Five things you need to know about identity theft
While this interconnectedness may make some things easier, less savory things, such as identity theft, seem to have become easier as well. Knowing how identity theft happens could help you better understand what information you need to help protect yourself.
1. Ways criminals can get your personal information:
Dumpster Diving: Criminals may go through your garbage or your recycling looking for bank statements, credit card offers, and other papers that could allow them to apply for accounts in your name.
Robbery: If you experience a break-in at home or if you are mugged, thieves may be less interested in stealing physical goods and more interested in obtaining personal documents such as birth certificates and Social Security cards, which they could use to steal your identity or sell for a pretty price on the dark web.
Phishing: Scammers may be able to steal private information electronically by sending unsolicited emails that contain software that searches computers and other devices for personal and financial data.
Phone Scams: Criminals may simply call people on the phone and pretend to be an established organization, such as the IRS or a bank, in order to convince individuals to give up their personal and financial information over the phone.
Data Dumps: Sophisticated hackers can rifle through the private customer data of retail stores, medical facilities, and credit card companies in order to access credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, and other identifying information.
2. Your online presence could hurt you
Oversharing or not making your social media accounts private enough may leave you vulnerable to identity theft. Just by looking through your social media accounts, a hacker may be able to identify your full name, home address, birthdate, and phone number. With this basic information they are able to apply for almost anything. Along with social media, the digital footprints you leave behind while online can be very risky, using public Wi-fi can allow others to find date about you as well.
3. You need to protect your kids and elders too
Adults aren’t the only targets for identity theft. Criminals have been known to steal the identity of children, especially because many parents or caregivers may not think to check their child’s credit history. Thieves may get away with stealing a minor’s identity for years because kids won’t typically access their credit history until they start taking steps toward establishing a financial record, such as applying for school loans, ID cards, or credit cards. To help protect their child’s identity, parents should request their child’s credit report each year.
The elderly are also targets for scammers as they may be vulnerable and may trust others with their information easily. Because these individuals grew up without the Internet, they may not understand what they need to do to help protect their online identity.
4. How to help protect against becoming a victim
Identity theft can happen to anyone, but by staying aware and protective of your personal information, you can help reduce your chances of becoming a victim. One important thing you can do is destroy personal documents that you no longer need, such as bank statements and credit card statements, by shredding them before disposing of them.
5. Identity theft and data breaches
Even if you are very careful, criminals may still be able to access your information and steal your identity through data breaches. With the recent Equifax data breach, over 145 million people now have the potential to become victims of identity theft. Adding an extra layer of protection to your digital life by using an identity theft protection service could prove very useful. Such services can help protect your personal information by sending you alerts if suspicious activity is identified within their network, or if new accounts are opened with your Social Security number.