You may not be aware of the boom in the crime of identity theft but it is a crime that continues to increase, especially as many people become less careful with their personal information and who they are willing to give it to. Just as an example, almost 8 million people were victims of identity theft of some form during 2006.
It is hard to understand why there is such a major increase in this type of crime, which is a crime that barely existed only 10 to 15 years ago. Yes, there were fraud cases back at that time, but not nearly to the extent nor the sophistication that today’s identity theft crimes display.
Much of the reason, it must be assumed, is due to the Internet boom and how there are literally millions more people online every day than there were several years ago. But this is NOT to say that the Internet or the information technology craze is a bad thing, not at all. What it does mean, however, that it is easier than ever for people to share personal information online. There is no personal interaction required to type information into a web form or via instant messenger or via email, when in reality, you do not know for 100% sure exactly WHO is receiving the information you are transmitting into cyberspace. You may THINK it’s your bank asking you to verify your information or this great new friend you met in a forum that teaches Sunday school, but do you really know?
For the most part, most consumers are unaware of what information they are NOT required to divulge. People who are relatively new to the Internet and email do not realize that their bank or credit card company would NEVER ask them to verify personal information online, yet thousands of people fall victim to email scams every year by doing so because the email looks so “official”. What they don’t realize is that almost any 12 year old worth his salt can create an “official looking” email that probably would look better than one the real bank or credit card company would send out themselves!
Never give out your personal information, account information or PIN codes via an online form or to a telemarketer over the phone. Even if you don’t have doubts about the identity of the person calling, be cautious anyway and YOU initiate the call to the bank or credit card company so you know who you are calling.
Invest in a paper shredder, which are less than $40 at almost any office supply store. And with those credit card offers you get in the mail every week? Shred them. If you are like most people and simply tear it in half and throw it in the trash, this becomes gold for the identity thieves who regularly engage in “dumpster diving” to piece back together such offers so they can steal your identity.
Protect your identity and your personal information. It may be a bit more trouble than you are used to taking, but if your identity is stolen, you will spend weeks, month, and even years trying to get things straightened back out.