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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Identity thieves go high tech

Do you think you are safe because you shred your credit card bills (after paying them of course), change your password often and don't respond to e-mails from banks where you've never been a customer?  Think again.  Identity thieves are now using a new high tech device to take advantage of new features on credit cards.  This new device, which costs less than $100, allows identity thieves to electronically pick your pocket without ever touching you.

Newer credit and debit cards, as well as some driver's licenses and passports, are being made with radio frequency identity chips that transmit information.  This relatively new feature has opened up an opportunity for identity thieves to use a small device to intercept the signals being transmitted by getting close to you, within 7 feet, from what I am told.  Thus, sporting events (like the Cubs/Cardinals game I went to over the weekend) are treasure troves, since at any time you are within 7 feet of multiple people. 

Many of the banks/credit card companies whose cards use these new identity chips offer protective sleeves for the credit cards.  But for those of us who already have a "George Costanza wallet" issue - see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoPf98i8A0g if you don't understand the reference - this is not a good option.  Another option is a whole new type of billfold - a new type that is made of lighweight steel.  Never tried a wallet like that myself, but it is said to hamper the success of this type of identity theft.

As I have said before, there is no fool proof way to prevent identity theft.  Do your best, but be prepared to take action if and when it happens to you.  Dispute the fraudulently opened accounts early and often, with as much detail and supporting proof as you can.  And, when that doesn't work, hire someone like me to sue the credit bureaus and/or fraudulent credit grantors using the protections of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Only in a courtroom are your rights equal to the power of these corporations.

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