Thieves take advantage of everyday opportunities to discover your personal information, including your Social Security number (SSN), bank or credit card account numbers, income, name, address, or phone number, and use it to commit fraud or other crimes. Find out how to protect yourself.
It’s the number one source of consumer complaints at the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC), and unfortunately, it’s one of the simplest crimes to
commit. Identity theft involves information from your daily life, from
shopping, bill-paying, and even applying for a job. Thieves take advantage of
everyday opportunities to discover your personal information, including your
Social Security number (SSN), bank or credit card account numbers, income,
name, address, or phone number, and use it to commit fraud or other
How can a stranger get to your information? According to the FTC, identity
thieves may pose as legitimate representatives of an organization, as business
professionals or agents of the government, conning you into revealing
sensitive information. Common scams include impersonating employees from
banks, credit card companies, Internet service providers, and utility
companies. If someone calls you claiming to represent a legitimate
organization, confirm this by calling the customer service number listed on
your statement or bill.
Thieves may also use your place of employment to get the information they
need. A co-worker may steal information from your employer; someone could
hack into your company’s computer and copy employee records; or a criminal
could resort to the old-fashioned method of bribing someone you work with
for your information. Check with your employer to find out the company
policy on securing your records and disposing of them when you’re gone.
If your employer is authorized to pull credit reports on employees or potential
customers, someone could take advantage of this access to retrieve illegal
reports. Criminals may also pose as employers, landlords, or collection agents
to pull your credit information. It’s a good idea to order a copy of your credit
report once a year to check for unauthorized entries.
Shredding your documents before you throw them away is also good idea,
whether at work or at home. Identity thieves have been known to sift
through garbage, in the trash can or at the dump, to find sensitive
The most common form of identity theft is credit card fraud. Technology has
allowed criminals to begin stealing your credit or debit card numbers as you
use the cards, “skimming” them with an information storage device. In
addition, thousands of drivers’ licenses and credit and debit cards are stolen
each year. Keeping your Social Security card in a secure location and
safeguarding your purse or wallet while at work are necessary precautions.
Even your mail is a source for identity thieves, who may complete credit card
applications in your name and go on a spending spree. After stealing your
bank or credit card statements, tax information, or box of replacement
checks, criminals are able to access your accounts and spend the funds in
your name. They may even change the address on your existing account,
diverting the bills to keep you from recognizing the problem until it’s too late.
Being aware of your billing cycles can help you catch a discrepancy in the
arrival of your statements.
Identity thieves have a variety of ways to use your information for their
personal gain. They may shop for big-ticket items using your credit or bank
account information and then sell the items for cash. With your SSN and
date of birth, they can open new bank accounts or apply for lines of credit.
In fact, banks have granted loans to criminals using stolen identities for
purchases as large as cars.
Telephone or internet service can be set up using your SSN. Thieves can
avoid impending eviction or accumulated debt by filing bankruptcy in your
name. Perhaps the most emotionally traumatic, police could issue a warrant
for you if a criminal was arrested using your name and failed to appear at a
The ways that identity thieves have conceived to acquire your personal
information are numerous, but your vigilance and heightened awareness can
curb their ability to make you a victim. And, if you sustain credit damage, go
to http://www.apscreen.com to find out what you can do about it.
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