In this age of online banking, electronic bill-pay and digital record keeping, the number of cases of criminal identity theft has risen dramatically since 2002. A thief out to capitalize on your hard-earned income and impeccable credit might have no trouble stripping you of your financial assets from the comfort of his or her living room.
This type of crime can have multiple ramifications. Not only can it render its victim penniless, but it can ruin their reputation and even portray the victim as a criminal themselves!
What is Identity Theft?
Here are a few of the most common types of identity theft as discussed in an article featured on iGrad.com, a resource for college students and young professionals:
- Financial identity theft is when the thief illegally accesses and uses the victim’s credit cards and bank account information. The thief may also use the victim’s identity to take on loans or get new credit cards. This can cause irreparable damage to the victim’s credit.
- Driver’s license identity theft is when a thief steals someone else’s driver’s license. They may sell it to someone else who looks similar to the true owner or they might use it themselves, presenting this new ID to police if they are arrested, creating a criminal record under the victim’s identity. This is turn causes the victim problems with law enforcement as police will go after the victim instead of the criminal.
- Social security identity theft is when a stolen SSN or social security number is used to defraud the government and claim the victim’s benefits for themselves. It can also be used to falsify documents or take out loans and credit cards.
Don’t be a Victim!
Although identity theft is a growing problem with criminals inventing clever, creative ways everyday to obtain your personal information, you don’t have to be a victim! There are precautions you can take to protect yourself, your finances and your reputation n.
For more helpful tips on safeguarding your identity according to the Federal Trade Commission, please see How to Keep Your Personal Information Secure.
Online Safety Tips:
- Be wary of giving out personal information over the phone, by mail or through the Internet unless you know exactly who you are dealing with.
- Use strong passwords made up of a combination of numbers and letters for your laptop, credit, bank and other accounts.
- Limit the amount of information you share on social media. A thief can use this information to answer ‘challenge’ questions on your accounts and obtain access to your financial information.
- Be careful what you click. Phishing scams and social media scams are rampant. Be suspicious of anything that asks you to download something in order to view a video. According to Facecrooks, this is a very popular trick that scammers and malware creators use.
In ‘Real’ Life Safety Tips:
- Limit what you carry. Only take the credit, debit and identification cards you know you will need. Leave your social security card at home.
- Ask lots of questions before giving out information such as why it’s needed, what will be done to safeguard it, and what will happen if you don’t provide it.
- Shred receipts, bills, insurance forms and other items that may contain sensitive information before throwing them away.
Over to You
Identity theft is a multi-faceted crime with long-term consequences. If you find yourself taking the blame for another person’s crimes or being held responsible for expenses that have been incurred in your name, please contact my office. You don’t have to live your life as a criminal simply because your identity has been stolen.
How do you keep your personal information secure? Has your sensitive information ever been compromised? Have you been the victim of identity theft? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.