It’s probably true to say that most people are much more aware of identity crime today than they were in days gone by. After all, identity fraud is one of the most rapidly growing crimes in the USA and in many other developed countries.
According to a current report by the Identity Theft Resource Centre, there are 5 main types of identity theft – and these are as noted below:
Commercial or business identity theft – in which the name or identity of another commercial entity is used to secure credit.
Criminal identity theft – where a false identity is assumed after being apprehended for criminal activity.
Financial identity theft – the use of another person’s identity to buy goods, services, secure loans etc.
Identity Cloning – where somebody’s identity is assumed.
Medical identity theft – where someone’s personal information is used to fraudulently receive medical care, drugs or possibly to claim for insurance.
All of these are extremely serious. The financial repercussions for individual victims of identity theft can be very serious indeed – and it can take a long time for victims to clear their name and get their life back on an even keel following identity fraud.
As an individual, there are a number of common sense measures you can employ to minimise the risk of becoming an identity theft victim. Obviously you should keep your personal data secure. Don’t tell friends and family your PIN, your password for example – a high percentage of identity theft victims are known to the criminal who steals their identity.
Also be very careful about how you give out your data. Anyone who works in an open plan office for instance should not be giving out their date of birth, mother’s maiden name or any other sensitive details over the telephone when workmates may be able to hear.
Shred your mail before you throw it out in the trash. So called “dumpster diving” is one of the main ways which criminals obtain sensitive information. Criminals can use details found in discarded mail to assume identities – unsolicited offers of credit cards or loans are a real goldmine for them.
Keep a note of the various numbers you need for cancelling your bank cards. These are detailed on the reverse of your card of course – but if the card is mislaid or stolen do you know the number to call? The faster you act the less the damage will be.
Finally, use the web to your advantage – check your bank account and credit card statements online in real time. You will notice strange transactions more quickly and be able to control the damage by rapidly halting the fraudster’s access to your funds.