It seems as if every time you turn on the TV news these days, there is some story at least once or twice a week about some new identity theft scam. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes of this decade and if you have not taken pro-active steps to protect your identify, it is not a matter of "if" it will happen to you, but "when". |
First let's review what happens in an identify theft crime. A thief gets enough of your personal information to be able to open accounts in your name. It's really as simple as that. Such information would include items that would normally be used to open a new account somewhere such as your social security number, your driver's license number, and with some accounts, even less information may be required, as surprising as that sounds. Once the thief has opened the new accounts such as Visa cards, department store cards, even personal loans, the thief gets as much money as he can on those accounts, then disappears into the sunset. The first time you are aware that your identity has been compromised is when you get a phone call from one or more of the accounts inquiring as to your plans for your very high and very past due balance on an account that you didn't even know you had.
Some people claim that modern technology is to blame for the growing problem of identity theft crimes, but that is simply a knee-jerk reaction. Modern technology is not the cause of the problem, although it does make unsuspecting people more vulnerable to identity theft. Many people, particularly seniors, when they go online and get an email supposedly from their bank asking them to "verify their information due to a possible security breach" think they are doing the right thing by clicking on the provided link and verifying their information. But what they do not realize is that their bank never sent such an email, and even if they did, would not request information to be verified online. That email was originated by somebody trying to steal their identity, and this email scam is typically known as "phishing".
Does the knowledge that one should NEVER respond to such an email from someone who claims to represent your bank or credit union's fraud department, come automatically? Unfortunately not. Many people are not tech-savvy enough to realize that a bank or credit union or other financial institution would never ask you to verify your personal information online. But for unsuspecting people, such an email, complete with the graphic logo of their bank, think the email is official and fall prey to such email schemes. Creating a fake email that looks very official is something that even most fifth graders could do today.
Your best protection against identity theft is good old common sense. Whenever anyone asks you for very personal and sensitive information such as your social security number or even your date of birth, the red flags and alarms should start sounding in your head. Why do they need this information and what will they do with it? Especially safeguard your PIN code for your ATM card or credit cards, since there is no valid reason on the face of the earth why you would have to give that to someone. If someone allegedly works for the bank, then they already have access to that information and you do not need to give it to them.
Again, just use common sense. The problem is not with the Internet, it is not a problem with technology, the real problem is that people are too willing to divulge personal information to people who have no business asking for it. Keep your guard up and take precautions to make sure you are not the next victim of identity theft being featured in the evening news! For more insights and additional information about Identity Theft Protection please visit our web site at http://www.identity-theft-info.com
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