Tips to Reduce Identity Theft
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Advances in technology has allowed people to do so much more than we could ever imagine from the comfort of our own homes. From basic chores such as ordering groceries to the most complicated activities such as diagnosing an illness, all we need to make that connection happen is a computer to connect to the internet.
Being able to access anything we need at the touch of a button is great, but unfortunately criminals have adapted to the advances in technology. For many years, criminals have used discarded credit card receipts, bank statements, tax notices and other bills to gain your personal information. With today’s technology, criminals have turned to cybercrime such as hacking and email scams to steal your identity.
So what is identity theft and why would they want to be you? Identity theft is when someone uses your personal or financial information without your permission so that they can make purchases under your name, open accounts such as credit cards under your identity, steal your tax refunds, use your health insurance to get medical care, and even pretend to be you if they are arrested or needing employment.
There are many forms of identity theft that can occur. A “true name” identity theft is when someone pretends to be you, the victim. Medical identity theft is a type of non-credit identity theft that uses a consumer’s personal identifying information to acquire medical services. This form of identity theft can be quite serious because the thief can place inaccurate medical information in the consumers medical record which can be harder to clean up than credit records.
Criminal identity theft occurs when your information is presented to law enforcement for doing something illegal. Victims tend to not even know this has occurred until they’re pulled over or arrested. Lastly, synthetic identity theft, which accounts for 80-85% of all identity theft, occurs when thieves combine real and fake information to create a brand new and different identity. Synthetic identity theft takes part of your information and combines or create new files with that information acquired. For example, a stolen social security may be combine with a different name, address and phone number.
Regardless of the type of identity theft, the facts remain the same in that it can cost victims thousands of dollars in legal fees and mental stress.
Here are seven tips for you to help decrease your chances of becoming a victim.
- Be aware of people online. Don’t share any personal information unless you initiated the exchange or are absolutely certain of the person receiving it.
- Install security and scanning software onto your computer to protect it from being hacked and keep the software up to date.
- Don’t create any password containing your name, date of birth, address or any other personal information that can be easily cracked by hackers. It’s even suggested that you not use any whole words found in the dictionary as there are hacking programs to attempt every word in the dictionary. A strong password is a combination of letters, numbers, and characters, prioritized length, and never use personal information.
- Never share your personal information in an email. No legitimate business would ask you to do this. Phishing emails are one of the most common methods of cybercrime. Double check the email address, not just the sender, before clicking or responding on the link. Most phishing emails will have a weird email address, may contain misspelled words or try to pass themselves off as something official such as @gov.com.
- If you are concerned about the email, contact the company directly or type the email directly into your browser instead of using the link or copying and pasting it.
- Before you share your personal information, double check to make sure that the site is secure. Depending on your browser, you should be able to see a security lock to signify a secure link. Another tip to ensure that it’s a secure link is look at the first part of the web address in your browser. The link should read https:// and not http://
- Lastly, be aware of your personal accounts. Regularly check your credit card and bank statements and keep track of your transactions. Most banks should offer fraud alert but a constant check into your account will help you notice any change sooner rather than later.
Identity theft is a major problem facing individuals of all different backgrounds regardless of race, age, or economic status. By following these seven steps, you can help reduce your chances of becoming a victim.