Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Know how FICO scores are calculated: watch that "mix of accounts"

AOL today provided a “wallet pop” column on how your credit score is computed, by Janene Mascarella. I thought I would provide it on this blog, since id theft has often compromised credit reports and credit scores. The article is titled: “Are you clueless about credit scores? What you need to know.” The most interesting item for me was “mix of accounts”. The article reads “Ideally, the credit bureaus like to see a mortgage, an auto loan, and three to five credit cards.” I don’t have a mortgage or auto loan, although I could have either or both (particularly the latter) in the foreseeable future. (Yup, I ought to go Oprah and drive a hybrid.) In 1979, I did not get approved for a particular credit card (National Car Rental) partly because of "lack of home ownership." That soon changed.

I worked for Chilton in the 1980s, as a mainframe computer programmer-analyst. Chilton is an ancestor of Experian and at the time I worked tangentially on “risk predictor” which was the feed to Fair Isaacs.

The link for the article is here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

AOL offers ten basic tips for identity protection: No. 1 is watch what you put online to idenfity yourself; and watch the trash

Lisa Rogak, of, has an entry on AOL walletpop today (Wednesday June 17) of “10 Things to Know About Identity Theft,” link here.

The main tip is not to give out a birthdate or home address or land home phone on any public website, including social networking sites, profiles, and online resumes. Use a UPS mailbox. If you have an Internet domain, do the same (private registration is even safer). Remember, however, that there are companies that sell unlisted information about people in low cost reports, probably barely within what my own Congressman (Moran, D-VA) says is “legally permissible.”

The advice considers the physical world of paper as dangerous, more so, than the Internet. Checkout counters and restaurants. Apparently a credit card number can sometimes lead to the whole identity being used.

An important defense is computer literacy: frequent inspection of online accounts. Get your money into well-managed and secure accounts (trusts are even safer) that you can check.. Computer and security literacy is particularly important for people who have to travel for work or family reasons.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

ABC introduces "Card Cops" with alarming report of overseas ID theft

The Money section of ABC News and Nightline have an alarming report, June 3, “Thieves Snatch Billions in Credit Card Fraud: 'Nightline' Tracks Hackers in Underground Identity Theft chatrooms; How to Protect Yourself”.

The link is here. ABC tried an experiment and found that a fictitious credit card was siphoned in 15 minutes by crooks in Kiev.

The story mentions Dan Clements, of Card Cops, a company that tracks international identity theft, particularly in credit card numbers and bank account information. Sometimes accounts get set up in a person’s name that the person never knows about or gets bills for. Other times bank accounts are siphoned. Most of the activity is overseas, in Russia, or former Eastern European countries or Asia, mostly in poorer countries where youth have some indignation and gang-like incentive to steal and "prove themselves".

The story says that a lot of compromise happens with phishing of naïve Internet users, but a lot of “shoulder surfing” happens in retail establishments, involving dishonest (and perhaps underpaid) clerks.

The story recommends opening new cards with new account numbers rather than letting them renew automatically. They also recommend changing debit card pin numbers frequently.

Naïve users are more vulnerable than experienced people with Internet literacy. Other defenses include frequent checking of bank accounts and credit cards online, and frequent checking of credit reports. Does Internet activity make one a “target”, or is a moderate amount of “fame” a protection because the person becomes harder to impersonate and not get caught. It’s hard to say.

Still, I think that we can build systems to stop this if only we have the will and invest the resources.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Fortune suggests tips to protect yourself while job hunting

AOL today republished a Fortune article “Don’t Let ID Thieves Hijack Your Job Hunt.” The article is by Anne Fisher, and lists six ways to protect yourself.

The article suggests never giving complete identifying information (especially date of birth, as well as social security number and home address) on an online resume, social networking site, or anywhere else online. It’s perhaps a better idea to use a land UPS store address. Another tip is to watch for “too good to be true” job ads.

All of this seems to lean toward the idea of much more integrated presence online than in the past. Yet multiple “identities” online might help thwart fraudsters. So it’s a thorny question.