(ModernSurvival.org) – Crime has likely been a part of human existence for as long as humans have been on the planet. Unfortunately, as the world continues to blossom into the technological age, criminals are learning new and terrifying ways of abusing their victims. Beyond theft of personal possessions such as a wallet or purse, now we must be concerned about thieves stealing our very identities.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when an individual uses someone else’s personally identifiable information to commit a crime, such as fraud. Here are some examples of the information identity thieves typicalls steal:
- Home address
- Social Security number (SSN)
- Credit card number
- Bank account number
- Medical insurance account
The number of crimes that can be committed with the information listed above is staggering. Obviously, the thief can purchase items at the victim’s expense. But they can also do the following:
- Open new credit cards, bank accounts, or take out loans in the victim’s name
- Pretend to be the victim when arrested
- Steal tax refunds
- Use the victim’s health insurance to receive care
- Open new phone lines, or utilities in the victim’s name
Basic Steps to Avoid Identity Theft
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there are some basic steps anyone can take to reduce their risk of identity theft. These include:
Protecting Personal Documents
Keep documents containing vital information in safe locations. When getting rid of such documents, put them through a paper shredding machine rather than simply throwing them out to make it harder for someone to steal them from the garbage. Also, don’t leave vital information, such as bank statements, in the mailbox.
Keep Your Social Security Number Secret
There are times when a person’s SSN will be required as identification. However, it should never be given out unless it is absolutely necessary, and the person or organization receiving the number is trustworthy. Always ask if another form of identification can be used before releasing the SSN.
Remember, organizations that actually need a person’s SSN will not ask for it over the phone.
Be Careful Online
The easiest way to protect personal information online is to create strong passwords for sites that may have access to it. Utilize multi-factor authentication if sites offer it for added security.
Scammers are notorious for using emails and phone calls to solicit information from unsuspecting victims. Never provide personal information via an email or phone conversation
If identity theft is suspected, it can be reported to identitytheft.gov. This site allows users to report suspected identity theft and provides recovery plans for victims. Additionally, working with an identity protection service such as NortonLifeLock, Identity Guard, or IdentityForce can help mitigate the damage of identity theft, or protect your identity before theft ever occurs.
Unfortunately, criminals are always coming up with new ways to take advantage of the unwary. To learn more about how to protect yourself from these merciless predators, take a peek at our article on how scammers use typos to steal personal information.
~Here’s to Your Survival!
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