My Goals with this Blog...

Are to document my experiences with various income streams and programs in my quest to becoming a full time freelancer working from home. I plan to list my current 'eggs' and to post the things that have and haven't worked for me.

Understanding and Preventing Identity Theft

Posted by tehblogging trolless | 11:46 AM

As a part of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is responsible for collecting and compiling information regarding the types and numbers of crimes committed and prosecuted each year. BJS statistics show that cases of identity theft have increased significantly since 2005. In 2012, an estimated 16.6 million people were victims of unauthorized access to or use of their personal and financial information. This crime accounted for $24.7 billion in losses during that same year.

How Criminals Access Sensitive Data

According to the DOJ, identity thieves use a variety of strategies to acquire personal and financial information:

• Dumpster diving outside homes and offices can sometimes yield canceled checks, preapproved credit offers, bank or credit card statements, utility bills, Social Security information and other data criminals can use to steal consumer identities.

• Password hacking can also provide access to financial accounts online. Individuals who use the same password for all their online activities are especially at risk.

• Eavesdropping on individuals making payments by phone or providing identifying information in a public place can sometimes allow prospective criminals to acquire credit card numbers, phone numbers, addresses and other sensitive information from their victims.

Phishing attempts involve the use of email or telephone contact to obtain passwords or other information from potential victims. These schemes generally involve posing as a bank or credit card employee or as an IT representative for an online company in an effort to access usable data.

Identity thieves can then use the information to extract funds from bank and credit card accounts; to make purchases using stolen financial credentials; or to set up an entirely new identity for themselves using the identifying data taken from their victims.

How Identity Thieves Use Personal Data

The most common form of identity theft is the unauthorized use of financial accounts to make purchases or to obtain cash. Many banking institutions have instituted strict policies regarding suspicious activity and may suspend the account holder’s ability to use certain transaction methods while such activity is being investigated. Many banks now offer zero liability for their customers. This policy offers complete protection against financial losses due to identity theft if the losses are reported within a specific time frame.

More enterprising criminals may use the victim’s personal information to seek benefits from government agencies or to apply for credit accounts at a new address. These activities may go unnoticed for extended periods of time and may only be discovered upon review of credit report information or when the victim is contacted by collection agencies or law enforcement personnel.

A few simple steps will foil most identity theft attempts:

• Always shred any financial or personal documents before disposing of them in the recycling bin.

• Use a variety of passwords for online accounts and change these passwords regularly. Most security experts recommend including capitalization and numeric values in passwords to increase their complexity and reduce the risk of unauthorized access.

• Avoid providing verbal information on credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and addresses in public places.

• Never give personal or financial information over the phone or through email unless you initiated the call or correspondence.

By following these simple rules, consumers can protect themselves against the most common forms of identity theft.