3/7/08

How to foil the identity thieves

. 3/7/08


Buying a shredder isn't enough in the battle against laptop criminals


"TECHNOLOGY BREEDS crime. Crime is getting easier, faster and harder to detect. There are no conmen anymore dressed in debonair suits with a briefcase and salesman's patter. Now anyone with a laptop can take your money. It's impersonal and easy to do," says Frank Abagnale.

And he should know. Between the ages of 16 and 21 Abagnale cashed $2.5 million worth of fraudulent cheques in every U.S. State and 26 other countries, successfully posing as an airline pilot, a lawyer, a college professor, and a paediatrician before being tracked down by the French authorities and incarcerated in various international prison systems.

These days he is a respected consultant and lecturer on fraud and embezzlement, continuing to work with the FBI.

A recent visit to London could not have been more timely. Financial fraudsters have hit the headlines again after card number readers in 600 Shell service stations were tampered with, resulting in the theft of more than £1 million.

"What I did 40 years ago is 4,000 times easier to do today," says Mr. Abagnale. "For me to have replicated a cheque 40 years ago I needed a $1 million printing press. Now I can do it on my laptop in minutes."

"Consumers have to take a position of being proactive. You can't rely on the government, the police or your bank."

Monitor your credit records regularly with credit reference agencies. By far the cheapest way to keep up to date with your credit records is to apply for them regularly by post.

You might have heard the one about buying a paper shredder a few times before. Mr. Abagnale has a word of warning: "If you use a straight shredder I can put back together the strips, and read word for word, a front page of the FT. This is what thieves can do to your documents. The way to prevent this is to use a cross-cut shredder, which is the same price as a straight one. Unfortunately everybody goes out and buys the straight ones without knowing any different."Close any unused accounts.

Don't waste money on expensive identity theft insurance policies. These don't stop you becoming a victim; nor do they prevent you from having to do some work to help sort out the mess if you do fall prey to the fraudsters.
Even after you have deleted files on your PC or laptop, they can still be found and used. Cifas, the U.K.'s fraud prevention service, recommends that you obtain a clean-up tool to overwrite deleted files.





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