I recently saw an online forum that freely gives out people’s SSNs, birthdates, credit card numbers, checking accounts, PASSWORDS and addresses. It literally made me sick to my stomach how this forum made such critical information accessible to the world – not even requiring a login to view the forum. Clearly the data came from people who unwittingly visited phishing sites or from data breaches.
(I’m happy to report that after notifying the forum host, the forum was quickly deleted. However this was just one of many fraud-enabling sites around the Internet.)
Some precautions you can take:
- Frequently change your passwords and use different passwords on different websites.
- Don’t search the Internet for your Social Security Number or other personal information. After Ars Technica analyzed the AOL search data, they concluded: "It also serves as a good reminder not to search for your own credit card number and Social Security number on the public Internet."
- Frequently monitor your credit card statements, credit reports, and public records
Several resources can help you detect if your information is being given away or sold online:
- Identity Angel is a project of Carnegie Mellon University, first developed to check online resumes for data that could result in identity theft. The automated service emails the victim if possible. Newsweek has more background on this excellent project.
You don’t need to take any action for Identity Angel to help you.
If you get an email from Identity Angel: I’m not sure what info is included. But to avoid falling prey to a phishing scheme, I would assume an email containing links is a fraud. (I can’t think of any reason Identity Angel would include links in their mail. Can you?)
- ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite or Pro 6.5 customers can also sign up for the included Internet Surveillance service. This service searches the Internet to find if your credit card is being sold online then notifies you.
Since it’s not clear that Identity Angel can contact you if your email address is not included with the stolen data, Internet Surveillance provides an extra layer of detection.