Safeguard Your Identity From Meth-Dealing Crime Gangs

This week, we’ve been discussing the sudden rise of credit card skimming and identity theft in the U.S.

These sort of crimes are nothing new, of course.

America’s storied history is populated with conmen and grifters who hijacked the lives of others to scam people and big organizations out of millions of dollars.

People like the notorious conman Frank W. Abagnale, who led the FBI on a wild chase across the globe — spending every dime he stole along the way on fine threads… luxurious lodgings… and fox fur coats…

The story of Frank’s life of crime — and eventual arrest at the hands of the FBI —was immortalized on the silver screen in Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me if You Can.

But you won’t find a lick of Spielberg’s trademark romance or adventure in most modern tales of bank fraud.

These days, identity theft is so easy to pull off that just about any thug can get in the game. And the drug gangs are taking full advantage of that.

Just last May, the FBI uncovered a credit card skimming ring in Los Angeles. And every one of the criminals arrested was a member of La Mirada Punks or the Carmelas — two notorious L.A. gangs.

And this isn’t isolated to just L.A.

More and more meth-dealing gangs are turning to bank fraud to fund their crimes in lieu of traditional violent crime.

After all, why risk getting shot robbing a bank or grocery store when you can earn thousands of dollars simply stealing someone’s mail?

In this age of information, it’s easier than ever for criminals to steal your identity. Which is why you need to take precautions to protect yourself.

Below are four tactics for keeping criminal hands off your identity.

1. Protect your Social Security number

Your Social Security number is the golden goose for identity thieves. With it, they have unparalleled access to your identity and credit.

Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet. And only give out this number when absolutely necessary.

2. Check your credit report and bank statements regularly

Review your credit card statements every month and check for charges you didn’t make. Some thieves will bleed you slowly over time to avoid suspicion. Report any discrepancies to your card company immediately.

Check your bank account details at least once a week. You have 60 days to report fraudulent credit card transactions to avoid liability, but some banks will only give you seven days to report fraudulent debit card transactions.

Of course, identity thieves don’t just steal credit card numbers and go on shopping sprees. They will use your info to open new accounts and take out loans — racking up tens of thousands of dollars of charges in your name.

The only way to catch this kind of identity theft is to check your credit report regularly. You can check your credit for free with Credit Sesame, Credit Karma or Capital One’s Credit Wise.

3. Reinforce your password protection

Increasingly, identity thieves are using the information you put online to steal your information and hack your accounts.

You can protect against this by using passwords that are hard to guess (especially for any financial websites) and never using the same password for more than one account.

Never use your address, birthday, relative’s names, or any other easy-to-guess passwords. Instead, use a random string of four words and include some numbers and capitalizations.

4. Never send emails containing financial information, your username or password

Your email account is a prime target for identity thieves.

With it, they can use all the information in your emails to access other accounts, change your passwords and lock you out.

That’s why you should never send sensitive information by email. In fact, if someone is asking you to send sensitive information over email, it’s likely that they are an identity thief.

A real financial organization, bank or online business will never ask for your account details by email. If this ever happens, call the organization directly and report the email.

As always, we welcome feedback from our readers. If you agree, disagree or have any financial horror stories of your own, you can email me right here.

All the best,

Owen Sullivan

Owen Sullivan
Editor, Money & Crisis

Editor’s note: The strategies you read about in Money & Crisis were developed with the help of Jim Rickards, the best-selling author of Currency Wars and The Death of Money.

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Owen Sullivan

Written By Owen Sullivan

Owen Sullivan isn’t a millionaire or one of the Wall Street elite. He was just one of the many folks who was hit hard when the housing bubble burst… and decided he was never going to let that happen again. Since then, he’s worked with industry experts to develop strategies and techniques to bulletproof his finances — and yours — against the next crisis. His methods don’t require years of financial experience. These are simple strategies that anyone can follow. After all, financial prepping shouldn’t be reserved for a select few.