With the increase of online usage such as online shopping and other bank related online transactions, the world has seen a steady increase of cases of identity theft. One might have seen the news or online articles regarding different horror story of identity theft victims.
According to 2017 Identity Fraud Study done by Javelin Strategy & Research, in 2016, 16 billion dollars were stolen from 15.4 million US consumers compared with 15.3 billion dollars and 13.1 victims in the year 2015.
By definition, identity theft is unlawful and unauthorized access and usage of another person’s identifying information such as name, social security number, credit card information or bank account information for the commission of fraud or other crimes. Thieves are able to access your private information through various ways.
Methods of Identity Theft
The most common methods are through your mail, trash, phishing, conning, skimming, and straightforward theft; however, the methods of retrieving information are endless and constantly evolving.
Sending emails as “legitimate” financial institutions in order to deceive people in putting their passwords and other account information
Inserting a device in the ATM and machines that captures your personal information
- Straightforward Theft
This is the smash and grab approach done through stealing wallets, pickpocketing and stealing records from companies.
Criminals would call pretending to be customer service agents of a bank or a retailer company then, they would ask you to give out your information in order to verify your identity.
They steal your mails taking advantage of credit card and bank offers; thus, going on sprees and purchases under your account.
These thieves are called dumpster diver. They gather information through going over your financial statements, old bills then, they utilize this information to open new accounts and assume your identity entirely.
These crooks are not just stealing your money but your identity as a person. They can perform numerous unlawful tasks using your name such as buying things under your name, open new credit cards, steal your tax refund, open gas, electricity or gas account, get medical insurance or even worst, pretend to be you during arrests.
It can be prevented
Knowing how these thieves retrieve your information provides the general public the opportunities to put in key measures to hinder the criminals from easily accessing personal data.
- Shred Documents
Make shredding a habit especially for financial documents and other correspondence before dumping them.
- Lock your mailbox
Restrict easy access to your mailbox by putting a lock most especially when you go on vacations or out of town. According to Good Housekeeping, 40% of identity thieves sourced their information through going over people’s mail.
- Limit offers
Inform your credit card providers by filling up a form online or calling a toll free number to let them know that you prefer not to get pre-approved/prescreened credit offers by mail.
- Unsolicited Requests
Say “no” whether it’s an unknown call, email or someone showing up at your door asking for personal information. It may be difficult to verify the identity of the person but always keep in mind that reputable companies don’t ask you to provide sensitive information. Verify their offers by directing calling your financial institution. Look for their contact information at the back of your card.
We have seen movies like The Net where identity theft can lead to legal implications and psychological effects to the person such as paranoia, anger issues, depression, and anxiety problems. The only way to protect yourself from these criminals it to always safeguard your digital and personal information.