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Bankrate's scam roundup
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Identity theft
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.

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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.

It's a 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.

Bankrate.com has complied steps you should take to protect your identity.

Job boards
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.

Phone bill cramming
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.

The 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.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy-- Posted: Oct. 10, 2003
 
 
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