We live in a fast-paced and changing world that continues to put our assets at risk. As online shopping and purchases will increase over the next couple of months, it is important to be aware of the basic threats and how to protect yourself.
Identity Theft: What is it?
Identity theft refers to the preliminary stage of acquiring and collecting someone else’s personal information for criminal purposes.
Identity theft techniques can range from unsophisticated, such as dumpster diving and mail theft, to more elaborate schemes. Technology, mainly the Internet, facilitates more elaborate schemes, such as skimming, phishing, and hacking as criminals gather profiles of potential victims. Computer spywares and viruses, designed to help thieves acquire personal information, have continued to rise
Warning sign(s) - How to protect yourself
A creditor informs you that an application for credit was received with your name and address, which you did not apply for.
Telephone calls or letters state that you have been approved or denied by a creditor that you never applied to.
You receive credit card statements or other bills in your name, which you did not apply for.
You no longer receive credit card statements or you notice that not all of your mail is delivered.
A collection agency informs you they are collecting for a defaulted account established with your identity and you never opened the account.
What is identity fraud?
Identity fraud is the actual deceptive use of the identity information of another person (living or dead) in connection with various frauds (including for example personating another person and the misuse of debit card or credit card data).
Criminals can use your stolen or reproduced personal or financial information to:
Access your computer.
Access your email accounts.
Access your bank accounts.
Open new bank accounts.
Transfer bank balances.
Apply for loans, credit cards and other goods and services.
Hide their criminal activities.
Obtain passports or receive government benefits.
There is no reason to be paranoid; there's just reason to be careful. If someone wants desperately to target you, they can probably get a lot of information about you – to prevent this, minimize the criminal's opportunities to get that information. You can make yourself a harder target and that is the best defense.
If you fall victim, do not panic. In most cases you will not be out any money. When you've been careful about disclosing your personal information, the losses will likely be attributed to the banks and or companies associated with the fraud.
While you probably can't prevent identity theft entirely, you can minimize your risk. Identity theft is on the rise and it can happen to anyone. It can happen to you. By managing your personal information wisely, cautiously and with an awareness of the issue, you can help guard against identity theft.