The Problem of Identity Theft
Some 500,000 to 700,000 Americans a year are at risk of having their identities stolen, according to government and private sector estimates. Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information and uses it to establish credit, borrow money, charge items or even commit crimes in your name.
While the incidence of internet identity theft is growing, fraud experts agree that you still are more likely to become a victim of this federal crime by more traditional means, such as improperly discarding credit card or other financial data. Here are some tips on how to avoid becoming an ID theft victim and
what to do should you be stung by one of these thieves.
Phishing attacks use email messages and web sites designed to look as if they come from a known and legitimate organization, in order to deceive users into disclosing personal, financial, or computer account information. The attacker can then use this information for criminal purposes, such as identity theft, larceny, or fraud. Users are tricked into disclosing their information either by providing it through a web form or by downloading and installing hostile software.
A phishing attack succeeds when a user is tricked into believing they're interacting with a legitimate company and thus takes actions that have effects contrary to the user's intentions. Usually this involves giving away a user's name and password.
Once the fraudster obtain this compromising, private information; they access the account to perform fraudulent activities, such as transferring a the balance of a checking account to an external account.
Protect Your Identity
- Never respond to unsolicited requests for your social security number (SSN) or financial data
- Before discarding, shred credit card, ATM receipts and any pre-approved credit offers you have received, but don’t plan to use
- Check all credit card and bank statements for accuracy
- Avoid easy to figure out access and personal ID (PIN) codes
- Obtain a copy of your credit report yearly and check it for accuracy
- Use only secure sites when making online purchases. Secure pages begin with "https."
- Pay for online purchases by credit card to assure you get what you paid for and to limit your liability
- Safeguard your SSN and check Earnings and Benefit Statements annually for fraudulent use.
Suspect ID theft if you’re denied credit for no apparent reason or if routine financial statements stop arriving in a timely manner.
If You Become a Victim
If you find you have become a victim of identity theft, immediately take the following actions:
- File a police report
- Contact your banker
- Notify all of those with whom you have a financial relationship
- Tag accounts closed due to fraud, "Closed at consumers request"
- Notify credit bureau fraud units
- Establish a password for telephone inquiries on credit card accounts
- Place a fraudulent alert statement on your credit report
- Request bi-monthly copies of your credit report until your case is resolved (Free to fraud victims)
- Report check theft to check verification companies
- Check post office for unauthorized change of address requests
- Follow-up contacts with letters and keep copies of all correspondence