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How to avoid getting scammed
There are plenty of ways criminals can scam you out of money and identity, experts say
Identity theft and fraud — especially employing the Internet — continues to remain popular with criminals across the nation and overseas, but there are a number of subtle, but critical steps, the average resident can select to reduce risk.
Identity theft and identity fraud apply to a multitude of crimes linked to the act of a criminal seizing another person’s personal information — often using the Internet — and then utilizing that data to commit a crime.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Victims of Crime, cybercrime — which focuses on the Internet and includes identity theft, financial fraud and other online misdeeds — is deemed to be one of the fastest growing criminal violations in the U.S., impacting nearly 10 million people every year.
Eduard Goodman, the chief privacy officer for the firm IDT911, a data risk management company, said while there is no infallible measure to stop identity theft and fraud, there are a few steps a consumer can take to lower the danger, especially when it revolves around the Internet.
“There is really no way to eliminate it. But there are ways to reduce risk. There are a lot of different things you can do to limit exposure,” Goodman said.
One method Goodman suggested to cut down on identity theft and fraud on the Internet is a virtual credit card. A virtual credit card employs a single-use, temporary credit card number produced by the issuer of the credit card. Usually such a card can only be used once.
“It can limit the amount of damage, especially if folks are doing a lot of small purchases online,” Goodman said.
Another key piece to reducing the risk of Internet fraud or identity theft, Goodman said, is online banking.
“I’m a believer in online banking because it allows you to spot fraud quickly and easily,” Goodman said.
He also suggested employing a credit card, rather than a debit card tied directly to a bank account, as a method to avoid a cybercrime strike.
“If it is a debit card, if there are fraudulent purchases, your account could be frozen. It sounds simple, but it does provide you with a little extra protection,” he said.
Another crucial way to avoid identity theft and identity fraud is a simple one, Goodman said: Vigilance.
“Consumers need to be diligent. You know, a lot of people don’t protect their computers. A person may just think, ‘My computer is going slow.’ Well, that may be because there is a key logger on sending info out the back door,” he said.
Simple, reliable anti-virus software for a home computer can go a long way toward protecting a consumer, Goodman said.
Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff said his office does not see very much cybercrime fraud cases. However, Shirtcliff conceded Internet fraud and identity theft cases can be very difficult to prosecute.
“We don’t get a lot (of identity theft cases) but what you do get, there can be barriers to prosecution,” he said.
Jurisdictional challenges often play a key role in how, or if, a cybercrime case can be prosecuted, especially if the malefactor lives in a foreign country.
“How will you get the guy out of the country? The cost would be enormous,” Shirtcliff said.
Malheur County District Attorney said local cases of identity theft and fraud are usually fairly easy to tackle.
“You know, someone opens an account in someone else’s name,” he said.
However, Norris agreed with Shirtcliff that if a crime is launched from a foreign shore it is extremely difficult to solve.
“The ones that are more problematic are when someone goes fishing and lives, in say the Ukraine. We have no ability to deal with those. Once you get offshore it is very difficult to deal with,” he said.