Identity theft is no longer an unusual occurrence. It is rapidly evolving and is quickly becoming a socio-economic inevitability. Identity theft is the fastest growing white-collar crime. It is a crime in which an impostor obtains key pieces of your personal identifying information such as your Social Security number or driver’s license number and uses them for their own personal gain. Identity pirates can gather all sorts of confidential information about you by prowling the Web. They begin with the misuse of your personally identifying information such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. Once they have this information, identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name.
An Identity thief can take your personal information from your mail box or your home. Identity theft is bad enough but right now it is also pretty much of a cottage industry relying primarily on techniques like dumpster diving. Identity theft laws and crack-downs, while improving, are definitely not where they should be. It’s hard to pin down, because each law enforcement agency may classify ID theft differently–it can involve credit card fraud, Internet fraud, or mail theft, among other crimes.
Detecting Identity Theft & Credit Card Fraud
A key way to detect fraudulent accounts is through credit monitoring / reports. Review your credit information regularly (free annual reports are available from the Credit Reporting Bureaus) Visit your bank’s, credit card issuer’s or biller’s web site(s) frequently to monitor regular account activity. Victims of identity theft don’t normally know they’ve been victimized until:They are contacted by a collection agency over past due accounts they never knew they had; significant charges may show up on a credit card bill for purchases they never made; a lender tries to repossess a car they didn’t know they owned; or they are contacted by the police after a crime is committed in their name. It is important to resolve fraud promptly, minimizing losses and protecting your credit record. You should ask your financial provider about zero-liability guarantees against fraud and dedicated resources to help you resolve and recover from any potential losses. Some banks will work with you if you have an account at their bank. If you are a Victim of theft, promptly notify your financial providers, begin monitoring your accounts more frequently, and place an “alert” at all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion). when someone uses your name, Social Security number, credit card number or some other piece of your personal information to apply for a credit card, make unauthorized purchases, gain access to your bank accounts or obtain loans under your name.
Problems On The Internet
Schemes known as “phishing” use e-mail messages to lure unwitting consumers to Web sites masquerading as home pages of trusted banks and credit card issuers, corporate security specialists say. Online visitors are then induced to reveal passwords as well as bank account, Social Security and credit card numbers. The crimes ranged from the theft of a credit card number to more elaborate identity thefts used to secure loans.
Thieves have turned toward the theft of information, and specifically personal information, because with an assumed identity criminals can purchase goods and services at will using someone else’s credit..
Social Security Issues
Do you use your Social Security number for identification. The identity thief uses key pieces of your information such as Social Security and driver’s license numbers to obtain credit, merchandise and services in your name. Almost 50 percent of students have had grades posted by Social Security number. While there are many ways to get a Social Security Number on someone, most criminals start with a phone book. They may use your name and Social Security number to get government benefits. Theives may get a job using your Social Security number.
A new Social Security number may not resolve your identity theft problems, and may actually create new problems. Even if the old credit information is not associated with your new Social Security number, the absence of any credit history under your new Social Security number may make it more difficult for you to get credit. And finally, there’s no guarantee that a new Social Security number wouldn’t also be misused by an identity thief.
Each of these actions places you at risk of being a victim of identity theft because each requires you to share personal information such as your bank and credit card account numbers, your Social Security number, or your name, address, and phone number.
- Based on the latest findings, the Better Business Bureau, Wells Fargo, Visa and CheckFree have issued the following tips for consumers to protect themselves against financial identity fraud: Prevent access to your personal information
- Replace paper bills, statements and checks with Internet (paperless) versions
- Consider moving to an electronic bill payment service, such as your bank or biller’s web site,
- Stop sending signed paper checks through the mail.
Many of the most vicious cases, say analysts, involve corporate insiders who hijack sensitive personal information from corporate databases in order to begin picking people’s pockets. Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company. Avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.
Be aware of how information is stolen and what you can do to protect yours, monitor your personal information to uncover any problems quickly, and know what to do when you suspect your identity has been stolen. They can steal your wallet or purse, or convince you to give out personal information. In short, any piece of paper you no longer need that contains personal information. Do you use your personal computer to buy merchandise or purchase tickets for travel, concerts, or other services. This is the same personal information that identity thieves use to commit fraud. Once they have your personal information, identity thieves use it in a variety of ways.
Fixing The Damage
Victims are spending more time to resolve identity fraud cases, which has increased from 33 hours in 2003 to 40 hours in 2006. Typically, victims don’t have to pay debts incurred by another person, however that’s not the point, the time, the stress, and the many sleepless nights you have to go through to clean up your record that really hurts most victims. It can take months and even years to undo the damage inflicted on the reputation of the victims and the stressful trail of destruction that takes its toll.
Prevention Is The Best Remedy
Experts say that the solution to preventing identity theft is a simple, three-step process:
- Curb the use of the Social Security number as a unique identifier for business use, a measure that has been introduced in Congress and defeated several times over the past decade
- Force credit-granting agencies to require more identifiers and shore up their credit card policies
- Restrict all selling of personal information by credit bureaus, state and federal agencies, and marketing firms.
Preventing identity theft is not as hard as it may seem. From a personal perspective, make sure that you take advantage of technologies that enhance your security and privacy when you use the Internet, such as digital signatures, data encryption, and “anonymity” services. Companies and their management need to be more aware of how they’re putting their customers at risk.
Obviously, identity theft is not only of great concern for the individual affected, but by the financial institutions that are deceived by this practice. According to the FBI, Identity Theft is the fasting growing crime in the US. And it is is costing an estimated $6 Billion.
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