What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information (PII), like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
How do thieves steal an identity?
Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including:
- Dumpster Diving. They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
- Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
- Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
- Changing Your Address. They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
- Old-Fashioned Stealing. They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records or bribe employees who have access.
- Pretexting. They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.
- Tax Identity Theft. Fraudulent tax refund claims. This can delay your ability to access legitimate tax refunds, causing frustration and loss of funds.
- Child Identity Theft. When a child is a victim of ID theft. Thieves sometimes use a child's SSN or other personal details to defraud government or access loans or other services.
- Social Security Theft. This is one of the most common types of ID Theft since it is the most valuable identity an American person can have. Once your SSN number is compromised, perpetrtors can either sell it or can be used fraudulently. With data breaches being more prevelent across the US it is crucial you know how to protect your data online and offline. (Tips: learn about scams, keep and ye on your credit, do not carry your SSN ID card with you keep it locked up, place a fraud alert on your credit file, and most importantly avide phishing emails.)
- Data Breaches. When companies databases are breached and data is stolen by criminals. A data breach as an incident in which an individual name plus a Social Security number, Driver’s License number, medical record or financial record (credit/debit cards included) is potentially put at risk because of exposure. After a breach, you'll need to move into identity theft prevention mode. TechInsurance states: "only 42 percent of data breaches are caused by hackers or criminals. Thirty percent are caused by human error (like the employee who emailed the wrong document), and 29 percent are caused by system glitches (like the web host error)". The Identity Theft Resource Center - ITRC - states: "It should be noted that data breaches are not all alike. Security breaches can be broken down into a number of additional sub-categories by what happened and what information (data) was exposed. What they all have in common is they usually contain personal identifying information (PII) in a format easily read by thieves, in other words, not encrypted. What to do after a Data Breach: FTC Tip
What should you do if your identity is stolen?
Filing a police report, checking your credit reports, notifying creditors, and disputing any unauthorized transactions are some of the steps you must take immediately to restore your good name. To learn more about these steps and more, visit the Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft website: IdentityTheft.gov.
What can you do to help fight identity theft?
Awareness is an effective weapon against many forms of identity theft. Be aware of how information is stolen and what you can do to protect yours, monitor your personal information to uncover any problems quickly, and know what to do when you suspect your identity has been stolen.
Armed with the knowledge of how to protect yourself and take action, you can make identity thieves' jobs much more difficult. You can also help fight identity theft by educating your friends, family, and members of your community.
Invest in Identity Insurance that can support you if you are a victim of ID Theft.
FTC provides five ways to protect your identity view this video: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/audio-video/video/five-ways-help-protect-your-identity
If you think you are a victim of identity theft, take immediate action:
- Report it to your Financial Institution. Let them know you have been a victim of fraud and work with them to determine the best way to protect your accounts.
- Contact all the credit reporting agencies (i.e., TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian), this will make sure providers will not grant new credit without your approval. You can find the three nationwide credit reporting companies in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit
- Request a free copy of your Credit report through the agencies or you can visit https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action
- Tell the agency you think your identity has been stolen and they can provide the best alerts and freezes as needed
- File a report with your local Law Enforcement
- If you have ID Insurance call them and they can take care of everything.
- Understand ID Protection services
References: Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov)