It is your right to keep your personal information confidential. You should be conscientious about ID thieves around you because if you are victimized one day it could become devastating to you and your family. Identification theft is the acquiring of someone’s key identifying information in order to impersonate them. Examples of you key identifying information include:
- Date of birth
- Address (physical &/or mailing)
- ID numbers such as driver’s license, passport, etc.
- Bank account numbers
- Credit card numbers
- Utility service account numbers such as telephone, electricity, etc.
The main reason an ID thief wants your information is so they can access your financial accounts, apply for loans and lines of credit such as credit cards in your name and to obtain utility company service such as cell phone and electric power.
To get your information ID thieves’ techniques range from simply looking over your shoulder at the ATM, stealing your mail/wallet/purse, and going through your trash; to more advanced techniques such as fake telemarketing phone calls, phishing emails and even corrupting postal employees.
Things your can do to protect yourself include:
- Be aware of people around you when at the ATM
- Never leave receipts in ATM’s, gasoline pumps, etc.
- Memorize all your passwords and PIN’s
- Never loan your credit card to anyone
- Shred all documents containing your identifying information before dumping
- Leave credit cards and ID’s that you do not need at home
- Pick up your check orders
- Stop pre-approved credit card offers, thieves can activate them with you knowing
- Pay bills online, thieves can steal your mail to get your info
- Never give personal information over the phone
- Beware of telemarketing calls that ask for your personal information
- Reconcile your monthly bank account and credit card statements
- Report all lost or stolen credit cards immediately
- Only use on-line services your subscribe to
- Never respond to emails that you do not know who the source is
The latest form of identify theft is more sophisticated than ever – email phishing. Essentially you will receive an email that appears to come from a legitimate source like a well known and trusted business or financial institution and typically includes an urgent request for personal information from you for the purpose of updating their records.
You will either be asked to reply to the email or click on a link to take your to their form that needs to be completed. By following the link, your will be redirected to an official looking website where you will be asked to input your personal information. However, instead of the information being sent to the real company, your information is sent directly to the ID thief.
It can be virtually impossible to tell that it is a fake website because these websites look almost exactly like the real website. However, there are clues in the address bar and lack of a website security icon (a small gold padlock located on the bottom of the web page) that can help reveal that the website is fraudulent.
If you believe the email or website is fraudulent, do not respond to anything. Stop. Call the company to explain what happened. Don’t call the number on the website; look up the number in your records or in the telephone directory to ensure your have the correct contact telephone number. Then monitor your financial statements over the next several months to ensure there are no suspicious transactions.
If you believe someone has stolen your personal information monitor your financial statements for unusual or suspicious transactions and report anything that is discovered immediately, contact all your creditors (by phone and writing) to inform them about the problem, request a new password or PIN and call the local police.