What is identity theft?
ID theft, which it is commonly called, is when a person assumes the identity ofanother, without that person’s consent for the purpose of making a profit or in some cases concealing their own identity. ID theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. Identity theft claims over one billion dollars in illegal profits at the cost of U.S. victims alone. According to the FederalTradeCommission (FTC), over 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. The victim is usually alerted their identity was stolen by; unauthorized charges on a credit card statement, contact from a collection agency, turned down for a house or automobile loan, or when they review their credit report. In some cases, the victim does not detect that their identity has been stolen until after a year or more after it occurred.
The criminal in an ID theft case will gather key pieces of information about their victims:
They use this information to obtain merchandise, credit, and services in the person’s name they have stolen. After this occurs, the victim is left to correct his or her damaged credit history and the difficult task of attempting to regain their good credit standing. In addition, identity theft criminals will use their victim’s name for other criminal activities like fraud, con games and related crimes.
How do thieves steal your identity?
There are several different ways for an identity thief to steal your personal information and use it for their own criminal enterprise:
How can you prevent ID Theft?
There are ways to help prevent identity theft.
Invest in a good quality paper shredder. This will be used to shred all of your documents (bank/credit card statements, documents containing any personal information, etc). You will want the kind that shreds paper into confetti. This will make it virtually impossible to tape documents back together.
If you use your computer to do online banking, purchasing merchandise and other financial endeavors, make sure the computer is equipped with antivirus software that can provide real-time protection for your home personal computer that guard against viruses, spyware and other malicious software.
When using an ATM machine, take a close look at the card slot and give it a tug. If it does not look right or if it moves, do no use it. Go inside if the bank is open and tell them. Remember there is no guarantee that a skimming device is or is not on an ATM machine.
Know who you are giving your personal information out to. If you get an email saying it is from your financial institution asking for personal information, pin number, and/or account number, delete that email. Your financial institution will never ask you for that information in an email. Call your financial institution and let them know what you had just received so they are aware of what is happening and they can alert their security department. In addition, each month go over your accounts to make sure there are no unauthorized charges.
Furthermore, according to Federal law, you are allowed one free credit report annually from each credit monitoring company (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion). Stagger these reports by getting a report from a different company every few month. For more information, or to request your free credit report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com.
What should you do if you become a
victim of ID Theft?
If you happen to become a victim of identity theft, contact the credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, Experian) and have them put a fraud alert on your account. There are two types of fraud alerts: an initial alert, which is good for 90 days and used if you suspect you have been or about to be a victim of identity theft. The second type is an extended alert, which is good for seven years and is only used if you have been a victim of identity theft and you can provide an identity theft report to the credit reporting agencies. Each alert will allow you to have free credit reports in a 12 month period. The initial report allows you to have one credit report and the extended allows you to have two free credit reports. In addition, if you want them to, they will remove your name for up to five years from telemarketing list that offer pre-screened credit offers. Furthermore, close any accounts that have been compromised, file a police report and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission
If you practice what was listed above, this should help to prevent you from becoming a victim of identity theft.
For more information on Identity Theft please visit the following links:
Identity Theft Resource Center®
Helpful publications (Click to view. Please feel free to print):
Identity Theft (published by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston)
Deter * Detect * Defend (published by FTC)
Don't Be a Victim (published by Carroll County Sheriff's Office)
Phishing: Internet Pirates (published by the Federal Bank)
Nothing can totally and completely prevent identity theft. However, being prepared may possibly help to prevent it or minimize the damage if you should become a victim. Staying alert, aware of changes, and using good common sense may just help more than you know!