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Identity Theft – What Is It and How It Affects Me

Updated on September 15, 2011

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information, like your SSN, name, bankcards, etc. without your permission, to commit fraud or other violations of the law.

Identity theft is now the number one crime committed on a daily basis within North America. It has been estimated that approximately ten million people this year alone will have or are about to become victims of identity theft.

It is expected that an average of nineteen people a minute will become new victims of identity theft. With over ten million affected each year by identity theft the odds that you won’t be affected is very slim. The crimes associated with identity theft are numerous. After stealing your personal identification, a person can rent an apartment in your name, open bank accounts, obtain loans, apply for a passport and apply for credit cards.

Identity theft happens when a thief purposely takes your personal information without your permission and uses it to commit fraud. The information that is used to commit various fraudulent crimes can be in the form of your name, your home address, any credit card information, social security number and your date of birth. The information that is used against you is all very simple, basic and every day information that we use on a daily basis. We use this information to help us, but if we don’t protect this information, it can be used to hurt us.

You may not know that your identity has been compromised until you check one of your credit card statements and notice numerous charges that you yourself did not personally make. Or when you check your credit rating or unfortunately are contacted by a debt collector for an unpaid debt. With identity theft growing into such a serious crime, it may take time to resolve any credit issues. The average identity theft victim can spend thousands of dollars as well as unlimited time trying to repair any damage that has happened to their credit. With identity theft, some victims have lost out of possible employment opportunities, been declined for bank loans and credit cards as well houses and or vehicles due to any negative information that is on their credit.

With identity theft beginning at the point when personal information has been fraudulently used, one often wonders how easy it is to retrieve this personal and normally thought of confidential information. Below there are six major ways that have been identified as the most commonly used methods of stealing information. These include the following:

· Pickpockets – people who will steal your wallet or purse and use any information inside to begin their fraud.

· Dumpster Diving – they look for items that should be shredded but are instead thrown into the garbage – such as bank statements, bills, as well as pre-approved credit letters.

· Address Changes – a thief will redirect bank statements and credit card bills to another address by use of completing an address change form at the local post office or online.

· Skimming – when a special devise is used at debit machines in stores. This devise will copy your credit/debit cards and pin numbers that you use. This is a fast growing form of theft that can occur in any store.

· Phishing – emails will be sent by individuals/organizations pretending to be a legitimate company or financial institutions that ask you to validate your personal information. They will normally have you click on a link that will direct you to a separate site.

· Pretexting – individuals will call you claiming to be from a bank or credit card company. They will ask you to verify information or to provide information that you may think is harmless.

Once this information has been stolen it can and will be used in a variety of ways. Credit card fraud now accounts for roughly 25 percent of all identity thefts committed each year. Your personal information could be used for a thief to open new credit card accounts. When these cards are used but not paid for, delinquency charges will appear on your credit report. They may also use your personal information to open a new phone account or purchase a new wireless phone. They could also use this information to help themselves to free cable or satellite. In terms of bank fraud, your information could be used to create fraudulent checks, opening an account and write checks, they could copy your bank card and use it to withdraw your checking and savings accounts as well as apply for loans using your name. With government fraud, identity theft has been used to get drivers licenses, government benefits or filing fraudulent tax returns.

The best way to find out if you have become a victim of identity theft is to carefully monitor all financial account statements, whether they are bank accounts or credit card statements, and check your credit report on a regular basis. It is recommended that if you suspect your identity has been compromised, that you check your credit report every three to six months. When your identity has been stolen you need to report this right away. Contact any credit card companies in regard to cards that have been compromised and contact local authorities.

If you have become the victim of identity theft and have been able to rectify the situation with credit card companies, financial institutions and any other venues that have been affected, you should carefully monitor all financial records for several months afterwards. In regards to credit reports, the victims should review these reports every three to six months for the first year.

In order to take steps in protecting yourself from identity theft, the best mode of protection is awareness. Be aware as to how your information can be stolen, how easily it can be retrieved and be aware of venues that are trying to obtain this information. Monitor your personal information carefully in order to spot any inconsistencies and know what steps to take if you suspect you have become a victim of identity theft.

To help protect your identity consider a service from one of the leading identity theft protection companies. They can help protect your identity in ways you and I simply can't.


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      Jeff_McRitchie 6 years ago

      You provide a good overview re: identity theft especially the different ways someone's information might get stolen. Thanks for posting this!