Identity theft and identity fraud are terms referring to types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.
Identity theft is on the rise. Recent surveys show there are currently 7-10 million victims per year.
There are four types of identity theft crime:
Financial ID Theft
A person typically focuses on your name and Social Security number (SSN). This person may apply for telephone service, credit cards or loans, buy merchandise, lease cars or apartments.
Criminal ID Theft
A person provides the victim's information instead of his or her own when stopped by law enforcement. Eventually when the warrant for arrest is issued it is in the name of the person issued the citation- yours.
A person uses the victim's information to establish a new life. They work and live as you. Examples: Illegal aliens, criminals avoiding warrants, people hiding from abusive situations or becoming a "new person" to leave behind a poor work and financial history.
Commercial Identity Theft
The person gets credit cards or checking accounts in the name of the business. The business finds out when unhappy suppliers send collection notices or their business rating score is affected.
15 Ways of reducing the risk of identity theft:
1- Check your credit report regularly
2- Secure personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your home.
3- minimize the amount of information someone can steal, do not carry extra credit cards, your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport in your wallet or purse, except when needed. Always store your wallet in a safe place.
4- Make sure you have a locked mailbox, post office box or commercial mailbox service. When you are away from home for an extended time, have your mail held at the Post Office, or ask someone you trust to pick it up.
5- Pickup new checks at the bank. Do not have them mailed to your home.
6- Reduce the number of credit cards you actively use to a minimum.
7- Cancel unused bank or credit accounts.
8- Keep a photocopy of all your credit cards, bank accounts, and investments.
9- Never give out your SSN, credit card number or other personal information unless you are sure the source is secure.
10- Do not throw out your credit card receipts in public places always take receipts with you.
11- When creating passwords and PINs (personal identification numbers), do not use the last four digits of your Social Security number, mother's maiden name, your birthdate, middle name, pet's name, consecutive numbers or anything else that could easily be discovered by thieves. It's best to create passwords that combine letters and numbers.
12- Install and update virus protection software to prevent a worm or virus from causing your computer to send out files or other stored information
13- Do not open files sent to you by strangers, or click on hyperlinks or download programs from people you don't know. Opening a file could expose your system to a computer virus which could capture your passwords or any other information as you type it into your keyboard.
14- Install a firewall on your home computer to prevent hackers from obtaining personal identifying and financial data from your hard drive
15- Before disposing of your computer, remove data by using a strong "wipe" utility program. Do not rely on the "delete" function to remove files containing sensitive information