A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report released in 2005 stated that 3.7% of all Americans over the age of 18 had fallen victim to identity theft. This number increased by a whopping 21% in 2008. Prevention is always better than treatment and knowledge is the key to prevention. Therefore, in trying to understand how to prevent yourself from falling victim to identity theft, you should ask yourself, “How is identity theft committed?”
The Old-Fashioned Way
How is identity theft committed? One of the earliest known ways to commit identity theft was to go through an individual’s trash to gain access to their personal information. This information may be anything from bank account details to postal addresses, social security numbers to telephone details. By going through a number of the right documents, it is quite likely that a thief could put together a fairly accurate portfolio of personal information and thereby steal the identity of the said individual.
Internet and Email Scams
Modern day security, electronic billing, and the maintenance of data online have made the old-fashioned dumpster diving technique less used. This brings us to ask “how is identity theft committed in an electronic environment?”
The harsh reality is that it has actually become easier. The main ways in which identity theft is committed currently is by using email and Internet scams. These techniques usually require action from the user and request that you either reply to the email with your personal details or alternatively click on a link which redirects you to a bogus website where you fill in vital details. Some scams are more aggressive than others and actually make use of flaws within trusted websites to secretly redirect the unknowing victim to a falsified replica of a trusted financial organization’s website.
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in the USA documented over 900 data breaches by major firms over a period of three years. This resulted in a total of 200 million records being compromised. By accessing and using this data, criminals occasionally have a thorough history of their victims and can therefore very easily commit identity theft.
Though there is very little that you, as an individual, can do to protect your data that is stored with a reputable company, it is comforting to know that government and legal representatives have also asked the question, “How is identity theft committed?” By answering this, they found that at times, large conglomerates were guilty of inadequate security systems and general disregard for the individual’s privacy. As a result, a number of laws have been put in place to protect the individual and hold the irresponsible accountable.
Over the Phone
Referred to as vishing, identity theft over the phone is also on the rise. In this form of the criminal activity, perpetrators own a number provided by Voice over IP. These calls may have the appearance of coming from trustworthy institutions, but are in essence not. An alarm bell should go off in your head when you are asked to key in your account number and pin code. This is how the visher gains access to your details.
If you ever get a phone call from your bank or any other company you do business with and they ask for any personal information, just hang up and call them back using a phone number you have used in the past. Inquire from them to see what the call was about and proceed from there. When giving any personal information over the phone, make sure you initiated the call. Never give someone that calls you out-of-the-blue any information!
Keeping Up to Date
The FTC is joined by others who are constantly updating their records and keeping abreast of the latest schemes. In trying to find the answers to the question “how is identity theft committed”, you will be assured of having the tools to prevent yourself from becoming another statistic.