What is Identity Theft?
Those of you that have been reading my newsletters over the years know how much I talk about the importance that personal credit can mean for your business obtaining the best possible terms for equipment financing.
Identity theft is the worst case scenario in two ways.
- There is an individual that is claiming to be YOU which can have significant ramifications.
- The issues that individual creates can affect your credit greatly and often takes months and in some case years to correct and for it to reflect on the three credit bureaus.
Parts of the below information was obtained from my personal Identity security company, Identity IQ.
What is Personal Identity Information (PII)?
Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is any personal information about a person that is maintained by an agency. PII can include your name, place of birth, SSN, mother’s maiden name, biometric records, educational history, employment history, and more.
What could an identity thief do with your PII?
One of the first questions a victim of identity theft asks themselves is, “Why would someone want my identity?” For an identity thief, opening credit cards in your name, making fraudulent purchases, or using your personal information when being questioned by the police are just a part of a long list of what they are able to do with your stolen identity. They might:
- Open new credit cards in your name
- Make fraudulent purchases
- Log in to personal accounts (email, social media, bank, etc…)
- Open new phone and utility accounts in your name
- Clone your ATM or debit card
- Change your billing address
- Obtain a new driver’s license or official ID
- Use your identity when questioned by police
Is Your Personal Information Vulnerable to Identity Theft and Fraud?
Note the below ways that PII is most often obtained.
- Dumpster Diving - Identity Theft Thieves rummage through trash looking for receipts, credit card bills, utility bills, medical insurance, bank statements, and other items with your personal information on them. When they find enough information, they have the basis for what they need to build a basic profile of the identity they want to steal. One easy step you can take today to protect yourself against a dumpster diving thief is to shred anything with your personal information on it using a cross-cut paper shredder.
- Mail Theft - The mailbox is sometimes an easy target for a thief. Mail is dropped off, usually before anyone is at home, often leaving bills and documents with your personal information unsecure. Thieves use this as an opportunity to remove important documents to gain insight into your personal life and to gather sensitive information. At a minimum, we recommend using a locking mailbox if possible.
- Change of Address Fraud - In some circumstances, thieves will reroute your mail by submitting a change of address to the post office. Unfortunately, this allows thieves one more point of access to open accounts in your name without your knowledge. Other companies claiming to offer change of address protection are providing you with a basic service that monitors the credit bureaus for a change of address within your credit report file. The issue with this is, the credit bureau has to acknowledge the change of address as being suspicious in order to alert you of a change.
- Stolen Wallet or Lost Social Security Card - With your ID, credit cards, or social security card in hand, a thief can wreak all kinds of havoc in your life and leave you trying to unravel the mess they caused. Canceling your credit cards is usually the first thing that comes to mind when something like this happens. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand what a thief is capable of with a state-issued ID. The next time you have your background checked, you could potentially find criminal activity on your record. Your social security card can be used to steal your retirement benefits, obtain employment that later messes with your taxes, and access your bank and credit card accounts. This is one of the most serious and impactful types of identity fraud.
- Email and Phone Scams - Have you ever received a call and been asked to verify your security information? It may sound something like, *Mrs. Smith, I have important information about your account, but before I can tell you I will need to verify your address and date of birth.” This is a technique used by thieves to gather the personal information they need to infiltrate your identity. Unfortunately, thieves using this technique have just enough information about you to make you feel secure and lead you to believe the information they have is truly valuable.The best thing to do in this kind of situation is to ask what company the representative is calling from, hang up, and then call the number listed on your bill or the company website.
- Phishing - This computer scheme is one of the most common types of identity theft. Phishing asks you to enter personal information like your credit card, account information, or social security number. They claim this information is to verify a purchase or to warn you about a security-related event.
Like pretexting, phishing convinces you to reveal personal information that allows a thief to steal from you. Virus and malware programs are great but are never foolproof. So, what do you do? If something like this were to happen, actively monitoring for changes and abuse is the best way to stay protected.
- Wireless Hacking - As the Internet is becoming more accessible, thieves are becoming more resourceful. Hackers can connect to public or unsecure home WIFI networks to gain personal information. Once in, the perpetrators have access to install keyloggers that track websites you visit and passwords you enter. This includes banking institutions and social media. You can stay protected by ensuring your home network is protected and by never logging into accounts on an unsecure public WIFI network.
- Shoulder Surfing - There is an opportunity for this type of theft anytime you enter your pin or account information at a public location. Without any technology involved, a thief invades your space and watches you enter your pin. This happens at ATM and payment machines and is a crime of opportunity. Always be aware of your surroundings and if someone is standing too close.
- Credit Card Theft and Skimming - Too many of us have received a call from the bank informing us a purchase has been made that we were not aware of. We experience an immediate feeling of violation and are flooded with questions about how someone got our account information.
A popular method among thieves is to get your credit card info with a card skimmer. This type of theft occurs when a thief installs a device onto an ATM or credit card reader to read your credit card information. The device can read your card number and pin, allowing the thief to have full access to your account. Other ways thieves get your information include hacking, data breaches, and unsecure websites. Whichever method the thief uses, once a criminal has your credit or debit card, they can use it within minutes to steal from you. If the incident isn’t flagged by the bank, you may not know what happened until the next time you see your statement.
- Weak Website Security - As technology advances, we all become more willing to place our payment information online. Unfortunately, not every website is secure and encrypted. This opens up the opportunity for a thief to intercept your personal information once submitted. Always ensure that any site you place your personal information shows proof of encryption with the https identifier in the website address.
- Data Breach Threats - From banks to health care institutions, our information is being stored electronically. As our information is distributed and stored digitally, it becomes vulnerable to computer savvy thieves. Hackers have become proficient in hacking into some of the most secure institutions and gaining access to our personal information. Data breaches are becoming commonplace and the consumer has little power to prevent their information from being abused.
The more informed people like you are getting, the more creative thieves become. Understanding these common methods of identity theft and using identity theft protection helps protect yourself and your family.
To obtain additional information or to enroll in your own Identity program, click here.
Have a successful month!
"The less you talk, the more you're listened to."
Did You Know???
Facts About Grass
- About 1,400 species of grasses exist in the United States
- A healthy lawn can increase a home's value by up to 20%
- Grasses make up about 26% of the plant life on earth
- By weight, turf grass is 75 to 80% water
- Giant bamboo, which can grow up to 151 feet tall, is the largest variety of grass
- Grass lawns improve air quality by producing oxygen and trapping airborne dust particles and other contaminants
- A 2,500 square foot lawn produces enough oxygen for a family of four
Just for Laughs!
A man walks into a shoe store and tries on a pair of shoes.
“How do they feel?” asks the sales clerk.
“Well they feel a bit tight,” replies the man. The assistant promptly bends down and has a look at the shoes and at the man’s feet.
“Try pulling the tongue out,” the clerk says.
“Well, theyth sthill feelth a bith tighth.”