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Phishing & Pharming
Protect Yourself From Identity Theft Scams

Phishing & Pharming - Protect Yourself From Identity Theft Scams

Identity theft is a growing problem in this country. Just to give you a bit of perspective, let's examine some numbers. Begin by imagining the population of the state of Georgia. Add to that number the populations of North Carolina and South Carolina. Now add in the citizens of Florida and Alabama. The entire population of these states combined is just under 45 million. Now imagine if all of these people revealed some type of personal information regarding their identity, opening the doors to potential financial ruin. Do you think this is farfetched? Not anymore!

In five recent incidents, over 45 million people had their identities placed at risk as a result of negligence or willful misconduct. CardSystems International, Choicepoint, two major U.S. banks, and UCLA are just a few examples of companies and organizations that failed to protect the data of their customers. The total impact of these breaches has yet to be realized, but the ramifications of identity theft on past victims are sobering.

The economic loss brought about by 18 million cases of identity theft has been calculated to be $52.6 billion. That's enough money to buy General Motors, Ford, and the department store Nordstrom. Afterwards, you would still have over $11 billion leftover to go shopping with.

Identity theft costs the average victim nearly $4,000 and, more importantly, 175 hours of personal time to straighten out their problems and their credit. These figures don't even take into account the potential increases in interest rates from creditors and insurance companies, which can lead to an even greater financial impact if problems are left undetected. The FTC states it takes an average of 12 months for most consumers to even detect that a problem exists.

How can you protect yourself and maintain your good credit? Here are some suggestions.

Conduct a Credit Check-up!
Visit to obtain a free credit report every 12 months. You'll want to look for any suspicious activity, addresses that don't make sense, or inquiries that were done without your knowledge. If you pull the report and would like help reviewing it, contact your mortgage professional for assistance with deciphering the information. Keep in mind though, the credit reports generated here will not offer you a credit score. If you're looking to obtain that as well, you will have to request it from the credit reporting companies individually, or, once again, ask your mortgage professional for assistance.

Don't Give It Up!
Beware of phishing scams, both over the phone and by email. If someone contacts you and requests your personal information, don't give it to them. Rarely does your bank or financial institution use email to obtain such data. Also, always verify who is requesting your information. One extra phone call could save you a lot of pain. For those computer users who utilize Internet Explorer as your browser, Microsoft® has developed additional security measures to help guard against phishing. If you haven't updated your browser recently, now is a good time to do so. You can learn more about phishing at the FTC's website:

Stay off the Pharm!
While phishing enables thieves to pilfer information from you, pharming takes the deception to the next level. Pharming is the process of hijacking your computer and taking you to a site that looks like where you want to go, but it's not. For example, say that you type in, and you're taken to a site that looks just like it, but it's not. You enter your information and not only does the site track your moves within it, but it may also direct your computer to give up other information at a later time. There are toolbars available via download that will display the actual site you are on in a separate location on your web browser. So instead of seeing, you might see an entirely different address. In cases like this, don't enter any information, just exit the site. One such toolbar is available from Netcraft (

Stay Current with the Scammers!
Just as new software is developed to deal with identity theft, the scammers themselves are inventing new schemes. Don't wait to hear about these scams on the news or, worse yet, have one happen to you. Take a proactive approach and learn about the dangers that lurk. Two good resources for this type of information are the Identity Theft Resource Center, which is located at:, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose latest information on the subject can be viewed here:

Fight Back if You've Been Had!
If you have been victimized, take action. You'll need to contact and file a report with your local police and the Federal Trade Commission. You'll also want to contact the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion®, and Experian®, to fill out a Fraud Alert. And finally, close out any account that may have been compromised using a Theft Affidavit form, which is available at

For additional information regarding identity theft and how you can protect yourself, visit

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