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TrueCredit Examines Identity Theft: the Latest Trends

From the ChoicePoint and T-mobile scandals to the plotlines of CSI Miami, identity theft remains top of mind for many Americans.

Identity theft is a constantly evolving crime. From the early days of dumpster diving to sophisticated online fraud, identity thieves are always on the prowl for new ways to steal information. In its March monthly newsletter, TrueCredit caught up with TransUnion's Fraud Victim Assistance expert, Steven Reger, to talk about new trends in identity theft. Here are five things he thinks you should watch for in 2005:

  1. Pharming - First there was "phishing" where identity thieves posing as financial institutions sent consumers fake emails asking for account information. Now this fraud has evolved to "pharming" where thieves create whole false websites to entice customers to enter their personal data. How can you avoid pharming? "Look at the site and the URL to see if it is familiar," said Reger. "Peruse the site in depth if it seems suspicious. Crooks may not have set up all the layers of the site."
  2. Pay at the pump - Next time you fuel up your car and pay at the pump, beware that your credit card data might be making a detour on the way to the bank for verification. Thieves can plant a bug in the machine that sends your credit card data directly to them at the same time it is sent for approval. How can you guard against gas station fraud? "Use cash, a credit card or a gas card at the pump instead of a check card so you won't be liable for any fraudulent charges," said Reger.
  3. Keystroke catchers - In order to capture your personal data, identity thieves can purchase a small device called a keystroke catcher for about $100. The catcher records all the information typed on a keyboard until the thief comes back to claim it and download the data. "This type of theft is more common with computers that are available to the public, like in a cyber café," said Reger. How can you avoid keystroke catchers? Check for suspicious devices connected to your keyboard and try not to enter sensitive data on shared computers.
  4. International skimming - Skimming occurs when a thief captures your credit data by running your credit card through a small reader similar to the one you use at the grocery store. This type of credit card fraud is becoming increasingly common internationally as travelers use their credit cards around the world. How can you keep your credit cards safe? "Try to use only one credit card when you are traveling so that you can easily identify and report fraudulent charges if they occur," said Reger.
  5. Database theft - Identity thieves who want to steal more than one identity at a time are now looking to databases. "In the past, stealing 30,000 records from a college would have meant carting away thousands of file cabinets. It would have been virtually impossible," said Reger. "Now all that data can be on one hard drive that’s much easier to steal and use." How can you guard against database theft? Make sure that the people who keep records on you are being responsible about protecting and encrypting your files.

To learn more about the latest identity theft trends or to schedule an interview with a TrueCredit spokesperson, please contact Zachary Hastings Hooper, The Rosen Group, at 202.777.2255 or


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