Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Identity Theft: Census Scams and Young People

Here's something to think about for those of you in the United States. As those Census forms start arriving in the mail, just make sure they're legitimate and not phishing scams -- either by e-mail or paper mail -- looking to steal personal information.

According to the Better Business Bureau, fraudsters are taking advantage of the Census to steal financial information, like bank and credit card account numbers. Legitimate Census forms have 10 questions about your household and its inhabitants, not about your financial information.

The fraudsters are mailing out fake forms, sending phishing e-mails, pretending over the phone to be Census takers and even visiting homes. The BBB recommends you compare any Census form you get in the mail to the official version online. As for phishing e-mails, phone calls and visits to your door, the same rule applies: the questions should match the official form and not ask anything about personal finances or accounts.

Along the same lines, The Washington Post reported today that 18- to 24-year-olds are the most at risk for identity theft. The Millennial Generation is just too comfortable giving out personal information, whether online or in person, making them easier targets for identity theft than older, more discrete, generations more accustomed to a bit more privacy.

Seemingly anonymous information, such as movie preferences in Netflix, for example, can be misused to identify people. And, that's beside the information gathered from a photo of last night's party at a bar posted on a social networking site.

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