Identity Theft Explained
- Identity Theft
- What are the Types of Identity Theft?
- Where do Identity Thieves get your information?
- What Can You Do To Prevent Identity Theft?
- What Should You Do If You Are The Victim Of Identity Theft?
Identity Theft Explained
Identity Theft is an illegal billion dollar enterprise. Identity thieves use many methods unlawfully to obtain the personal information of individuals worldwide and then use the information or sell the information for others to use without the permission of the identity theft victim. The results to the victim can be devastating. Once damage has been caused to a victim as a result identity theft, it is extremely difficult to repair and in some instances cannot be repaired. For that reason, it is most important that you try to prevent identity theft from occurring in the first place.
The following is a summary description of the types of identity theft, ideas on how you can prevent it, and a general description of what to do if you are the victim of identity theft.
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What are the Types of Identity Theft?
Identity thieves use various means to collect as much information about a person as they can find. They will piece together information until they have a full profile of the victim. The discovery of one piece of information will lead to the discovery of another, then another and then another. That is why we must all take every action we can to keep even the slightest amount of information from the thieves. For example, identity thieves are looking to find names, addresses, telephone numbers, fax numbers, email addresses, date of birth, social security number, drivers license number, insurance information, passport information, bank account numbers, credit and debit card numbers and PIN numbers, social media information such as Facebook and Twitter, mother’s maiden name, pet names, relative names, employers, your salary, where and when you went to school, computer and online passwords, vehicle description, criminal history, etc.
Identity thieves will use your information to set up new accounts, use existing accounts, obtain medical services, apply their medical services to your insurance (which uses up your lifetime coverage benefits), use a duplicate drivers license for identification and to operate motor vehicles, use your social security number to obtain access to accounts and to use government benefits including tax refunds, food stamps, medicaid, medicare, and social security benefits, and to commit crimes. Identity thieves also frequently steal the identity of decease individuals, the elderly and children.
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Where do Identity Thieves get your information?
Most of the information of the victim is obtained online, but much of your information can also be found offline. Online includes viruses and trojans placed on your computer to secretly collect information from you as you search the internet and do social communication. It also includes emails and other marketing scams. For this reason, it is important for everyone to have antivirus protection and a password manager that encrypts passwords.
Offline includes searching through your trash and garbage, searching dumpsters, using devices to steal information when you use credit cards and debit cards, telephone and mail fraud and scams, etc.
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What Can You Do To Prevent Identity Theft?
- The first thing you should consider is hiring an identity theft service to protect your identity. While these types of services cannot protect against all identity theft, they can certainly minimize your exposure to this type of theft. Furthermore, they offer a $1 million insurance policy that will pay to repair any identity theft, if it occurs. For a detailed review of my recommendation for this type of service provider, please CLICK HERE.
- Second, you must do everything you can to protect your information. Make sure you shred everything that has any information about you. Shredding your name and address on mail only is not enough. You must also shred the information of who sent you the document or mail. Otherwise, the thieves can find out what church you attend, what pharmacy you use, where you shop for groceries and personal items, where you have been purchasing online, etc.
- I recommend that you invest in a good micro cut shredder. A typical shredder shreds documents into strips that can be placed together and each strip contains readable information. A cross cut shredder cuts each strip into smaller segments, but these can also be put back together and each segment can contain usable information. The micro cut shredder shreds the documents into pieces small enough that they cannot be put back together and there is only a minimal chance of any information being contained on each shred.
- Third, you should set up good quality computer maintenance software that includes anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware, firewall protection, registry repair, and privacy protection. For a detailed review of my recommendation for the best computer protection software, please CLICK HERE.
- Fourth, you should consider placing a credit freeze with the credit reporting agencies. This will require your approval for any new credit accounts to be opened. However, speaking from personal experience, if you do this, make sure you know at all times all of your information necessary to unlock the freeze in the event you want to set up a new credit account like a cell phone account, credit cards, etc. and give yourself some time to unlock the account long enough for you to get the account set up.
- Fifth, you should carefully consider the information you are providing about yourself on social media. Just remember that every bit of information you put on social media can be used to obtain other information about you.
- Sixth, you should use a password manager to organize and encrypt your passwords. I recommend LastPass, which is one of the top rated password managers. To learn more please CLICK HERE.
- Seventh, if you purchase online, you should only use secure methods of payment like paypal and/or use sites that have secured payment websites. To learn more about setting up a paypal account, please CLICK HERE.
- Eighth, do not assume that information in your home is safe. I have seen several instances where trusted family members have stolen the identity of other family members, including the identity of children and the elderly within the home. Keep all identifying information locked up at home.
Also, be careful when you are staying in hotels and visiting public venues. I have known people who had their debit card information stolen from their hotel rooms while they were at the pool. I have known others that visited other countries and used the ATM machine at the airport when no one was around to see the use of the PIN number, only to have their account wiped out within minutes. When traveling abroad you should research the safest places to use your credit cards and debit cards.
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What Should You Do If You Are The Victim Of Identity Theft?
If you are the victim of identity theft, you should visit the Federal Trade Commission website (CLICK HERE), bookmark it and read their instructions. Once you understand what you should do, go to the bottom of the website page and click the link entitled, “File a Complaint with the FTC.”
You will be placing an initial fraud complaint with the credit reporting agencies, ordering your free credit reports from each of the credit reporting agencies, filing a complaint with the FTC and printing your Identity Theft Affidavit, making a report with your local police department, obtaining a copy of the police report, keeping detailed logs of telephone calls and letters mailed, keeping a calendar of deadlines for responses to your letters, and keeping all original documents in one location.
As you can tell, it is a huge task to repair the damage caused by identity theft. Therefore, you are better served to prevent identity theft in the first place to the extent possible.