Maintain Safe Identity
According to TechTarget.com, “Identity theft, also known as identity fraud, is a crime in which an impostor obtains key pieces of personally identifiable information, such as Social Security or driver’s license numbers, in order to impersonate someone else.” Consumer.gov adds that, when identity theft occurs, someone could also use your name, address, credit card, and/or bank account numbers.
There are four main types of identity theft:
- A criminal pretends to be someone else during arrest.
- A criminal pretends to be someone else to receive medical benefits.
- A criminal pretends to be someone else to obtain cash, credit, goods, and/or services.
- A criminal pretends to be someone else, particularly a child, for personal gain because children may be less likely to have information associated with them that may hinder the thief’s efforts.
Identity theft may occur as either true-name or account takeover theft. When true-name identity theft occurs, the criminal uses an unauthorized person’s personal information to open new accounts as if they were that person, and when account takeover theft occurs, a criminal uses an unauthorized person’s personal information to gain access to an existing account belonging to the person and makes charges. Here are a few examples:
- True-name identity theft.
- A thief opens a new credit card account under your name and uses it to make purchases.
- Account takeover theft.
- A thief gains access to your existing credit card online management account, changes the address, and makes charges.
Criminals use many methods to obtain personal information and steal identities. Here are a few:
- Hack a database.
- Data breach such as hacking a company’s system and stealing shoppers’ credit card information.
- Dumpster diving.
- Retrieving from trash paperwork or mail that has not been shredded.
- Shoulder surfing.
- Standing behind people, such as while they are filling out paperwork at the DMV or punching in their pin at an ATM, and obtaining their personal information.
- Phishing or spam emails.
- Posing as a legitimate financial institution in order to get people to give out their personal information.
There are multiple occurrences that may indicate that your identity has been stolen. These may include, but aren’t limited to:
- Withdrawals on your bank account that you didn’t make.
- Missing mail, such as bills that contain sensitive information.
- Charges on accounts, such as your debit or credit card account, that you didn’t make.
- IRS sends you a notification that another tax return was filed under your name.
- Issues with your medical plan, such as notification stating that you have a condition that you don’t have.
- In this case, someone may falsely be impersonating you and using your health insurance.
- A store where you shop notifies you of a security breach.
- This may occur if the company stores customers’ personal information.
- Notice the above occurrences after losing items, such as a purse or wallet, that contained credit cards, driver’s license, etc.
There are numerous ways to help keep your identity safe. These may include, but aren’t limited to:
- Keep documents such as your birth certificate and Social Security card in a waterproof, fireproof lock box or secure lock box, such as may be offered at a local bank.
- Cancel all cards (debit, credit, etc.) if you lose item that contained them, such as your wallet or purse.
- Regularly check your credit report with major bureaus.
- Pay close attention to billing cycles and contact the company who sent you the bill if it didn’t arrive.
- Shred unwanted credit applications.
- Watch accounts/account statements for unauthorized transactions.
- Steer clear of carrying around your Social Security card.
- Don’t give out personal information to unsolicited emails.
- Be careful when giving out personal information on the phone.
- Cover your PIN when typing it into an ATM.
- Make sure, when online shopping, that you’re checking out through secure methods.
- Create passwords that people cannot guess.
There are a few things that you can and/or should do if you believe your identity was stolen, and the action you take will probably depend on the type of identity stolen. Here are a few ideas:
- Contact the appropriate organization and inform them of the situation:
- Credit card company.
- Health insurance provider.
- Freeze or close all necessary accounts.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Notify one of the three main credit bureaus:
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