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IntelliShop Helps Shoppers Prevent Identity Theft

Your 5-minute guide to protecting your identity

Here are 20 steps to protect yourself from identity theft -- and seven ways to clean up things if you become a victim.

Thieves may sell your information on the black market or use it to obtain money, credit or even expensive medical procedures. Unless you're vigilant in protecting your records, you'll have to work even harder to repair the damage to your credit. The average victim spends 30 to 40 hours rectifying the problem.

Some of the e-threats to your identity are:

  • Phishing. You get an e-mail that appears to be from your bank or an online service, most often PayPal or eBay, instructing you to click on a link and provide information to verify your account.
  • Pharming or spoofing. Hackers redirect a legitimate Web site's traffic to an impostor site, where you'll be asked to provide confidential information.
  • Smishing. This is phishing done with text messaging on your smart phone. It instructs you to visit a bogus Web site.
  • Spyware. You've unknowingly downloaded illicit software when you've opened an attachment, clicked on a pop-up or downloaded a song or a game. Criminals can use spyware to record your keystrokes and obtain credit card numbers, bank-account information and passwords when you make purchases or conduct other business online. They also can access confidential information on your hard drive.

You don't need to have a computer to become a victim.

  • Vishing - voice phishing. You get an automated phone message asking you to call your bank or credit card company. Even your caller ID is fooled. You call the number and are asked to punch in your account number, PIN or other personal information.
  • Bank-card "skimming." Crooks use a combination of a fake ATM slot and cameras to record your account information and PIN when you use a cash machine. Your credit or debit card also can be skimmed by a dishonest store or restaurant worker armed with a portable card reader.
  • Crooks will steal your wallet or go through your mail or trash.

More than half of identity theft cases involve credit card fraud. Checking accounts are the second most popular target. But some crooks have other plans:

  • At least 250,000 people have been the victim of medical identity theft in the last several years. Crooks use fraudulently obtained personal information to get expensive medical procedures or dupe insurance companies into paying for procedures that were not done.
  • The victims of about 5% of reported identity theft cases are children. The fraud often goes undetected for years -- until the young adult applies for credit.

20 tips to protect yourself

You can take steps to protect yourself from identity fraud:

  • Keep your confidential information private. Your bank or credit card company won't call or e-mail to ask for your account information. They already have it.
  • Keep an inventory of everything in your wallet and your PDA, including account numbers. Don't keep your Social Security card or any card with your Social Security number, such as an insurance card, in your wallet.
  • Stop getting banking and credit card information in the mail.
  • Monitor your bank and credit card transactions for unauthorized use. Crooks with your account numbers usually start small to see if you'll notice.
  • Keep your vehicle registration and insurance forms in a sealed envelope in your glove box and lock it and your car when at home or away.
  • If you conduct business online, use your own computer. A public computer is less secure, as is wireless Internet.
  • Look for suspicious devices and don't let anyone stand nearby when you use an ATM. Take your card and receipt with you. Keep your PIN in your head, not in your wallet.
  • Don't store credit card numbers and other financial information on your cell phone.
  • If you're job hunting using resume Web sites, don't apply unless the employer has a verifiable address.

Protect your computer from vulnerability:

  • Keep system and browser software up to date and set to the highest security level you can tolerate. Install anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall protection, and keep them up to date as well. When possible use hardware firewalls, often available through your broadband connection router.
  • If you use wireless Internet access, make sure that you get help from someone who understands wireless security when you set up your access point or router.
  • Back up your data and store it way from your computer.
  • Don't open e-mails from strangers. Malware can be hidden in embedded attachments and graphics files.
  • Don't open attachments unless you know who sent them and what they contain. Never open executable attachments. Configure Windows so that the file extensions of known file types are not hidden.
  • Don't click on pop-ups. Configure Windows or your Web browser to block them.
  • Don't provide your credit card number online unless you are making a purchase from a Web site you trust. Reputable sites will always direct you to a secure page with an URL starting with https:// whenever you actually make purchases or are asked to provide confidential information.
  • Use strong passwords: at least six characters, including at least one symbol and number, and no reference to your name or other personal information. Use a different password for every site that requires one, and change passwords regularly.
  • Never send a user name, password or other confidential information via e-mail.
  • Consider turning off your computer when you're not using it or at least putting it in standby mode.
  • Don't keep passwords, tax returns or other financial information on your hard drive.

7 steps to clean up the mess

If you suspect your identity may be compromised, place a fraud alert with the three credit bureaus. When you place an alert, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report. After that, take advantage of the free annual reports the bureaus are required to give all consumers. Stagger your requests so that you get a report every four months.

  • If you've been phished, contact the bank or company named in the fraudulent e-mail. You also may want to notify the Internet Crime Complaint Center and forward the e-mail to spam@uce.gov.

If you are the victim of identity theft, take the following steps:

  • Make an identity-theft report to the police and get a copy. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Also, contact the office of your state's attorney general; you may be able to file a report there.
  • Close accounts that have been tampered with. Contact each company by phone and again by certified letter. Make sure the company notifies you in writing that the disputed charges have been erased. Document each conversation and keep all records.
  • Place a seven-year fraud alert or a "freeze" on your credit reports.
  • Begin the process of having the fraudulent information removed from your credit reports.
  • Consider purchasing identity theft insurance. It cannot protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft, but it can help you pay the cost of reclaiming your financial identity.
  • Find victim support at the Identity Theft Resource Center.

IntelliShop President elected Secretary of MSPA

Dallas, TX Ron Welty, President of IntelliShop, was elected Secretary of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association ("MSPA") at its annual conference in San Francisco; he will serve through 2009.  Ron has served on MSPA's Board of Directors since 2003.  When asked about his election, he said, "I am deeply honored that my colleagues on the Board have placed their faith in me to serve the association in this capacity, and I remain strongly committed to my passion of furthering  MSPA and the interests of our members."

IntelliShop, located in Perrysburg, Ohio, provides mystery shopping and other customer experience measurement solutions to clients in more than 25 industries in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe.  IntelliShop is widely recognized and respected for providing exceptional quality and service to its clients.

The MSPA is the largest professional trade association dedicated to improving service quality using anonymous resources. With over 150 member companies worldwide, its diverse membership includes marketing research and merchandising companies, private investigation firms, training organizations and companies that specialize in providing mystery shopping services. Member companies work with their clients to establish mechanisms to measure and improve levels of service.

New Service For Mystery Shoppers from IntelliShop & fixmypcnow.com

IntelliShop Partners with fixmyPCnow.com to provide 24/7 tech support to shoppers

IntelliShop and fix my pc | now! jointly announced a partnership agreement today. As a partner company, fix my pc | now! will offer discounted computer and technical support to all IntelliShop clients, shoppers and employees using their existing broadband Internet connection. Support services will be made available 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world.

"Nearly all of IntelliShop's services are being delivered online. This partnership will allow our shoppers the ability to have any technical issue identified and fixed without them ever leaving their home or office", according to Ron Welty, CEO of IntelliShop. "Virtually any computer glitch that would delay or prevent our shoppers from reporting can be fixed remotely using this service. The time and money saved over traditional computer repair options is very significant and represents our commitment to our shopping community."

"This computer repair and support service is another way IntelliShop ensures timely and accurate reporting for our clients." Ron continued with, "We'll continue to search for partnerships that will benefit both our clients and shoppers in the coming months."

www.fixmypcnow.com

Mystery Shopping Providers Associations Supports FTC’s Charges Against Fraudulent Mystery Shopping S

DALLAS, TX The Mystery Shopping Providers Association, the largest professional trade association dedicated to improving service quality using anonymous resources, supports the Federal Trade Commission’s recent action against Mystery Shop Link and the Tangent Group.

Mystery Shop Link is not and has never been affiliated with the MSPA, and the MSPA does not support the company’s practices.

The FTC filed deceptive practices and contempt charges against Mystery Shop Link on March 22, which promised consumers hundreds of dollars in income for conducting mystery shopping exercises. According to the FTC, consumers were charged a $99.95 fee for training and to obtain mystery shopping job opportunities. In reality, those who paid the fee had no advantage over others interested in the same opportunities who accessed the information for free, according to the FTC.

The MSPA has cooperated with the FTC in its investigation of Mystery Shop Link and encourages the FTC to continue investigating all mystery shopping-related scams.

The MSPA believes mystery shoppers should not have to pay to find mystery shopping work. The association’s 200 member companies around the globe are required to follow a strict code of ethics that prohibits them from charging mystery shoppers a fee or misleading applicants on actual mystery shopping job opportunities.

The MSPA has taken steps to warn consumers about this and other mystery shopping scams.

“The MSPA is committed to maintaining the integrity of the mystery shopping industry and will continue to denounce the practices of fraudulent and deceptive companies that use mystery shopping as a cover to take advantage of people,” said John Swinburn, Executive Director, MSPA. “The MSPA is also taking action to combat other mystery shopping scams, particularly scams involving an unsolicited cashier’s check.”

Mystery shopping is a growing field servicing nearly every consumer industry, including restaurants, retail stores, hotels and resorts, travel and tourism, banks and financial service providers, convenience stores, grocery stores and other consumer locations. Legitimate mystery shopping is the practice of using educated, experienced shoppers to anonymously evaluate the customer experience. Businesses use the information to monitor and improve the customer service it provides.

For more information about the MSPA and its stance on mystery shopping scams, visit http://www.mysteryshop.org/news/searchresults_pr.php. More information about the FTC’s charges can be found at http://ftc.gov/opa/2007/03/mysteryshop.htm.

About the MSPA

With more than 200 member companies worldwide, the MSPA (www.mysteryshop.org) has a diverse membership, including marketing research and merchandising companies, private investigation firms, training organizations and companies that specialize in providing mystery shopping services. Its goals are to establish professional standards and ethics for the industry, educate providers, clients and shoppers to improve quality of service, improve the image of the industry and promote the membership to other industry associations and prospect clients.

IntelliShop joins ICSA

Perrysburg, OH IntelliShop announced today that it has joined the International Customer Service Association (ICSA, www.icsa.com).  Ron Welty, CEO of IntelliShop, said in an announcement, "IntelliShop has been an intensively customer-focused company since our founding in 1999, and our team members are always looking for creative and better ways to deliver a great experience to our own clients.  We believe our membership in ICSA will not only help us to continue our mission of providing our clients the best experience possible, but will also help us when consulting with our clients to develop measurement programs that help to make their customers' experiences memorable."