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Is Your Personal Information Secure?

By Tameka Gordon Assistant business co-ordinator tamekag@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, April 09, 2013



Identity theft has been deemed one of the fastest growing criminal activities locally by law enforcers.


From using old debit cards to get through ATM doors to covering the keypad when entering your PIN, individuals are being urged to take steps to protect their financial information.


There seems to be some amount of misconception that cyber crimes are concentrated overseas, and that the local financial landscape is somewhat immune from identity fraud, but senior superintendent Fitz Bailey said this is not so.


"Investigations done by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) revealed that identity thieves usually obtain the name and personal identification numbers of victims through various sophisticated and unsophisticated means," Bailey said.


The commanding officer in charge of the St Andrew central division, explained that the methods used involved rummaging through trash bins and shoulder surfing — literally peeking over the shoulder of a cardholder while they use their card.


Other methods such as skimming — placing a device in the slot of the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) to copy card data of prospective victims — were also identified.


"I want to point out that one of the major problems regarding identity theft in Jamaica is the cloning of debit and credit cards," he said.


Bailey outlined an anecdotal occurrence of a local bank losing "up to $50 million per quarter as a result of debit card fraud" as he called for the "adjustment of the legislative framework" to bolster crime fighting effort in this regard.


"Identity theft (can) affect almost everyone of us in this society, none of us is immune from it," he cautioned adding that persons who make online transactions must pay special attention to this phenomenon.


"Assuming person's identity (is) typically in order to access resources or obtain credit and other benefits in that person's name," said Tracey-Ann Johnson, acting head of the Cyber Crimes Department in the office of the Director of Public Prosecution.


Recounting a case in which a tenant stole the identity of his landlord, Bailey said that the tenant stole the landlord's General Certificate of Education (GCE) certificates and got his first university degree in the landlord's name.


He said the culprit went on to obtain a master's degree in the stolen name and even went through the Register General's Department (RGD) to change his birth name to the landlord's name.


The senior cop recounted another incident in which a "Christian lady" who was applying for residency abroad "learnt that she was married".


The lady, he said, had to seek an annulment of the marriage, which "she had no idea she was in", in order to complete her residency application.


"Before you engage in any personal transaction, you have a responsibility to protect yourself," he warned.


The lawman suggested that individuals use old electronic cards to swipe for entry at the ATM doors as perpetuators have sophisticated tools, which can be used to read card data upon entry.


"They (the perpetrators) tamper with the pass guards of ATM doors and install devices which capture information about your card," he said.


He also recommended covering the keypad with your hands when imputing your personal identification numbers (PIN) at ATMs as video cameras monitored from remote locations could also capture this data.


"The data obtained at the door is useless to them (the culprits) without your PIN," he said in explaining the necessity of safe ATM practices.




Some ways to protect yourself from identity theft:




1. Do not provide personal details to any caller purporting to be from any bank or other financial organisation. Ask for a name and contact number and verify with the organisation before calling back.




2. Always remember that a legitimate bank or financial institution will NEVER e-mail asking you to follow a link or asking you for personal details. It is a good practice to call your bank to verify should this occur.




3. Install anti-spam software (spam blocks) to prevent unsolicited emails.




4. Regularly check your credit card or bank statements to ensure that suspicious transactions are detected.




5. Shred all documents containing personal information such as credit card applications and bank statements.




6. Be suspicious if anyone asks for your personal information. Scammers will use convincing stories to explain why you need to give them money or your personal details.