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Tags: Sileo | identity | theft | credit

ID Theft Expert Sileo: Easiest Way to Protect Yourself Is to ‘Freeze Your Credit’

By    |   Tuesday, 29 January 2013 01:47 PM EST

Identity theft is rampant and everyone is a potential victim.

The best way to protect yourself: freeze your credit, John Sileo of thinklikeaspy.com and a leading expert on identity theft, told Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview.

Sileo noted the best way to protect yourself is by prevention. The simplest form of prevention is to “freeze your credit,” which is different than a fraud alert.

Watch our exclusive video. Story continues below.

When a person freezes his or her credit, it stops new credit from being established, but it does not impact existing credit. Therefore, a person can still use their credit cards and it does not limit how much credit a person has on their credit cards nor does it freeze up a person’s bank account. Therefore, criminals can no longer hijack your information for illegal use.

To freeze your credit, you must tell the three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — that you want to put a password lock on your credit. By doing that, no one can open a credit account — whether it be a home loan, cell phone, credit card or bank account — under your name without your authorization.

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“Right there, that shuts down a lot of financial problems,” said Sileo, who has personally lost $300,000 due to identify theft.

Credit card companies and credit agencies offer products that monitor a person’s credit, but Sileo advised against using those, as most of the services offered are already available for free.

However, he noted that services from non-credit agencies might be worthwhile, as they monitor a person’s identity across multiple channels, look for the cyber trafficking of a person’s information on eastern European servers and check for criminal reports with a person’s name on it. Examples of services that might be useful include IB Radar and CS Identity, Sileo said.

A major area of identity theft is with tax fraud. An estimated $21 billion in tax fraud has been committed in the last five years, according to figures by the Government Accounting Office, said Sileo, author of the book “Privacy Meets Profits.”

Undocumented workers commit much of this type of fraud, Sileo said, noting that authorities have uncovered vast amounts of fraud in Michigan and Florida, and even found that 2,000 tax filings were tied to a single address.

“It's really prevalent because of undocumented workers and also because of organized crime,” Sileo commented.

“They have figured out how to do it relatively easy and, in many cases, it's not even against the law.”

Online passwords are another area where a person needs to take precaution to protect themselves from lurking fraudsters. Sileo said too many people create “short, dictionary-based or interest-based passwords” that they use for multiple websites. He encourages people to create long passwords made up of various letters, numbers and characters, and they should create different passwords for different sites.

Also, passwords should not be something that can be found in a dictionary or on your Facebook page because hackers can crack the code to access email and bank accounts.

Sileo described even further areas of concern when it comes to identify theft. He said the fastest growing segment of this type of crime is done to children. Citing a report done by Carnegie Mellon University, Sileo explained that a child is 51 times more likely to be a victim of identity theft than an adult is. The cause for this is the fact that parents do not look at their child’s credit history before they actually establish credit, leaving thieves an opportunity to utilize a child’s identity for years.

Given all the potential for identity theft to occur, Sileo provided tips — in addition to freezing credit — on how to reduce one’s risk.

One piece of his advice is to stop surfing on free Wi-Fi hot spots or at least stop sending sensitive data when in those areas.

“In every Starbucks and in every airport and every conference center and every hotel, somebody is sitting there with a simple sniffing device that lets them watch what you are sending across,” he warned. “Along with that, don't leave those mobile devices sitting out, you know, on the table while you get another coffee or in your car unprotected.”

He added that everybody should watch what they put on their Facebook profile. Avoid posting your birth date, when you are going to be out of town and your hometown, he urged.

“All of that makes it very easy for even unsophisticated criminals to generate your identity and use it against you,” he said.

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Identity theft is rampant and everyone is a potential victim. The best way to protect yourself: freeze your credit, according to John Sileo of thinklikeaspy.com and a leading expert on identity theft.
Tuesday, 29 January 2013 01:47 PM
Newsmax Media, Inc.

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