Some startling news, according to the FTC, most identity theft victims suffered at the hands of someone they knew. Another surprising fact is that in 2009 the majority of ID theft occurred offline. Also, a study in 2004 revealed that 1 household of 33 experienced ID theft! I can only assume the rate has increased exponentially since.
Before going any further let’s define ID theft. It is the use of information, gathered from some source, to take the identify of some other person without permission and most often for personal gain while defrauding others. So these victims, through stolen data, were used as pawns by an impersonator to take advantage of another person or agency. How do they get your information? Here are some of the most common sources:
- Curbside mailboxes are a primary source of credit card information
- Cancelled checks, bank/credit card statements, and preapproved card offers that we often toss into the trash are fair game for these thieves who raid dumpsters in search of your private information.
- Online “phishing.”
- Telephone calls asking to update “information.”
So how do we prevent being victimized?
An easy start would be to go green. Most banks and financial companies offer the ability to eliminate standard mail and instead receive electronic statements. Warning! Hackers can also steal information from your pc but being careful about not downloading programs from sources you don’t know or trust and keeping an anti virus handy is normally enough to ward off any cyber intruder. It’s easier to stay safe on your pc than Hollywood would have you believe.
One man’s trash is another’s treasure. Let’s not allow our personal identity to be that treasure! Keep scissors handy near where you commonly place mail for later retrieval or where you read it. Any offers for credit cards/lines or anything with statement or account numbers should be cut up into pieces. Better yet, if you have some money to spare you can easily purchase a shredder at a local office supply store.
Facebuk? We’ve all accidentally typed into our web browsers the wrong address to a website and ended up at some funny looking site asking us for our username and password. The goal of these sites is to steal your data so as to access the website they are mimicking with your information. While at first it may not sound like such a bad form of identity theft imagine what someone with access to your Capital One or Wells Fargo account could do!
Have you recently won a million dollars but need to verify your identity by giving your social security to some unknown person over the phone? Well, if it’s too good to be true, it usually is. If someone is calling you never give your information. Even if you believe the number to be that of a reputable company you do business with, ask the person for their name and call the official number of the company they claim to represent. This will ensure you only give your information to those who actually need it to identify you.