The Western Mass Women Magazine has posted an article that gives helpful information about identity theft. There are several types of identity theft: medical, business/commercial (used to gain credit in the name of the person’s business), criminal (used by identity thieves to avoid being caught and prosecuted), and financial (when a thief uses a false identity to receive products or money in your name). 10 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2008 and the numbers are still growing.
There are three common techniques that identity thieves readily use: phishing, smishing, and vishing.
All of which attempt to contact the potential identity theft victim through email, voice messaging and texting (respectively) in order to collect as much personal information as possible. These forms of communication re usually sent from a seemingly legitimate source, such as one’s bank or credit card company, and often state that an immediate response is required to resolve an “urgent matter” regarding one’s account.
The identity thief counts on people to respond to such messages and provide details about their account as well as personal information. After obtaining that, it becomes very easy for them to set up fake accounts in the victim’s name.
Still, there are more “traditional” methods. Shoulder surfing (listening in on conversations and piecing together personal information), dumpster diving (obtaining information through discarded bills and paperwork), and mail theft.
Mail theft relates to dumpster diving in the sense that the identity thief equates discarded mail items to a goldmine in terms of uncovering information. Mail thieves, however, do not limit themselves to merely picking through another’s trash, for they will pilfer directly from the ultimate source: the mailboxes themselves.
There is no guaranteed way to prevent being a victim of identity theft, but there are measures you can take to decrease the likelihood. You need to be familiar with your credit report so you will notice if anything unexpected changes. Be careful to check the URL on any website where you enter personal information to make sure it’s the actual site you think it is. Also, be wary of phone scams and if a strange number calls you claiming to need information because of problems with your account, you should research the number for yourself. Your Caller ID can be fooled by identity thieves.
Some of the advice in this article comes from our friend Denise Richardson, of givemebackmycredit.com, who was also a victim of identity theft. In 2001, her credit card was charged $9,000 for plane tickets that weren’t hers. And again, in December 2009, her credit card was charged by a cable company she doesn’t use.
Despite her ill-fated circumstances, Richardson finds a silver lining and now takes a proactive approach to protecting her credit history and identity by currently focusing on advocacy and education in relation to identity theft and fraud. In addition to running a very successful blog (www.givemebackmycredit.com), she also published a book, Give Me Back My Credit!, in 2006 that shares the details of her personal story as well as advice.
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