Guest Post by Adam Garey
What can be worse than losing your own identity ? A loss of sense of self ? Well, this is not just a philosophical . Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes, a matter of great concern for the authorities and people in general. You might be making blunders which could result into your identity being stolen without even realizing it . Read on to know how to avoid them , after all prevention is better than cure.
Let’s first define identity theft though keep in mind, there is no one universally accepted definition of these kinds of crimes because of their complex nature.
According to department of justice , identity theft occurs when a person knowingly transfers possesses or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with intent to commit, or to aid or in connection with , any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable state or legal law.
Listed below are some of the most common ways of identity theft
- Social security numbers give an instant access to personal information which is used widely at various institutions for security purposes as insurance companies, military identification, and banks. Placed in wrong hands, it can create havoc in your life. And if any malicious activity is done using your social security number, you are the first individual to come under the scanner.
- By stealing your confidential mail from your mail box or by sorting through your trash can taking hold of important information as your passwords, receipts, appointments, card details. One can use this acquired information to rob you, make purchases in your name. Even your stolen smartphones can be used to steal your personal information and bank details, and no! Your entry password will not protect it.
- Drug peddlers often steal medical pads from hospitals of medical staff and doctors to fill it with false prescription, show it at local pharmacies, obtain drugs and then, pass it on to drug ab users. This way, you may unknowingly have become a part of a drug racket as it is YOUR name on the prescription pad that is being abused.
- Check-cashing stores usually ask for personal and account information, this could be passed on to groups and individual who use this information to produce duplicate checks , people pretending to be you could walk in to a bank or locker and withdraw your money or personal belongings.
- Sham tax business runs on the basis of stolen information from various agencies as hospitals, state agencies, call-centers, place of employments, HR records, and school / college records. These details can be passed on to people with malicious intent via people of have access to these servers.
- Terrorist activities can be carried out by a purchased vehicle registered under your name. When you renew your registration, make sure from authorities that previous registry records either are destroyed or a note is placed stating you no longer are responsible for that registration number.
- Misuse of ID, social security number and credit cards of deceased friends or family members for fraudulent purposes such as renting an apartment, securing a job (especially by ex-convicts).
- Providing false information to law enforcement when charged with a crime or traffic violation. Yes, if someone provides your address or number or identification, you may have to bear the heat until it is proven that the provided information is false. This falls under identity theft victimization.
- Online offenders may hack into businesses that maintain information legitimately, or through the use of Phishing, which involves spam e-mail campaigns to solicit information from would-be victims.
- You may even be tricked to voluntarily provide information by means as Pharming, in which hackers install malicious code to redirect victims to fraudulent websites or ask them to fill out some survey.
Smishing involves thieves using text messages to lure consumers to certain websites or phone numbers by offering lucrative deals.
Reading all these ways might have alarmed you thinking that it could happen to anyone. Do not panic. Following simple measures to prevent identity theft can safeguard you:
- Do not give out your social security number without seeing proper identification of personnel and question them whether it is absolutely necessary to give out that detail , usually showing your driver’s license also serves for identification purposes without having to give out your social security number.
- Lock your PO box and mail box , a simple manual lock may do the trick . Always shred or thoroughly tear your bank statements and credit card statements before throwing them into the bill . Same applies for your debit card withdrawal receipts .
- All medical personnel should print on their writing pads – “ please contact the personnel before handing out prescription”
- Do not give out all the details at check-cashing stores, ask them to contact via phone for further details or that you personally will enter the details.
- After being discharged from the hospital and payment of the bill, ask your insurance company to take care of details as they already have your information required, do not give you’re your personal details other than your medical history to the staff. Similarly, after leaving a job, request the HR department to not to hold on to information other than your contact details, CV and your work-performance related material.
- Always carry photocopied version of your identity cards . In case your wallet is stolen , you still remain in possession of your original documents and if the copy is misused, you can claim to authorities regarding its false nature . And immediately report the theft to suitable police station.
- Be very careful of what you click on. Be wary lucrative texts and deals and do not respond to any suspicious email asking for your details or help (even if it is a dear family member or friend, cal them up before making any hasty decisions) .
- Clean your temporary files regularly and change settings of your browser which would prevent sites and apps from accessing your location or download cookies into your system.
- Report frauds to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network Their 24X7 helpline number is 1-877-701-9595.
- Change your passwords regularly and do not keep a single password for all your accounts . use upper and lower cases and numerical and signs as – @#$%^&*() to increase strength of your passwords.
These are basic forms of identity theft and hence, these steps too are very basic. You may have to employ some complex safety measures to shield yourself from elaborate and complex hacks and hoaxes. These small and simple steps will go in a long way in preventing identity theft.
Author Bio: Adam Garey is a writer, blogger and speaker. He enjoys writing about cyber crime, identity theft and online scams. In his free time he writers for blog.protectmyid.