Identity Theft is becoming a bigger and bigger problem every day. Your identity goes through many different processes each day and those processes can be contributing to identity theft each and every day. When your identity is mishandled or misused it can easily fall into the hands of someone who can take advantage of your good name. What should you be watching for and what can you do to protect your identity? It is important for you to know how identities get stolen and what you can do to protect yourself.
The first method of identity theft is known as “Dumpster Diving”. A thief will go through your trash to find bits and pieces of information that they can use. Sometimes the smallest piece of information can be added to your other information to get the complete identity. It is important that you do not throw anything away into your trash that has your personal information. Bank Account statements, credit card statement, medical information and billing can provide a huge amount of information. This type of information should be stored for its designated amount of time, and then it should be destroyed. A Cross-cut shredder is a great investment and if you purchase the right one, you can also destroy old credit cards and compact discs that have your personal information.
Another method is known as “Skimming”. An Identity thief can take your credit card and swipe that through a special storage device. That device takes all of the information from your card and stores it. Then the thief can transfer that information to another card with a magnetic stripe so that your information is now on the “new” card. A recent television station showed how easy it was to steal the information and they transferred the information to a hotel key card. Then they went to local stores and purchased items using the hotel key card as the stolen credit card information. Not one store caught them processing the key card and they were able to walk out with lots of merchandise. It is important to keep your eye on your card as it is being processed. Now this is not always possible, especially at restaurants, but you certainly can monitor your accounts to make sure that they are being used as you want. Monitoring your credit card accounts, especially online, can give you immediate access to your information and you will be able to see when something is not being used properly.
The third way for identity theft is “Phishing”. It is pronounced Fishing and it is when the thief pretends to be a financial institution or company and they send spam or pop-up messages hoping to get your personal information. This is done mostly by computer or telephone. Never give your personal information out to someone who is unknown. You can call the company back and give them information rather than giving out your information to someone on the phone. If you purchase items online make sure that you are working on the proper website and under a secure connection. Never give your personal information to a pop-up window.
Another way to become a victim of identity theft is the old fashioned way of “Stealing”. The thief will steal your wallet or your purse, take your mail including bank and credit card statements. They also will steal pre-approved credit offers and check or tax information. They will steal your personnel records or bribe other associates that have access to your personal information. It is important for you to monitor your information and keep track of when things come to your mail. Watch your mail for your statements and other information that could easily be used in identity theft. If you come up missing information, don’t be afraid of calling your bank or credit card company and let them know that you did not get your statement. Then with online access you can monitor your accounts to see if anyone uses your information without your permission.
The last way your identity could be stolen is one that could be the most difficult to find out. If the thief uses a false pretense to gather your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies and other sources, they could use that information to get better information on you. That new information can give them information that would allow them to get your bank and credit card numbers, information on your credit report and information regarding your savings or investment portfolios.
There are many ways that information can be stolen and you can’t protect yourself from them all. But with your diligence it can help you avoid situations that could cause problems and financial loss. Observation is important because you can see that the thief is observing you and will take advantage of any miscues you make regarding your identity. You can file complaints with your local police department and with the FTC. Simple observation by you will keep most thieves at bay and your identity safe.