Crimes of identity theft have been occurring on a more massive scale, than in the decades past. In the past five years alone there have been significant increases in the number of victims reported. In 2005 the FTC accounted for 8.3 million American victims of identity theft. And only four years later that number rose nearly 25 percent to 11.1 million, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.
Even though the risk is rising, you can still protect yourself and your loved ones.
There are a variety of methods identity theft criminals can use to obtain access to your financial resources. Knowing their most common tactics can help you prevent your private information from falling into the wrongs hands.
A common method thieves use to obtain credit card information is to insert software into the credit card processor’s systems. When your credit card is swiped, the information is sent to the card processor and the crook is able to extract the information, even from a remote location.
With your financial information in hand, the thief can imprint it onto a new card to either sell or use.
In this case, your personal information such as your Social Security number and account numbers are not in jeopardy. However, the thief has effectively gained access to your credit card or debit card. If they have this information, they can run up debt which can negatively affect your credit score.
Some identity theft criminals take a more hands-on approach and look through your garbage to find private documents containing your personal information, such as your name, home address, employer or identify companies with whom you conduct business. Many thieves will look specifically for bank statements and pay stubs, so be sure to shred these documents before you throw them in the trash.
You may want to ask your employer about their methods of disposing important papers, as many companies do not securely discard information.
This method allows criminals to pose as companies with whom you may or may not do business with, in order to hopefully trick you into giving them additional information or money. The emails can be very convincing and may even look identical to a legitimate company's email. One way to detect a fraudulent message is to check for misspellings. Another way to fight phishing attacks is to guard your personal information; if you’ve already finalized a transaction and they are asking for more information call the company directly.
What To Do if You Become an Identity Theft Victim
Notify your bank right away. They will be able to place a block on your cards and reimburse you for unauthorized charges.
Contact the three credit bureaus, who can place a fraud alert on your credit report. This will ensure that additional information is required before opening accounts in your name.
- Regularly check all your financial accounts and credit report to keep up with any unusual activity.