Identity theft happens so often the FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation lists it as “America’s fastest growing crime problem”.
Identity thief’s steal and the use fraudulently names, addresses, bank account info, social security and credit card numbers along with other personal data on approximately 10 million Americans each and every year, according to the FTC. The best method to combat the problem is to understand how your personal data is available for thieves to acquire.
On a corporate level identity thieves crack into computer systems containing data on ten of thousands of consumers. Once inside they steal names and associated data. Another way is by insiders using access to credit reporting bureaus and snagging personal confidential information. They may even go through employer’s trash to find confidential data.
On a personal level which does not receive the same news play can come down to simply losing a wallet or purse, looking over the shoulder at the ATM or paying for dinner with a credit card that disappears from sight. From an online level – Phishing is probably one of the most widely know methods to steal someone’s personal identity. Phishers as they are called create a website which looks very much like the website of a legitimate company. Then they send emails out to bait to get unknowing individuals input their personal information which in turn the thieves use.
Once Your Identity is Stolen
When your personal data is in the hands of ID thieves they can assume your financial identity. For those thieves who are more amateur in nature they simply head off on a buying spree with your credit cards.
Thieves who are more will spend money under your name but they can take an extra step and open bank accounts, obtain car loans, and even file for bankruptcy and in an effort to avoid paying debts created in your name. They may be so bold as to use your name when they are arrested.
Best Tips for Defense from Identity Theft
Hacking into corporate databases shows no one is safe and has the potential to have their identity compromised. But there are things you can do.
Protect Your Social Security Number
How can you prevent identity theft?The one item that identifies you and makes you unique besides your fingerprint is your Social Security Number. It is a critical part of your personal information. That being the case follow these protection measures:
* DO NOT print your SSN on any form or personal identification
* DO NOT print your SSN on checks. If it is required on rare occasions, write it on the check.
* AVOID using your SSN if at all possible
* DO NOT carry your social security card in your purse or wallet
* When asked for your SSN asked if it is required before giving it out. You never know later on who could have access to the information later on.
Protect Your Mail
Reduce all those unsolicited offers making your mailbox much less a target for identity thieves. Opt out of pre-approved insurance and credit card offers. Check out http://www.optoutprescreen.com. Shred offers that come to your mailbox.
Cancel mail when you go out of town on vacation. Protect your outgoing mail also. When you write a check never include enough complete information someone could take advantage of it. Include only the last four digits of the account number.
Protect the Trash
Shred the items you throw out this includes ATM receipts, bank statements, utility bills or credit card offers; they all contain information unique to you.
Losing some money can be devastating by itself, but having your name taken away and used by someone else can create untold problems, financially and legally. For this reason take the time to learn more, stay alert and protect yourself.