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Identity theft is any type of crime, scam, or deception that may result in the loss of personal information such as passwords, usernames, credit card numbers, banking data, health ID’s, and social security numbers. When these are stolen, they’re often used without authorization from the owners to commit a wide range of crimes.
Identity Theft Techniques you should beware of
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Even with the current technological advancements which allow identity fraudsters to get personal data through hacking, experts opine that these fraudsters still use conventional methods. These include dumpster diving, also known as the process of getting discarded mail or personal paperwork from public and business waste dustbins.
Often, beneficiaries of pre-approved credit card applications discard them without shredding them. This gives identity thieves sufficient information they can use to try and activate the credit cards and eventually using them. Shoulder surfing is another method of obtaining information fraudulently.
What other Techniques do Identity Thieves use?
Spam email and Phishing are popular methods that criminals use to trick unsuspecting people to surrender their data to identity thieves pretending to be authorized financial entities, individuals who make monetary promises to obtain information, or trusted colleagues. Often, the email comes with attachments comprising of malware aimed at stealing personal links or data to phony websites where individuals may be prompted to key in their information.
How do you know when Your Identity is Stolen?
Various signs tell you that you could be a victim of identity theft. They include:
- When you notice withdrawals from your bank account that you haven’t instituted
- When you notice false charges and accounts on your credit report
- When you don’t receive your bills on time or other critical mail comprising of sensitive information
- When you’re denied a health plan because your medical records show a condition that you don’t suffer from
- When you receive notification of data violation at an organization that keeps your data
- If you’ve lost your wallet containing crucial documents
What to do if you are a Victim of Identity Theft
There are different forms of personal identification that thieves can use to steal from you. If you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft, you will need to:
- Report stolen checks to the check verification organization, close your savings and checking accounts, and get new account numbers. You’ll also need to forward to the bank your secret password for the account.
- Get a new account number, ATM card, and password if your ATM has been stolen. Remember to use complex passwords to enhance your account’s security
What else can you do when Your Identity is lost?
There are numerous actions you can take depending on what has been stolen as seen below.
- If you realize that your address has been fraudulently changed: notify the postal inspector within your locality. You’ll also need to let the local postmaster and the carrier know about the incidence. Have them forward all mail addressed to you to your address.
- If you lose your social security number, call the social security administrator immediately. In severe cases, you may need to get a new number.
How to Improve Identity theft protection
To protect yourself from identity theft, you need a comprehensive understanding of what identity theft is. You’ll also need solid methods aimed at protecting your information from identity thieves. Many people across the world hardly take the necessary steps required to protect their data from identity thieves.
Studies suggest that only 18% of adults in the USA utilize a paid credit tracking product to safeguard their identities. The study further found out that 13% of people in the US utilize tracking tools to monitor their finances and credit. Further, 81% of the people interviewed said they depend on their credit card companies and banks to protect them from identity theft.
Safeguarding Yourself from Identity theft
To protect your personal information from identity thieves, you need to adopt various strategies to reduce the chances of becoming a victim. You should aim at creating as many barriers and tripwires as possible using your data. A complex strategy will discourage and frustrate potential identity thieves from attacking you. The following steps will come in handy.
Use Passwords Strictly
Passwords are necessary when it comes to protecting your data. Still, not many people agree to this fact with studies showing that 50% of US residents don’t use passwords on all of their digital gadgets. Surprisingly, 30% of Americans think that setting up a password is a difficult task. Remember, failure to use passwords on your gadgets puts you at risk of getting attacked by identity thieves. When it comes to using passwords, make sure they are strong.
Avoid using the same Password on All Your Gadgets
Many people use the same password on all their gadgets, and other crucial accounts, something that identity thieves are aware of. When you use a single password, you give fraudsters an easy time accessing all your accounts. Use different passwords and avoid using obvious passwords such as your date of birth or name. Use a complex password that won’t be easy to compromise.
Avoid Suspicious Links and Websites
Never click on suspicious links received through text messages or emails. Remember, identity thieves, use websites and emails that appear similar to your credit card company, bank, or other financial institutions to trick you into surrendering information. If you think that a link is a suspect report it as spam. Avoid typing your username or password in suspect login screens.
Never Surrender Personal Information
Identity thieves could pose as a credit company or bank employee when conversing with you over the phone. However, this shouldn’t convince you to trust them. Bear in mind that no authentic organization calls and asks for personal information such as PIN, credit card, or bank number.
If you suspect that the caller is legitimate, you may want to ask them for their credentials, disconnect the call, and get in touch with the organization through their official numbers to confirm the caller’s identity.
How to report identity theft
If you suspect that you’re a victim of identity theft, you first want to report the matter to the nearest police department. While many people opine that you can only report to the police if you know the perpetrator, you may need to present a police report to your creditors and banks to prove your identity when the need to refute any new accounts or charges arises. After reporting the matter to the police, you’ll want to: replace stolen identification documents and safeguard your identity.
Which action will be least helpful if you’ve been a victim of identity theft?
The worst thing you can do if you realize that you’re a victim of identity theft is to do nothing. Remember, you need to report to the police, and take stringent measures to enhance security for your personal information.
How to Prevent Identity Theft
On average, an identity theft victim will spend approximately 600 hours proving out their identity. This involves acquiring affidavits and reports to prove the theft, establishing what have and hasn’t been compromised, and attempting to get back their identity. This is a lot of time that victims have to spend before recovering from a crime.
While you may want to adopt stringent protection measures, achieving 100% protection is impossible. Still, there’s some good news. You can highly reduce your risk of falling victim to identity thieves by taking immediate action when your data has been compromised. Here are some actions you should consider taking.
Place a Fraud Warning
You can do this by getting in touch with a credit bureau. A fraud warning lasts between 90 days and seven years and alerts businesses to be extra cautious in confirming your identity is and when action is taken on your credit.
Request for Your Free Credit Reports
You’re entitled to receive one credit report annually for free from different credit bureaus in the USA. If you’re a victim of identity theft, you may want to order one report every four months. This way, you can be able to monitor your credit closely throughout the year.
Track Your Accounts Online
Today, many banks have an online feature allowing customers to view their accounts online. With this feature, you can easily sign up, and log in as frequently as possible to keep a tab on your accounts. This way, you’ll ensure that no unapproved charges have been instituted on your account. Neither write down your login data nor tell it to anyone.
As technology evolves, identity theft is becoming more rampant. Cases of victims of identity theft abide every day. While you can’t protect yourself 100%, you can adopt some measures to reduce the chances of getting attacked. The tips included here should help you protect your data from fraudsters.