“To Criminals, it’s a faceless crime”; so quoted a special fraud investigator. Yet to those affected, it’s a crime that results in a fight for your credit, your good name, and your sanity. It is “identity theft”.
Identity theft is a breed of crime that’s considered to be both complex and potentially devastating. Often difficult to investigate, and the perpetrator seldom prosecuted, identity theft often leaves the victim with a damaged reputation, bad credit, and a keen sense of distrust.
This leaves us with three important questions.
1.) What methods are used in identity theft?
2.) What can you do if you are a victim?
3.) What steps can you take to protect yourself from identity theft?
“Awake”! relays some vital information on this subject outlined below.
* The Methods.
A. Identity thieves usually steal one or more key pieces of the victims personal information, such as their drivers license or identification number by way of…
1.) ‘Dumpster diving’- digging into trash cans for credit card records, and bank or mortgage records.
2.) Intercepting any mail (related to finances) from mailboxes.
3.)Shoulder surfing- using cameras or binoculars, to watch their victims punch in pin numbers at public phones or ATM’s. Using camera phones to take pictures of the victims credit card number while they stand waiting in line.
4.) Disguising themselves as telemarketers, financial advisor’s, or a sales person needing personal information for credit card applications.
B. Once they’ve obtained these key pieces of information, they use it to impersonate the victim, and open up credit accounts in the victims name.
C. They ensure that any paperwork involved is sent to their own mail drop.
D. They spend as much as they possibly can as quickly as they can.
* Stealing Your Name.
A. Since much personal information is available in public documents at courts, or on the Internet, a crook can obtain other identifying information such as…
1.) your date of birth
2.) your address
3.) your phone number
B. With this information in hand, he can obtain a false drivers license with his picture on it, thereby enabling him to apply for instant credit through the mail, or in person-posing as you. Often, he will provide an address of his own, claiming that he has changed addresses.
* What To Do If You Are A Victim.
1.) Call and notify the fraud divisions of the credit bureaus in your area.
2.) Follow up with a written statement- requesting that you be contacted to verify future credit requests.
3.) File a police report (get a copy of the police report- you may need it to notify creditors).
4.) Notify any banks and credit card companies you do business with (this includes any retail stores you may have a credit card with).
5.) Get new cards reissued. Obtain new ATM cards and new personal identification numbers.
6.) If your checking and savings account has been effected, open new ones.
* How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft.
1.) Only give out your identification number when it is vital to do so.
2.) Never carry your identification card, passport, birth certificate, or extra credit cards in your purse or wallet, unless it is absolutely necessary.
3.) Shred preapproved credit applications, bank statements, credit card receipts, and phone bills before throwing them away.
4.) Use your hand as a shield when using the atm, and when using a phone card.
5.) Use your body as a shield (or hand the card to the cashier so that the numbers are not visible-upside down) when handing your credit card to a cashier.
6.) Get a locked mailbox to reduce mail theft.
7.) Instead of having new checks mailed to you, pick them up at the bank.
8.) Keep a list or a photocopy of all credit account numbers in a safe place.
9.) Never give out your personal information or credit card numbers over the telephone, unless you have a trusted business relationship with the company, and only if you have initiated the call.
10.) Do not keep written passwords in your purse or wallet. Opt to memorize them.
11.) Check on and get a copy of your credit report regularly.
12.) Get your name removed from companies that extend credit, and from promotional lists operated by credit reporting bureaus.
Law-enforcement agencies, credit institutions, and governments are endeavoring to find ways to prevent identity theft. However, become your own advocate; by using forethought and careful planning, you may help to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.