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Don't lose yourself at home, online
Dangers of identity theft detailedat Business Women's Roundtable
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Forsyth County News
Do you put outgoing mail in the home mailbox? Do you watch where your credit card goes after it enters the drive-through window? Do you shred personal documents?
With so many ways to have personal identity stolen, there is no “fool-proof plan” of protection, said Ward Pyles, security analyst with Southern Company.
“All you can do is do your best.”Pyles was the guest speaker at the Business Women’s Roundtable on Internet security, presented by the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce. The Thursday morning event was held at Belk department store in the Lakeland Plaza.
Blending comic relief and real-life stories, Pyles told the group about various types of identity theft and easy ways to help prevent becoming a victim.Citing FDC estimates, Pyles told the group that business loss to identity theft totals at least $50 billion a year, and more than $5 billion is spent annually to deal with the problem.
Pyles talked about the 3-D method of protection: detect, deter and defend.
“Detect … make sure you are aware of where your identity is and how it is managed,” he said, encouraging people to pull their two free annual credit reports. “Be aware of your bank account. You should weekly be checking your account for fraudulent charges.”
To help deter identity theft and fraud, Pyles said to “put yourself in a situation where you are not making your information public.”
“Be aware of where you’re sharing your information and be aware of who you’re sharing your information with.”
People who bank online, or have any accounts where private information is shared, should make sure passwords include a combination of letters, numbers and if possible, symbols. Passwords should be different for every account, he said, because if an identity thief is able to find one password, the damage will increase exponentially if access is as easy for every other account.
Defending credit is the ability to quickly react after damage has been done to credit. “Know how to actually go back and get your credit in working order,” he said.
Despite popular belief, Pyles said, Dumpster diving, or searching a person’s trash or mailbox, is one of the easiest ways to steal an identity.
Pyles said caution should be used when mailing a letter containing personal information from home with the mailbox flag raised. He also recommended shredding any and all unneeded personal documents, preferably in a cross-cut shredder.
Because the Internet has become so popular, many businesses are taking extra precautions to protect their customers. But with simple low-technology machines, like scanners that can read magnetic strips on credit cards, not as many businesses are on the look out.
“Are you watching where your credit card goes once it’s gone through the [drive-through] window?” he asked. “All they have to do is slide it through another card reader. Half a second and that’s all it takes … and then they can have it on the device that they can read at home.”
While safer, the Web still poses serious dangers. And with such easy access to international identities, the fraud can be more far reaching.
“Google is awesome," he said. "It gives me everything I want to know. I don’t have to search for anything, including a lot of your personal information.”
Julia Foltz, a Keller Williams Realtor, said she attended the event because “agents are prone to this type of theft, because we’re out in the public so much.”
“He was very comprehensive,” she said of Pyles. “Like he said, I want to go back and start changing all my passwords.”
Patty Powers, who works as a certified identity theft risk management specialist, said Pyles did a great job of informing and answering audience questions. Still, she has some concerns about the new Federal Trade Commission regulations for small businesses.
“As business owners, not only do they have to protect their personal identification, but also the identities of all the people they have — their current clients, their customers, their vendors -- and all the personal information they have,” she said.