Welcome to Identity Theft
Consider some of these statistics about identity theft:
- Over 10 million people are victims of identity theft each year
- The average cost per victim is over $800
- 16% of people who have been victimized say that it was a relative, friend or co-worker who snatched their identity
The Identity Theft Resource Center categorizes identity theft as follows:
- Medical Identity Theft: This is when someone uses personal information, including medical insurance, to fraudulently obtain medical goods or services.
- Identity Cloning and Concealment: The identity thief impersonates another. For example, people hiding from creditors, illegal immigrants, and people wanting to conceal their own identity are committing identity cloning and concealment.
- Synthetic Identity Theft: This is where the identities are completely or partially fabricated. An example of this might be a person who uses the social security number and the birth date of someone that is deceased.
- Criminal Identity Theft: If an individual falsely identifies him or herself to the police, criminal identity theft has been committed. The victim really can be damaged in these situations. If the criminal is using a fake ID, it will show up as information of the victim. They may get a summons, traffic violations may accumulate on the victim’s record or the victim might even be arrested!
- Financial Identity Theft: This is where another’s identity is used to obtain goods and services. This is what might occur if your credit cards were stolen.
In any of these situations, the victim can spend years clearing up their records. It can have a real negative impact on a life including inability to get credit, being accused of doing things you did not do, and wreck your financial life.
It has been a real problem since the early nineties. It seems like each month, there is another situation where the personal and financial information of consumers has been breached.
In fact, these breaches have compromised over 200 million records! However, in addition to the proliferation of internet theft, the warning signs and prevention methods have also become more sophisticated.
Following are some signs you might be a victim of identity theft:
Missing mail: Bills, credit card offerings or statements
Unexpected mail: A credit card you never applied for comes in the in the mail
Unknown charges and bills: You note strange charges on your statement or receive bills that cannot be explained
Surprising calls: Collection agencies or credit card companies begin calling you demanding money
Credit denied: You receive a denial on credit and cannot figure out why
Don’t Become an Identity Theft Victim
Being aware of a few things will help prevent you from becoming an identity theft victim. At the very least, it will make you more aware of it.
- Do not carry your social security card, passport or birth certificate around with you.
- Copy every credit card and your driver’s license. Put the data in a safe place. This will ensure you have the numbers if you need to call them.
- When you go to a retail establishment, take the extra copy of the receipt with you. And shred them as soon as you can.
- Do not click on any links in strange emails—especially one from a financial institution. Financial institutions do not typically send emails. If you have to check, do not click on a link. Copy the domain and put it in the browser.
- Never put your social security number, driver’s license or pin number on an email and send it. If you have to provide that information, make sure you do it on a secure site.
- For your computer, make sure you purchase a good security system. It needs to be able to detect and disable spyware, viruses and other mayhem that could occur on your computer.
- A shredder or shredding service might be a good investment. You can run any bank or credit card statements through there. Thieves have been known to pick financial information out of garbage!
- Check your balances daily to make sure no nefarious activities have occurred.
- This is just a basic rule about preventing theft anywhere: Do not leave purses or wallets unattended or visible in your car for any reason.
There are services, where for a few dollars a month, you can protect you identity. That and monitoring your credit report, securing your computer and your personal and financial information will help keep you from becoming a victim of identity theft.
For more information on protecting your identity, or information on identity theft in general, click on our Identity Theft Guide.