First of all we need to remember that, although online identity theft is an increasing issue, offline identity theft (meaning identity theft from stolen mail, credit cards, wallets, purses, etc…) still makes up the largest percentage of of the identity theft pie. While we are focusing in this blog post series on “online dangers” we would be remiss if we didn’t remind you, to protect your offline identity as well as your online identity.
Offline (or traditional) identity theft usually happens when the thief acquires your information (social security number, bank account number, etc…) by getting a hold of documents that contain that information. They will often go through mailboxes and steal credit card correspondence, go through your trash or steal a wallet or purse. It is therefore crucial to protect your information from prying eyes.
We’re going to talk, a little later, about how to do that, both online as well as offline.
Online Identity theft, on the other hand, has continued to grow rapidly. It is estimated that some 130 million program (called “Spyware”) are floating through cyberspace whose sole intent is to steal your vital information in order to use it fraudulently.
Others have spent a lot of time, money and energy hacking into business websites, finding ways to steal credit card numbers and other vital user information.
Our website www.nationalsafetyinc.com is continuously detecting orders that look suspicious and we routinely decline orders that match a certain set of criteria that flag them as most likely fraudulent.
Unfortunately, law enforcement does not have the means, the time, the expertise or the money to pursue most cases. Even the FBI only goes after those cases that involve hundreds of thefts and that total in the millions of dollars.
However it is that the thief acquires your information, once you identity has been stolen it can take years and thousands of dollars to clear your name. Some have even had to file bankruptcy and/or lost their home because of charges run up and credit that has been ruined.
How to protect against identity theft
- Be aware as well that many cell phone and cordless phone calls can be intercepted. Be careful about giving out important information such as your social security number, credit card numbers, pin numbers and/or passwords over the phone.
- Keep a list of all important information is a separate secure location so that you are rapidly able to contact all pertinent agencies as soon as you suspect that your identity might have been stolen.
- Make sure that your pin numbers and passwords aren’t easy to figure out. Don’t use your childrens’ names, anniversary dates or birthdays that thieves might be able to figure out fairly easily.
- Keep an eye on your credit score on a regular basis. There are three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax & TransUnion) and each one is required to provide a free credit rating once every 12 months. An easy and free way to keep an eye on your credit report as well as check for identity theft is to get a free report from the first one now, in four months, get a credit report for the second one and then, in another four months, the third.
- Never put bills and other important mail which may contain the kind of information thieves are looking for in your mailbox. Post them only in a secure mailbox or directly to the post office.
- If you are using a secure website (bank, site where you pay your bills, etc…) make sure that you log off completely, especially if the computer you are using is a shared computer.
- Never logon to a secure website with a wifi connection that is not secure as others might be able to intercept and view confidential information.
- Make sure that your computer is well protected with firewalls, antivirus and spyware detection software.
- Make sure that you NEVER email credit card numbers or other confidential information. Email can easily be intercepted. It is not secure.
- Delete any and all suspicious emails. Never respond to emails requesting your information in exchange for which someone will deposit money into your bank account or emails similar in nature. As incredible as it sounds, people do fall for these scams.
- Protect the following information and share only with trusted companies and websites:
- User names, passwords and PIN numbers.
- Social Security numbers.
- Phone and utility account numbers.
- Bank and credit account numbers.
- Employment and student identification numbers.
- Driver’s license and passport numbers.
- Professional license numbers.
- Insurance identification numbers.
- College or university financial-aid form information.
Tomorrow “Online or “Cyber” Bullying”