Identity theft continues to be in the headlines because even though it is a problem that receives a lot of attention, it never seems to get fixed. There are many ways to protect yourself, but are they actually effective? There are numerous facets of identity theft that many consumers may not be aware of, and there is also lesser known information that may help you to better protect yourself from being affected by this widespread crime. One of the most widely-held, and incorrect beliefs is that identity theft and credit card fraud are the same thing. They are not. Identity theft is much more serious and more difficult to repair. Another overlooked part of identity theft is stealing children's Social Security numbers in order to start a false credit profile. These crimes happen both online and in the real world, with the online instances gaining the most attention. There is a lot of erroneous information being discussed that can hurt your credit profile and being informed is the best strategy for protecting your identity.
How do criminals use other people's identities to their advantage?
Criminals can use your identity to get out of traffic violations or other minor run-ins with the police. One area that is gaining more popularity among identity theives is using other people's information to obtain medical care and prescription drugs and to engage in insurance fraud.
Is online fraud more prevalent than that in the real world?
This is not necessarily the case, as a 2014 FTC report found that 40% of fraud cases were initiated over the telephone. Other fraud can occur when a thief steals your credit cards or reciepts in order to access your information.
What is the difference between identity theft and credit card fraud?
If your credit cards are stolen or someone opens new accounts in your name, it is also a serious problem. With identity theft, someone takes your name and SSN to receive benefits that go beyond credit card fraud. According to the FTC, identity theft usually culminates in government benefits fraud.
How easy is it for my children to be the victims of identity theft?
Criminals steal the Social Security numbers of children more often than most people realize. Guard this information carefully, and be aware of red flags such as the receipt of credit card offers in their name. If this should happen, notify the issuing credit card company of this potential fraud immediately.
Won't I know right away if my identity is stolen?
This is a common misconception, that gives criminals an edge in establishing a false identity. If a criminal uses your information to create new accounts, it can take more than a month for their activity to be discovered. It is important to carefully monitor your credit card accounts and have a lock on your credit reports that prevents the opening of new accounts.
What information, in addition to my Social Security number, do I need to protect?
Any personal data that criminals discover, such as your zip code or date of birth, can be sold. With a little bit of carelessness, enough information can be discovered to create an entire profile of your identity. Protect all personal information the same way you do your SSN.
How do I prevent my information from being sold on the black market?
The dark web and other venues where criminals sell information are followed by many protection services and government agencies. Today's best data protection software monitors activity on such sites in order to keep your information secure.
Aren't most email scams easy to spot and therefore avoid?
While any scam email requesting banking information and the like is easy to spot and ignore, others are much more sophisticated. Examples include emails that request that you verify your account details, including password, for sites such as PayPal and Amazon. Never verify your password or credit card information when requested by such an email. Always contact the company directly rather than clisking on any possibly dangerous links.