You hear about it all the time–identity theft. On the news, on the radio, in the paper. But what exactly is it, and how can you protect yourself and your family from becoming a victim of this ever-growing crime?
Identity theft is when your social security number and other personal information is stolen and used to open credit cards, obtain bank loans, commit crimes or to be sold on the black market to identity thieves. As scary as it sounds, it’s becoming very common with the growth of internet shopping, our work from home lifestyle that exposes information via laptop and our careless use of this pertinent information, most notably our Social Security number..
Damage to your credit report is the crime most commonly heard of. Criminals will obtain your social security number, address, phone number, and other personal data to apply for credit or loans. Once approved (based on your NOW great credit rating…), they will rack up a huge bill for you to be responsible for. Of course, many people don’t realize that this damage has been done until they go to apply for something themselves and are denied. Upon a quick glance on their credit report, they see numerous cards and transactions that were not their own. After this, it can take months, years, or even a decade to clear up their credit report so that everything shows up correct.
There is also criminal theft. This is not as widespread as financial identity theft, but it does happen. This is when your information is given to police at the time of a crime, making the police record criminal activity under your name. In some cases, victims do not know about this activity until they get a knock on the door and the police are out looking for them. Or, when being pulled over for a minor traffic violation, they will be “enlightened” by the police that they have a warrant out for their arrest.
And, for those criminals out for money, they will sometimes even participate in identity cloning. Criminals will obtain numerous personal data items, such as social security numbers and birth certificates, and sell them to others on the black market who use them to commit any of the above crimes. They can also be used by immigrants to create a new identity for themselves so that they can work illegally in the country.
And if you own a business, you still need to protect its information. Identity theft doesn’t only happen on a personal level, it can happen at a corporate level, too. The business’ information can be stolen and used by the criminal to obtain credit and loans, and suddenly your business could be responsible for thousands of dollars of debt.
It is so much easier to be proactive about caring for your personal information than it is to clean up the mess after the damage has already been done. Protect yourself now.