Friday Grab Bag – 8/14/2009

Stop giving out your SSN like candy!

The video above discusses when you should (and should not) hand over your Social Security number. You may be surprised to learn how few organizations truly need it. An SSN is probably the most sacred piece of personal information an identity thief can take from you, so don’t just hand it over whenever a doctor’s office, school, or health club asks for it!

Congressman’s identity (almost) stolen

US representative Robert Wexler was targeted by an extortionist from Ghana who had obtained the Social Security number of Wexler and his wife. Eric Kwame Agbosu, who was planning on selling the Wexlers’ information to identity thieves unless Wexler paid him off, was fortunately arrested and awaits trial in Ghana. Of course, Wexler had the Secret Service and Capitol Police at his disposal to help solve the crime, unlike the rest of us. But the larger issue behind this story is that so much of our personal information is posted online, readily available for anyone who knows where to look. Agbosu found Wexler’s public records, which include his SSN, online at the Virginia Watchdog.

Woman’s Facebook account hijacked, used to scam friends and family

“I’ve been mugged and stabbed and am stranded in London…can you send money?” is the message that went out from Susie McLain’s Facebook account, but Susie did not post it. Rather, her Facebook account had been “hijacked” somehow, and the criminal quickly used it to appeal to Susie’s network for some quick cash. So far, none of her friends or family have fallen for it, but Susie has been receiving a lot of phone calls asking if she is okay.

Marines banned from MySpace, Facebook

The Marine Corps has just sent down the mandate, effective immediately: No more Twitter, Facebook, or myspace for marines. Social networking threatens security, both at home and abroad, if marines post or tweet about their location, strategy, or other insider information. I guess the popular WWII saying “loose lips sink ships” should be updated to “loose tweets sink fleets.”

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LifeLock and Symantec partner up

LifeLock, the popular provider of identity theft insurance, and Symantec, a leader in internet and computer security products, have joined forces. The partnership has resulted in a limited edition of Symantec’s Norton Internet Security or Norton AntiVirus that offers a free 30-day trial membership to LifeLock, plus 10% off of a continued membership (should you choose to remain enrolled) and two free tickets to the movies.

Credit card companies strike again

Raise interest rates, slash limits, increase minimums…what else can credit card companies do to make life harder for us? Oh yeah, require us to charge a certain amount each year or pay an annual fee. Credit card companies have long buried such tactics in the fine print of their credit card agreements, and it’s gotten even worse since they heard that the government will be regulating them much more closely beginning in 2010. Until then, consumers are unfortunately at the mercy of their creditors…though Bargaineering offers some innovative ways to fight back.

Bad news banks

Last year, a total of 25 banks across the country failed. In 2009, the number is already 72 and counting. This doesn’t mean that those banks’ customers lose their money, however. The FDIC (a government agency set up in 1933) steps in to take over, often smoothly transitioning the failed bank’s assets and debts into the hands of a capable bank looking to expand. (To see exactly how this transition happens, check out this 60 Minutes segment).

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