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January 2010

Understanding identity theft and how to avoid it

by Staff, on business, check, computer, credit, fraud, identity, identity theft, mail, mailbox, Money, password, personal, personal info, search, steal, transactions, understanding identity theft

According to the FTC, identity theft is basically fraud whereby a person pretends to be someone else so that he/she can steal money or get other benefits. In the United States alone, over 9 million people have their identities stolen each year. The term ‘identity theft’ was first used in 1964. Although there are many laws aimed at reducing cases of identity theft, there is a lot of money to be made by unscrupulous persons, especially online, so there is no end in sight.

Note that identity theft and identity fraud are two different things, but the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Identity fraud is the fraud that occurs once someone has stolen your identity, meaning a person can steal your identity without committing identity fraud, such as with data breach.

There are different types of identity theft. These are business or commercial identity theft whereby someone uses your business name to get credit, criminal identity theft where someone poses as you when apprehended after a crime, financial identity theft where someone uses your identity to get goods and/or services, identity cloning where someone uses your personal information such as your Social Security Number and card and poses as you in his/her daily life, and medical identity theft where someone uses your information to get medical care and/or drugs.

There are several ways of protecting yourself from identity theft. The most effective way is to know how those involved in identity theft acquire personal information in the first place. This will help you avoid becoming a victim. Those involved in identity theft get personal info by stealing mail or going through your garbage, getting information from equipment that you no longer use such as computers, research through government registers, public records, or search engines, pick-pocketing, skimming through a card reader that has been compromised, eavesdropping on transactions, advertising bogus job offers, infiltrating organizations containing personal information such as banks, reading information from an RFID chip remotely, browsing social network for personal information, and stealing checks.

Only deal with credible – do thorough research and better still, only use those that have been recommended by people you trust. You should be careful about sharing information over the net. Always ask how personal information will be used and ask about who is responsible for safeguarding this information.

Shred all papers that contain personal information – do not throw out papers and letters without shredding.

Memorize your PINs and passwords and then destroy the paper containing the information – do not keep your PINs and your computer passwords in your wallet. Use a strong computer password and keep your computer free from spyware by installing a strong antivirus.

Lock your home mailbox. Alternatively, rent a mailbox at the post office.

Immediately after realizing your identity theft has been stolen, you should file a police report. You should also check your credit reports to see the damage that has been done and you should stop the card immediately. You should notify your creditors and you should dispute all unauthorized transactions. You can get more details on what you should do by visiting DEFEND: Recover from Identity Theft. Staff