Posted under: Finances
Of course you do. You are a person and you have a life. You do many things as ‘you’ – buy, sell, you name it, you have a life in this world. That’s the good news – you’re alive. The bad news is that someone else may just want to ‘borrow’ that life you’ve created.
While statistics vary, it is estimated that between 8.5 and 10 million people per year are victims of identity thieves and the threat is growing. And that’s in the U.S. alone!
It’s not important whether I am buying a butt scratcher or Bugatti – it is at least my money to spend! However, when ID theft takes place they take more than my money. They steal the blood, sweat and tears that went into making my life. These intruders seek to live the good life on my nickel, pence, shilling, or what have you.
Identity theft describes the case when someone uses information that personally identifies you to pretend to be you. Impersonation is often used to describe identity theft. It is fraud, plain and simple. These crafty criminals go through a lot of hard work to steal a life you worked even harder to create. They sweep in, take what’s yours, and drain it.
Types of ID Theft
Here’s a short list of the types of identity theft that can be pursued by criminals and used for profit:
Computer and online
Investment, pension and trading accounts
Corporate and business
How Is It Done?
Dumpster Diving: Be aware of what you are throwing out, whether at home or the office. Credit card bills, pre-authorized credit cards, and anything with names, addresses, account numbers, passwords, social security numbers, PINs, and a host of other pieces of personal information can be used. I have three words for you to deal with all this paper – shred it all.
Skimming: You know when you pay with your credit or debit card? Yeah, skimming is when they sneakily store your card information in a device for later extraction. Most of us hand over our credit cards to staff in restaurants and retail outlets. Most times there are no consequences, but there is always a risk.
Phishing: This is impersonation at its finest! When you get an email that pretends to be your computer security software, email admin, bank or credit card company, or a government entity, beware. Your about to be had! Some software programs are so sophisticated that they will mimic the site you’re attempting to do business with, placing corporate logo and other legitimizing images to deceive you into believing it is really legitimate.
Look, when the ‘site’ asks for about every piece of personal identification information under the guise of attempting to ‘verify’ your identity, look out – not legit. It can be extensive – mailing address, phone number, birth date, account numbers, PINs, and social security number. Institutions warn customers that they would never ask for that kind of detail in an unsecured network setting, and not even in an apparently secure one. Another sign you may be in the wrong place is when your computer redirects you to a different page location. Check the URL address. If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t.
Hacking: We have all heard of hackers, but these are thieving hackers after information from your personal computer or from an institution in a ‘stealing in bulk’ kind of style. This can also be done in locations where free open wireless systems can be easily monitored and data stolen. Locations like coffee shops and airports are favorites.
‘Old Fashioned’ Stealing: Yes, stealing, good old fashioned stealing, which includes snatching purses, wallets or even copying employment files from someone’s office.
Defending Our Identity – To War!
While it is just another pain in the rear, being more alert just seems necessary in this day where making life easier creates new sets of risks at the same time. Buying on the web and online banking and bill pay are great conveniences, to be sure. We can reduce our chances of getting ripped off by being a bit more careful with routine activities – buying, selling, handling personal mail, bills, and even junk mail. Deter these thieves by shredding documents and protecting your personal information. Keep personal information locked up, including passports, account information, user names and passwords, and social security numbers.
Detect suspicious activity by being proactive and vigilant. I (Kermit) recently had a case where I suspected I had been duped by an online ‘phishing’ program. Immediately afterward (after berating myself for letting it happen), I notified my credit card company of the possible breach. They watch such accounts more closely and move promptly to replace the card.
While I’m poor at it, I know it is wise to regularly review my credit report and make sure to challenge suspicious charges, claims, or activities. If it goes bad, it can be really bad. There is the emotional cost and financial, of course, but the time and cost of cleaning up the damage to your name and reputation (credit report) can take years.
In sum, defend yourself by being alert and proactive in monitoring your identity. I want to make sure you have enough of your identity intact, and money, to afford our products and services in the future.
It may just be a good idea to subscribe to reputable companies who will be another set of eyes on your identity – only they’re working for you, not against.