Florida in my life, so I recognized that as a problem.
After a short wait, I was connected to an anti-fraud agent. I explained that the charge they asked about wasn’t mine. I also alerted them that the $4.11 charge was false (this was most likely a test charge to see if the card was still active). I told her that the other charges were valid. She denied the invalid charges, kept the valid ones and then we went through the process of cancelling that card and reissuing it.
Over the next couple of days I took time to do full security scans on all my systems that I use for online banking (they came up clean). I checked my other credit card statements for any unauthorized activity (no issues there). I’ve mentioned before that I have a real-time identity-theft and credit monitoring service: I was very happy to have that because that gave me confidence that nothing else had happened yet. I contacted my service and put a credit watch in place to thwart any possible future attempts to open unauthorized credit cards. I checked my
credit report to make sure nothing slipped through and was opened without my knowing (nothing was).
Once I was done with all of that I then moved out of alert mode into watch mode and have been watching my statements closely to see if there’s any other unauthorized activity. So far, though, there hasn’t. I’ll keep watching closely like this for a few weeks yet.
So there’s the obvious question: how did this happen? None of the obvious means of loss apply to me here. I’ve never lost possession of my card save for at restaurants when you have to give it for them to run the check. So how this card was stolen is a mystery. Most likely the data was lost or stolen through issues with a back-end processor or a retailer.
And that’s really the point of this article. In this era of Target-type data breaches, the simple fact is that now more than ever these things really can happen to anyone. You can do all the right things and still fall victim because someone else isn’t doing the right thing. And this means you have to be prepared for bad things to happen unexpectedly, despite your best efforts.
To help you in case something like this should happen to you, here are ten tips on what to do to better protect yourself in case something like this happens to you and help you recover as quickly as possible.
TOP 10 TIPS: WHAT TO DO BEFORE OR AFTER CREDIT FRAUD
Before an incident
1.Make sure all of your computers and mobile devices that you use for online banking and finance are fully up to date for security updates and signatures (and don’t use Windows XP after April 2014).
2.Make sure all of your systems that you use for online banking and finance run mature security packages when they can.
3.If your credit card company offers an alerting service for suspicious charges, sign up for it.
4.Consider enrolling in a real-time identity-theft and credit monitoring service.

If an incident occurs

1.If contacted by your credit card company about a suspicious charge, respond to it immediately. Make sure you verify the phone number they are calling from either on your card or on the card issuer’s website.
2.Work with your credit card company to review all charges and cancel and replace the card right away.
3.Do a full security scan of all systems you use for online banking and finance.
4.Consider putting a credit alert in place to help prevent new accounts being opened in your name.
5.Review your credit report.
6.Review all of your credit card statements. Consider doing so on a daily or near daily basis after the event. Also consider verifying by reviewing your paper statements (some malware can alter online statements to hide malicious activity).

New Mexico State Victim Resources:

Attorney General
Phone: (505) 827-6000
http://www.nmag.gov/

ID Theft Resolutions
Nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization committed to (1) educating the general public, public officials, and legislators about the challenges presented by identity theft; (2) providing effective steps for how to prevent and respond; and (3) helping victims recover their identity and protect their credit. Services include free assistance to help victims, a free family prevention checkup, and a no-cost mini-workshop for small businesses and their employees.
PO Box 10243, Albuquerque, NM 87184-0243
Phone: (888) 484-9118
markmedley@idtheftresolutions.org

Agencies that offer assistance to IDT victims:

New Mexico Legal Aid
Program Phone: (505) 243-7871
Legal Assistance: (505) 243-7871   
http://www.lawhelp.org/nm/

Online Forms for Victims of Identity Theft

Security Freeze Law:

All consumers are permitted to place a security freeze on their credit reports. A security freeze prohibits, with certain specific exceptions, the credit reporting agency from releasing the consumer’s credit report or any information from it without the express authorization of the consumer. This prevents a credit file from being shared with potential creditors, blocking new accounts from being opened. To obtain a security freeze, credconsumers must send a credit reporting agency a written request by certified mail, provide proper identification and pay a fee, if applicable.

The credit reporting agencies are permitted to charge a fee of $10 for the placement of a security freeze, $5 for the release of a credit report to a specific person or for a specific period of time, and $5 to remove the freeze. However, there is no charge for victims of identity theft who provide a copy of a police report and for people 65 years of age or older.

Credit reporting agencies must place the freeze within three business days of receiving the request, and within five days, must provide the consumer with written confirmation of the freeze and a unique personal identification number, password or similar device to be used by the consumer when providing authorization for the release of the consumer’s credit report to a specific person or for a specific period of time or for permanent removal of the freeze. Requests for a temporary unlocking of the freeze must be completed within three business days. However, temporary unlocking must be completed within 15 minutes after the consumer’s request is received through an electronic contact method or by telephone, during normal business hours
Statute: §56-3A1 though 6: http://www.nmonesource.com/nmpublic/gateway.dll/?f=templates&fn=default.htm

 

 

Mandatory Police Report Law for Identity Theft Victims:

When a law enforcement officer interviews an alleged identity theft victim, the law enforcement officer shall make a written report of the information provided by the victim and by witnesses on appropriate forms provided by the attorney general. A copy of the police report shall be filed with the office of the attorney general.”
Chapter 29 NMSA 1978: http://www.nmonesource.com/nmpublic/gateway.dll/?f=templates&fn=default.htm

 

 

Identity Theft Passport Law:

A. The attorney general, in cooperation with the department of public safety and the motor vehicle division of the taxation and revenue department, shall issue an identity theft passport to a person who claims to be a victim of identity theft pursuant to Section 30-16-24.1 NMSA 1978 and who provides to the attorney general: (1) a certified copy of a court order obtained pursuant to Section 5 [31-26-16 NMSA 1978] of this 2009 act or a full set of fingerprints; (2) a driver’s license or other government-issued identification or record; and (3) other information as required by the attorney general.

B. An identity theft passport shall contain a picture of the person to whom it was issued and other information as the attorney general deems appropriate.

C. The attorney general may enter into a memorandum of understanding with the motor vehicle division of the taxation and revenue department for the development and issuance of a secure form of identity theft passport.  When an identity theft passport is issued, the motor vehicle division shall note on the person’s driver record that an identity theft passport has been issued.

D. An identify [identity] theft passport shall be accepted as evidence of identity by law enforcement officers and others who may challenge the person’s identity.

E. The attorney general shall maintain a database of identity theft victims who have reported to a law enforcement agency or have been issued an identity theft passport.  The attorney general may provide access to the database only to criminal justice agencies.  For purposes of identification and authentication, the attorney general may allow access to specific information about a person who has become a victim of identity theft to that person or to that person’s authorized representative.

F. The attorney general shall keep on file each application for an identity theft passport and each police report of identity theft submitted by a law enforcement agency.

G. The attorney general shall prepare and make available to local law enforcement agencies and to the general public an information packet that includes information on how to prevent and stop identity theft.

Section 31-26-15 – Identity theft passport; database.

 

Identity Theft Laws:

Theft of identity consists of willfully obtaining, recording, or transferring personal identifying information of another person without the authorization or consent of that person and with the intent to defraud that person or another. “Personal identifying information” is defined as information that alone or in conjunction with other information identifies a person, including the person’s name, address, telephone number, driver’s license number, Social Security number, place of employment, maiden name of the person’s mother, demand deposit account number, checking or savings account number, credit card or debit card number, personal identification number, passwords or any other numbers or information that can be used to access a person’s financial resources. Theft of identity is a fourth class felony, punishable by eighteen months in jail and/or a fine up to $5,000.
Statute: §30-16-24.1: http://www.nmonesource.com/nmpublic/gateway.dll/?f=templates&fn=default.htm