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2008 Identity Theft Statistics and Several Ways to Prevent Identity Theft
Recent identity theft statistics and what exactly is identity theft.
Identity theft has been said to be the largest white-collar crime in American history. The Federal Trade Commission has reported that “1 in 6 Americans will be a victim of identity theft this year alone. In the past twelve months 9.93 million people have had some form of identity theft against them. Victims spend an average of $1,200 in out-of-pocket expenses and an average of 175 hours in your efforts to resolve the many problems caused by identity thieves.” Criminal identity theft occurs when an impostor gives out another person’s name and personal information, such as a driver’s license, date of birth, or Social Security number (SSN) to obtain a job, housing , money, goods or other services. Or the impostor may present a fake license or identity document that contains someone else’s details. There are 5 different types of identity theft and most people don’t know about them all!
The five types of identity theft
1. DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES- Identity thieves could get a driver’s license in your name and rack up traffic tickets in your name, and they could possibly get a DUI on your license and not show up in court.
2. SOCIAL SECURITY: An identity thief could use your social security number for employment purposes and you could receive a tax bill. Many illegal aliens are buying the name and SSN of many Americans. There are now 11 million illegal aliens in USA Today. Most of them work under someone else’s name and birth certificate. They could file taxes on your behalf and get the instant refund online.
3. BUREAU OF MEDICAL INFORMATION: An identity thief could use your personal information to get prescriptions or medical help that reduces your available benefits. This area of identity theft is growing rapidly as more and more people cannot afford health insurance. They could get an AIDS test in your name that would go to the MIB.
4. CRIMINAL IDENTITY: An identity thief could use your information to escape fines or jail time. You might find that you have a criminal record for bad checks, theft, pornography, prostitution, etc.
5. FINANCIAL IDENTITY: An identity thief could use your information to obtain money, goods or services that will leave you with the bill. They could rent a car in your name and not return it. They could buy vehicles, real estate, etc.
How to help avoid becoming a victim of fraud or identity theft
First of all, every household needs a shredder, you need to buy one if you don’t have one. “Butterfly diving” is an old method, but it’s still the #1 way criminals get our information. The shredder will help eliminate the amount of information that thieves can get from the garbage. Second, get up-to-date anti-spyware or anti-theft software for your computer. Outdated software could compromise much of what you love. Also, never give out personal information over the phone. How can you tell if someone is who they say they are, if it’s on the phone. Finally, invest in identity theft protection and restoration insurance. Many companies only offer to monitor your financial identity and only alert you to activity on your credit report. Remember that vigilance is not the cure for identity theft, because you have still been a victim! Identity theft protection and restoration is the only answer to this problem! Simply put, tracking will only alert you to the problem. In most cases, the amount of fraud exceeds thousands of dollars. So, without an attorney, most financial institutions are hesitant to drop the charges. What could take you weeks, months or even years to fight on your own! So if you have an identity theft problem, now you have a legal problem. Restoration is the only solution to identity theft!
3. What ways do thieves get personal information?
1. Dumpster Diving: Thieves will steal your information from paperwork that has not been properly disposed of. They can dig through trash, company dumpsters, or even the city dump for personal information.
2. Phishing and pretexting: These are similar methods of identity theft. Pretexting is where someone pretending to be with a legitimate company, like your insurance company, will call and try to get you to verify your account numbers or even your SSN. Phishing is basically the same, except the thief will send you an email instead of calling you.
3. Surf on the shoulder: This is where the thief will look over your shoulder when making transactions, for example at the ATM. They can even use devices like cell phones to record you without your knowledge.
4. Social networking websites: While most adults are careful about the information they post on sites like MySpace, several unknowing teens and even some adults put themselves at risk of identity theft every day. Identity thieves find names, addresses and even dates of birth on popular sites and use them to commit identity fraud.
5. Peer to Peer File or Software Sharing: People who access your music files also have access to other files on your computer.
6. Fake job postings: Scammers will place fake job ads and get you to fill out an application, including your social security number.
7. Fake sweepstakes or lotteries: These offers are usually sent by email and claim that you’ve won the Canadian lottery or some other sweepstakes that you’ve never entered.
8. Hacking: If your computer is not properly protected, a hacker can gain access to all the information you have stored. Hackers also gain information by hacking into organizations’ computer systems to obtain large amounts of information at once.
9. Steal Mail: This is similar to dumpster diving, except the thieves will actually steal your mail directly from your mailbox. They steal bank statements, pre-approved credit card offers, etc.
10. Lost or Stolen Personal Items: It’s pretty obvious how thieves steal your identity by stealing your wallet, PDA, or laptop. The same thing happens when you lose your personal belongings.
11. Work at home- This can be one of the most invasive ways to get information. Contractors or other workers may find and use account numbers or other information you have in view.
12. Change your address: The thief will often forge your signature to forward your mail to another address. They will then receive information from your bank statements or may request your pre-approved credit card offers.
13. Copying Information During Transactions: Dishonest company employees sometimes steal your credit card information while processing your transactions. They may do this when you are at the business or when you give your information over the phone.
14. Credit Report: Thieves can impersonate a potential employer or homeowner to obtain a copy of your credit report. This way they can find out a lot of your information.
15. RFID Reading- RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. RFID tags can be found on certain credit cards and other types of cards. Thieves build RFID readers that, if in the right range, can take your card information. Whether it’s by phone, internet, wallet theft, dumpster diving, or a trusted company mishandling your personal information, these thieves are getting more creative every day!
4. Medical identity theft can be people’s worst nightmare.
Imagine applying for the job of a lifetime and not being able to get it because someone used your social security number. Get an infectious disease treated on your behalf. Or worse, a diabetic steals the insurance information and uses it. If you’re hospitalized and can’t talk…then the right or wrong medical information on your chart could be the difference between life and death. Medical identity theft currently accounts for just 3 percent of identity theft crimes, or 249,000 of the estimated 8.3 million people whose identities were stolen in 2005, according to the Federal Trade Commission . But as the push toward electronic health records gains momentum, privacy experts fear those numbers could grow substantially. They worry that as doctors and hospitals move from paper records to electronic medical records (EMRs), as they’re called, it may be easier for people to gain unauthorized access to sensitive patient information on a large scale . In addition, Microsoft, Revolution Health and Google in 2008 announced that they are developing services that will allow consumers to store their health information online. Consumers may not even know their records have been compromised. This could be a nightmare, and with EMRs medical identity theft will become more common across the country.
5. Is it possible for someone to get information and use it to steal children’s identities?
Yes, if thieves get a child’s social security number, anything is possible. Thieves just changed the date of birth. Thieves like to target children because their credit files are untouched and almost never checked. As parents, we don’t even think to check. Even before identity theft became so prominent in the 21st century, identity thieves were targeting children. Now that security breaches are so common and hackers can find personal information through phishing, your child’s identity is even easier to steal than ever.
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