What is Identity Theft?
- It occurs when someone steals your personal information – e.g., credit card or Social Security number – and uses it fraudulently
- It can cost you time and money
- It can destroy your credit and ruin your good name
How can someone steal my identity?
Identity thieves may:
- Go through your trash or “dumpster dive”
- Steal your wallet or purse
- Steal your mail or submit a change of address form for your mail
- Use “phishing” or fake emails to get you to provide personal information
- Steal personnel records from their employers (1/3 of Identity Theft victims reported to FTC in 2005 were under 30 years old
Identity thieves may:
- Dormitory burglaries
- Driver’s license/student ID theft
- Credit card offers
- Use of Social Security numbers for identification
What can be done?
The Federal Trade Commission has created a program with these points
DETER identity thieves by safeguarding your information
DETECT suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements
DEFEND against identity theft as soon as you suspect a problem
- Shred financial documents before discarding them
- Protect your Social Security number
- Don’t give out personal information unless you’re sure who you’re dealing with
- Don’t use obvious passwords
- Keep your information secure
- Mail or bills that don’t arrive
- Denials of credit for no reason
Inspect your credit report
- The law entitles you to one free report a year from each nationwide credit reporting agencies if you ask for it
- Place a 90-day “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports by calling any one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies below
- Be very suspicious of emails, texts or phone calls requesting personal information, passwords, PIN numbers or account details. Do not give out such information unless you are 100% sure of the validity of the request. Banks and other organizations will not ask you to confirm personal information online or via a text.
- Carefully destroy papers carrying bank or credit card details. Always keep your receipts and destroy them too.
- When you move, take the trouble to inform all the organizations you deal with of your new address and arrange for the post office to forward your mail. You don’t want a bank statement, new credit card or any other personal mail to be sent to an address you no longer live at, where anyone could take and open your post.
- Keep a record somewhere safe of plastic card, driving license and passport details. Some banks and credit card companies offer a registration service but it is often chargeable. If you lose your card or suspect it has been stolen, contact the bank or credit card company immediately. When destroying old cards, cut through the chip and magnetic strip.
- Always check a cash machine for signs of interference before you use it. Never accept a stranger’s offer of help when using a cash machine. Do be aware of people crowding around you when using a cash machine and preferably draw out money during the day.
- Never let your bank or credit card out of your sight in shops and restaurants to prevent copying or cloning.
- When shopping on the internet, check that the website shows a padlock or unbroken key icon. When you check out make sure that ‘https:’ starts the web address; this means that a secure, encrypted connection is in place between your computer’s browser and the website. If you don’t see the final ‘s’ when you come to checkout, stop the transaction immediately. The VeriSignTrust seal means that the website company’s identity has been verified and that the website has passed a daily malware scan.
- Internet Shopping is Safe (ISIS) is run by the e-retail industry body Internet Media Retail Group (IMRG) and shows that the retailer has registered with the programme and has its website and service reviewed and monitored by IMRG. You can click on the ISIS logo to get verification of the retailer’s accreditation.
- Install security software on your laptop (and desktop computer) and always carry it hidden inside a sports bag rather than in its own obvious case.