Since the computer breach that allowed hackers to view
8 million credit card numbers in the system of Omaha-based processing company
Data Processors International, consumers are asking: "When will legislation
be passed that truly protects consumers from identity theft?" Too late for
the 55,000 students, former students and employees of the University of Texas
whose identities were compromised when a hacker broke into the UT system and gained
access to their Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses and names last February.
"We flat out messed up on this one," said Dan Updegrove, vice president
of UT's information technology.
The culprit of the UT break-in has since turned himself
in. That's the best the would-be-victim Longhorns could hope for. What's in store
for identity theft victims without such luck? Ask Derek Bond. Bond, a 72 year-old
British man, was imprisoned for two weeks in South Africa last February after
the FBI wrongly identified him as a wanted fugitive. He was freed when the real
fugitive was arrested in Las Vegas. The U.S. Attorney's Office believes this crook
had been using Bond's identity as far back as 1989.
situation all too familiar to Malcolm Byrd. Byrd has been arrested several times,
had his driver's license revoked twice, lost pay while sitting in jail, lost a
job and almost had his children taken away by child protective services -- all
because a criminal continues to use his identity.
has complied steps
you should take to protect your identity.
What's worse than looking for a job in a depressed market?
Having your bank account emptied to boot. Monster.com sent out a
warning to its users: Don't give out personal information. It seems
identity thieves are placing fraudulent job postings to trick job
seekers into giving out personal information. They contact the job
seeker and ask for personal information such as SSN and bank account
information, supposedly for the human resources department. The
moral of the story: Never give out personal information online.
Looked at your phone bill lately? You may be
the victim of phone bill cramming. An extra $30 to $80 are appearing on some phone
bills -- supposedly charges for Web sites, voice mail, 900 calls or other "enhanced"
services that the customer never agreed to pay for. Customers who call their phone
company to complain may be told that a third-party-billing company -- not the
phone company -- is responsible for the charges.
It is legal
for third-party companies to bill certain services through your phone bill but
problems occur because phone companies have no reason to verify the charges before
billing you. This leaves phone bills wide-open to unscrupulous companies that
cram charges into your phone bill, hoping you won't notice.
Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement for the victims of a similar phone
bill cramming scam in 2001.
To protect yourself from phone
bill cramming, call your local phone company and ask to have third-party billing
shut off. If you are a victim, save all your paperwork, refuse to pay for the
charges and contact the billing company immediately -- both in writing and by
phone -- and refute the charges.