The first thing you need to know about protecting yourself from Identity Theft is knowing the different types of Identity Theft – the more you know, the better you can protect yourself and your family.
- New Account Identity Theft: When a thief opens up a completely new account in a victim’s name. This can be done by digging credit card applications out of the mailbox of your trash.
- Existing Account takeover Identity Theft: This is when criminals gain access to existing accounts and make charges to credit cards, steal money from bank accounts, and file claims against insurance policies.
- Tax-related Identity Theft: This occurs when the criminal submits an income tax return using someone else’s Social Security Number and fraudulent income data, hoping to receive a refund.
- Criminal Identity Theft: This is when a criminal uses someone else’s identity when providing information to a law enforcement official. It could be for something as simple as a minor traffic violation. However, when fines are never paid and when the victim does not show up in court, authorities can issue an arrest warrant in the victim’s name.
7 Ways Identity Theft Can Happen to You
1. Mail Theft: Unsecure mailboxes make it easy for thieves to snatch sensitive information, including bank statements and account numbers.
2. Data Breaches: Enhance security while shopping by opting for a Mobile Wallet. Unlike traditional card swiping, this method shares only an encrypted token with the merchant, ensuring your information remains inaccessible in the event of a data breach.
3. Phishing: A cybercrime in which fraudsters may pose as legitimate entities via email, phone, or text to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information. When in doubt, always verify before responding.
4. Dumpster Diving: Beware of dumpster diving in the digital age–discarding documents with sensitive information like Social Security Numbers, bank account details, and birthdates can provide valuable data for criminals.
5. Unsafe Internet Connections: Whether in an airport, coffee shop, or other public place, be wary as criminals may be on the same network monitoring your online activities. Even password-protected Wi-Fi networks may not be entirely secure, as criminals may have access to shared passwords.
6. Weak Data Protection: Secure sensitive documents when unfamiliar individuals, such as appliance repair personnel or cable installers, visit your home. It's easy to overlook security in your own space, potentially exposing sensitive information.
7. Lost Social Security Card: Many misplace their wallets, often containing both their driver's license and Social Security Card. Losing this combination is like a treasure trove for thieves, offering easy access to personal details such as Date of Birth, Address, SSN, and Full Name.
Are you an easy target? In order to protect yourself from the various types of Identity Theft, you need to follow a few simple “Best Practices”.
- Is your mailbox secure? Some people do not have an issue with this in their neighborhoods. However, in some areas it is very common for mail to be stolen – especially around the Holidays and tax season. Securing your mailbox can be an affordable “DIY” way to protect your identity. If it’s not possible to secure your mailbox, consider getting a Post Office Box at your local Post Office.
- Do you shred your documents? Dumpster diving is still a real thing – even in this digital world. If you are throwing away documents with your Social Security Number, bank account number, and sometimes even your Date of Birth, you are throwing away valuable information for a criminal.
- Do you invite strangers into your home? Consider putting away all sensitive documents when unknown people like the appliance repair person, cable installer, or internet technician enters your home. It’s very easy to have your guard down while you are in your own home and leave out sensitive information.
- Do you have password protected Wi-fi? In order to keep your information protected, you need to have password protected Wi-fi. Thieves could drive right past your home and access your Wi-fi and steal from you without ever entering your home.
- Is your password “strong”? We might sound repetitive if you’ve read some of our other JHFCU articles. However, a strong password is your first line of defense in many cases! Always use complex passwords that also meet the established password requirements – creating a phrase you will remember like “Ilovecoffeeinthemorningwithespresso!” is more secure for your accounts. You may also be asked to change your password from time to time, or should consider changing it yourself.
If you'd like more information or fear that your identity's been stolen, please visit the Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Recovery Center here.