National Protect Your Identity Week
IDENTITY CRIME MYTHS
Identity theft is preventable. Like any other kind of crime, there’s always a risk of becoming a victim of identity crime. But there are many things people can do to minimize that risk both online and offline, like keeping financial records protected and private, shredding junk mail, and tracking who sees your personal information.
Identity theft is only a financial crime. While financial identity theft (theft of information for financial gain) is better known, other types of identity theft can be equally dangerous, potentially costly and time-consuming to resolve. For example, with medical identity theft, personal medical records are used to access medical treatment or drugs, or to make false insurance claims. With criminal identity theft, a person uses faulty or stolen identification to avoid prosecution by law enforcement.
- MEDICAL IDENTITY THEFT:
- CRIMINAL IDENTITY THEFT:
- EMPLOYMENT FRAUD:
It’s my bank’s fault I became a victim of identity theft. Some identity crime does originate with the theft of bank records or is perpetuated by lax security practices. However, the majority of identity theft begins elsewhere. Personal information may be stolen with low-tech tools like a lost or stolen wallet, checkbook, or debit/credit card, or more high-tech methods, like skimming, phishing, and hacking.
It is safe to give your personal information over the phone to a bank if the caller ID shows that it is your bank. It is never safe to give personal information to unsolicited callers, no matter who they say they are. Caller IDs are easily spoofed. If you believe the caller is legitimate, hang up and call the bank back at its listed phone number.
- http://www.onguardonline.gov/topics/computer-security.aspx (see second bullet under “To Avoid Phishing Scams”)
Checking your credit report periodically or using a credit monitoring service is all you need to do to protect yourself from identity theft. There are many credit monitoring services available. However, no monitoring service is 100% effective, and many do little to protect your identity. If you want to be vigilant about identity theft, follow the prevention tips at the link under Myth 1, keep accurate financial records, and check your credit report often for any unauthorized charges.
- http://www.annualcreditreport.com (a free federal program for obtaining your credit reports. You don’t have to order all reports at the same time. Many consumer groups suggest you stagger your reports throughout the year.)
My personal contact information (mailing address, telephone number, email address, etc.) is not valuable to an identity thief. Any information that could be used by a thief to impersonate you should be protected. For example, many people use their email address as a user ID for online accounts. Consider making your information available on a need-to-know basis only. Often businesses ask for personal information they really don’t need, and will simply omit information you’re not willing to give.
- See “What Should I do to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft” http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/about-identity-theft.html
Shredding my mail and other personal documents will keep me safe. Shredding documents that contain personal information before you throw them away is a great way to protect yourself from “dumpster diving” – when thieves search trash for personal information. But relying on your shredder alone to protect you is like locking one window while leaving the rest of your house wide open. Think defensively: secure your personal information in your home, your car, and at work, and always use safe online security practices.
I don’t use the Internet, so my personal information is not exposed online. Your personal information is in more places than you think, whether it’s your medical records, a job application, or a school emergency contact form. Many of these records are kept in electronic databases and transmitted online. Social networking sites are another good source of personal information for identity thieves. Even if you do not use them yourself, your friends or members of your family may be sharing personal information about you. Not using the Internet may offer some protection, but it won’t keep you safe from online criminals.
- Data Breach list home page – http://www.idtheftcenter.org/artman2/publish/lib_survey/
Social networking is safe. Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Cyworld can be fun to use. But they can be dangerous when it comes to your identity. These sites are used by thieves and others to steal information, trick people and promote a variety of scams. To protect yourself, avoid making personal information available to large groups of “friends,” take advantage of the privacy controls offered by most of these sites, and use common sense.
It is not safe to shop or bank online. Like social networking, shopping and banking online are safe as long as you use common sense and make good choices about where and how you do it. Most importantly, always take care to confirm a site is legitimate before you use it, watch out for copycat sites, and keep your computer safe from viruses.