Identity theft is when someone obtains, and illegally uses, your identification information, such as name, address, date of birth, social security number or mother's maiden name.
How does this crime happen? There are many ways for an identity thief to get your personal information, some of them are; You could lose your wallet or purse, they will have access to whatever information you carry with you, credit cards, social security number, drivers license, etc . Someone where you use a credit card can copy your card information.
- Someone going despite your trash can obtain personal information from personal papers you may have discarded.
- Someone calling on the phone, pretending to be a trusted institution, could ask for information to update their files.
- Hackers could get information on your computer or from the Internet.
- Email phishing scams are becoming endemic, fake websites look very much like real sites, they are asking you for information they do not need.
- Almost everyday we hear reports of someone losing a computer or disk that has personal information on it.
- You could be mugged, or your home or office can be broken into.
- And there are countless other ways for thieves to obtain your personal information.
An imposter, with your personal information, can open new credit card accounts, drain your bank accounts, purchase automobiles, apply for loans, open utility services and on and on.
While it may be next to impossible to guard against all ways someone could access your personal information, there are steps you can take, including;
- Limit the amount of personal information you carry with you.
- Be careful of what information you give out about yourself, and who you are giving it to. Never give personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
- Your social security number is quite possibly the most valuable information to an identity thief, you should take great care to safeguard it.
- Be very careful filling out forms, or ordering products on the Internet. Be sure you are on a legitimate site, that your initiated contact with, and that whatever information they are asking for is really necessary.
- Never respond to, do not even open email, from a source you do not recognize. Never give identifying information to an empty request, legitimate places you deal with may ask you to contact them using the contact information you already have.
- Many retailers are making use of data terminals that allow you to slide your credit card without handing it to a clerk. use them whenever you can.
- Buy and use a paper shredder for your trash, be sure you shred anything that contain any personal information, papers, cards, computer disks, cd's etc.
- When you hear that an institution you have deal with with has lost control of personal information, contact them immediately for information on what steps they are taking to find out exactly what information may have been disclosed, and what they are doing to guard against it being used illegally. Some of these institutions may be forced to offer you insurance or pay whatever expenses you incur to protect yourself.
No matter how cautious you are, you can not guarantee that a criminal will not obtain your information. If you suspect that you have become a victim of identity theft contact the authorities, and all of your financial institutions immediately.