Berks-Lehigh Regional Police recently issued a Community Message via Nixle that an individual was going door-to-door asking questions of homeowners regarding the Parkland and Northwestern Lehigh school districts.
In this case, the man turned out to be a legitimate salesman.
I recently experienced something similar, except the man at my door was asking to see my electric bill.
According to Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda L. Kelly, identity fraud is the fastest growing crime in America, affecting 9 million Americans every year.
"Identity theft is a serious crime that occurs when someone else uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card information, driver's license or other identifying information without your permission," Kelly states.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than 9,000 complaints of identity theft were reported in Pennsylvania in 2010.
Berks-Lehigh Criminal Investigator Pete Nickischer offers four suggestions on how to prevent or lessen the damage of identity theft:
·Watch bank and credit accounts as closely as possible.
If possible, use "Internet banker" accounts that allows you to view all transactions, deposits and withdrawals via computer.
This way, if trouble arises, you can quickly deal with the situation.
·Keep low credit limits, if possible, on credit cards. The higher the limit, the larger the potential loss.
·Most credit card companies are aware fraudulent transactions occur occasionally, and most will work with customers to fix the problem.
However, be careful of communication via email or even by phone. Do not ever give out personal information until verifying with whom you are speaking.
Your best bet is to call the credit card company or bank yourself by using the number on the back of the card, and proceed from there.
·If possible, do not carry items such as Social Security cards and birth certificates in wallets or in vehicles. Keep them in a safe place at home or where other personal documents are stored.
I also offer the following suggestions:
·Never sign the back of credit cards. Write "See ID" on the back of them so a cashier has to ask you for your driver's license to verify your identity matches the name on the credit card.
·Do not keep automobile registration or insurance cards in vehicles.
·Invest in a shredder and shred all documents with personal information before throwing them in the trash.
·Purchase a credit monitoring program where the company monitors credit reports at Equifax, Transunion and Experian.
Today, with more people connecting using the Internet, a person's identity even on a computer is not safe.
According to Pa. Attorney General Kelly, there are two ways a person's data can be stolen by phishing or pharming.
Phishing is a spam message containing a link to what appears to be a legitimate business, such as your bank. It is actually a fake website.
Pharming is when the browser is hijacked by a virus or similar technique without your knowledge.
When a legitimate website is typed into the address bar of a browser, the virus redirects the computer to a fake site.
There are several ways to protect yourself when using a computer:
·Use different login information and passwords for each account.
·Change passwords every few months.
·Never give out personal information via the Internet.
·Check with your Internet provider to see what identity protection it offers or speak with a trained information technology professional about software programs that can be downloaded or purchased to help protect your identity.
Should you become a victim of identity theft, contact police immediately.
To learn more about protecting yourself from identity theft, visit attorneygeneral.gov or the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.