Millions of people are severely impacted by identity theft every year. By obtaining just a small amount of your personal information, criminal minded individuals can easily apply for credit cards, bank accounts and medical benefits in your name. Criminals will implement various tactics to acquire this information; many of them are even bold enough to steal it from you.
Here are just some of the ways an identity thief can steal your personal information:
• – physically snatching your purse or wallet
• – stealing personal records or information from your job
• – bribing employees on the job who have access to personal records
• – hacking personal records via computer
• – intercepting mail to steal credit card and bank account statements, credit offers, new checkbooks and important tax information
• – dumpster diving through personal and public trash bins in search of information
• – peeking over your shoulder in the checkout lane, an act known as shoulder surfing
• – capturing the information from your credit or debit card in a data storage device, a practice known as skimming
• – diverting your personal mail to another address by submitting a simple change of address form at the post office
• – using internet email and fraudulent web sites to trick you into giving out the information
Are You a Victim?
Identity theft can be so damaging because most people will go weeks or even months before knowing that they have been victimized. By the time they do find out, clearing their name is often an expensive task. Here are a few warning signs that will help you determine if identity theft has occurred:
Missing mail – if important mail such as your routine bank account statements and credit card bills suddenly stop coming in, there may be a cause for concern.
Trash tampered with – those holes in your garbage bag may not have come from the neighborhood squirrel. Identity thieves are well known for sifting through personal trash bins, sometimes taking the entire bag.
Unexplained bills or services – what you think is junk mail could be a clue to identity theft. If you begin to receive invoices about items and services you never signed up for, there may be a need to investigate.
Unusual account activity – unauthorized payments and direct debit charges on your bank account or credit card statements is one of identity theft’s most telling signs.
Protect Yourself From Identity Thieves
These days, criminals will stop at nothing to steal your identity. Their methods range from simplistic to sophisticated. Some may attempt to steal this information from a computer, while others are bold enough to thieve it right in your presence. Regardless of how it comes, you should always protect yourself from this rapidly growing crime. Here is what you can do:
• – shred all documents containing personal information such as bank account numbers, medical insurance details and Social Security numbers
• – remain suspicious of banking institutions that contact you via email. Also remember that a legitimate institution will never request sensitive information through email
• – never open any attachment in an unsolicited email
• – shield your personal information when making purchases out in public