Why should you care about identity theft? Because it could show up at your door at any moment. And ID theft doesnt knock.
Identity theft is when a criminal steals your name, contact information and other personal information to commit fraud or other crimes normally resulting in their own financial gain. ID theft has become an increasing epidemic in the U.S., as the growth of the Internet has provided new opportunities to cash in by stealing the identities of others.
- Over 9 million victims a year for two years running
(Better Business Bureau and Javelin Strategy & Research, January 2005)
- Over 30 million victims in past five years
(Federal Trade Commission, 2003 and Better Business Bureau, 2005)
- Top consumer complaint to FTC five years in a row
(Federal Trade Commission, National and State Trends in Fraud and Identity Theft, February 1, 2005)
Learn How Identity Thieves Can Get To You
Your Social Security number represents the gateway to your identity, both personally and financially. A thief could use your Social Security number and your good credit record to obtain employment, open credit card accounts, or even acquire loans using your name. Think you can just get a new Social Security number and thats the end of your problem? Its not that easy. One or all of the credit bureaus may use the negative credit information about you from your previous Social Security number and include that information in your credit report.
Some ID thefts occur when a credit card is stolen. Thieves taking a more tactical approach will complete a change-of-address form at the post office and have credit cards in your name sent to another address. Because your credit card bills are being sent to a new address, you may not discover a problem for a long time. Identity theft also occurs when a criminal completes a pre-approved credit card offer sent to you in the mail, using your name, date of birth and Social Security number, but a different address, on the application form. Identity thieves even access your credit card and purchase information through fraudulent or through unsecured websites.
- MAIL: Check fraud often begins at your mailbox. An ID thief will break into a mailbox and almost always find outbound bills containing checks. Consequently, the thief will alter the writing and amount of the check and run all the way to the bank.
- CHECK FORGERY: More sophisticated check fraud involves the forgery of checks. The thief scans a check using a computer, edits the name and the amount on the check, and even makes multiple checks based on the look of that first check.
- CHECK WASHING: A check fraud expert uses chemicals to wash your check. The result is a blank check with a signature, which he can cash at any time for any amount.
- HOT CHECKS: These are legitimate checks that are coming from an account that no longer exists or simply doesnt have sufficient funds. Keep in mind, when bad checks are written in your name, this information will show up on your credit report, thereby affecting your financial standing for years or at least for several months as you attempt to repair the problem.
Cell Phone Fraud
Identity thieves can establish new cellular telephone service in your name or make unauthorized calls that seem to come from, and are billed to, your cellular phone. Others make unauthorized charges by using your calling card and Personal Identification Number (PIN).
There are numerous fraudulent scams throughout the vast world of the Internet. One popular scam involves sending emails from fake Internet Service Providers. The email will indicate that your account information needs updating or that your credit card has expired. ID thieves will immediately take that information and open credit cards in your name.
Internet auction fraud is another growing problem online. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, Internet auction fraud made up 71.2% of referred Internet fraud complaints. Non-delivered merchandise and/or payment accounted for 15.8% of complaints. And credit/debit card fraud made up 5.4% of complaints.
Phony Identity Theft Prevention Services
The Federal Trade Commission warns that some companies that claim to be identity theft prevention services are guises for obtaining personal information from you such as your drivers license number, mothers maiden name, Social Security number and credit and bank account numbers. Remember, do not give out any personal information over the phone or online unless you are familiar with the business that is asking for it. If you are unsure about a firm, check it out with the Better Business Bureau.
Defend yourself before something happens by employing the services of a credit monitoring and identity theft protection expert. CreditReport.com can help you immediately with their arsenal of Credit Monitoring and ID theft protection services, all for a low monthly fee.
Places of Business
Many fellow employees are responsible for inter-company identity thefts. Surprisingly, a large segment of the identities were stolen not by an employee but by the owners and managers of many companies or small businesses.
If any employer requests your Social Security number, a Privacy Act notice must also be presented to you. Never provide your Social Security information until you have been officially offered a new job. If a Social Security card is requested, see if a copy will suffice. If the actual card must be presented, be sure to return the card to a drawer or safe place at home. Do not carry it around with you.
Online phishing has become very popular. ID thefts occur when you receive emails from people posing as legitimate companies asking for your contact or credit card information. Some will directly ask you to send them a check.
Schools and Universities
At many colleges, Social Security numbers are used for just about everything from financial aid to Student ID numbers and more. Faculty and students all become prey when Social Security numbers are so readily available to be targeted by Identity thieves. Computer systems are also often left unattended, allowing for possible hacking and information theft.
ID thieves can easily steal your mail, including bank and credit card statements, credit card offers, checks, tax information and more. They will even steal the mail you leave for the postman if your mailbox isnt secure. They may fill out a change of address form in your name and send it back so they receive your mail.
ID thieves can capture your ATM card information using a technique called skimming. They get your information by attaching a data storage device to an ATM machine and get your information when you swipe your card.
In or Around Your Home
Many ID thefts occur in or near the home. In fact, more than a quarter of identity theft cases prove that the victims knew (or are related to) their perpetrator. This is why sharing personal information is so dangerous to your credit and overall finances.
An ID thief gains access to phone service in your name and then makes unauthorized phone calls. These calls may seem like they are coming from your cellular phone or your home phone. The charges will show up on your bill, which you will have to dispute. Contact your provider immediately and set up a new account.
To ensure identity theft/ID fraud protection in the future, hire a credit protection service that provides credit monitoring online and receive instant email alerts regarding any suspicious activity on your account. To instantly get your credit monitoring service activated and obtain a copy of your credit report, go to www.creditreport.com now.