Identity Theft Threatens Personal Security

By: Gavyn Smith

You've heard about it thousands of times on the internet, the radio, and especially on television: Identity Theft. It sounds like such an obscure topic that could never affect you, but just like any other security topic, it can happen to you. Usually when it does happen, it is quiet, yet destructive resulting in hurt credit, lost money, and personal stress. To that effect, I will now address the growing problem of identity theft and what it means to you.

First of all, let's identify how identity theft can happen exactly, and that way prevention measures can be set. According to the government, thieves use six main ways to steal your identity: (1)

1-Dumpster Diving: Probably one of the main ways thieves get information. People think that no one will go through their trash, and maybe they rip their information in half, but thieves will stop at nothing to get your identity. It is best to avoid any problems and just shred whatever documents and even cd's or disks that contain personal information.

2-Skimming: Special storage devices can be used while processing your card that can store your information for later use. This can happen at run-down stores and even at some higher-end chain stores. The best way to prevent this is to pay with cash whenever you are at an unknown or untrustworthy store, and of course be savvy when using your card.

3-Phishing: One of the newer ways to steal your identity brought on by the advent of the internet. You go to a site you believe is trustworthy, a popup appears asking for some information and you feel it out thinking you will win a free something or other, or you will get the product you need. Don't fall prey to this method! Use anti-phishing protection such as a security program, and be especially wary of popups asking for personal information!

4-Changing Your Address: An interesting method, a thief sends your billing statements to another location by issuing a change in address form. This especially can be prevented by again shredding your bank, credit card, and subscription information, or anything else that has something personal on it.

5-Old-Fashioned Stealing: Thieves steal 'wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.'(1)

6-Pretexting: Thieves may use a false identity such as bank employee or customer service representative to obtain personal information. The thief can then pretend to be you and make withdrawals and other financial transactions to steal your money. Be wary whenever someone asks for personal information such as a social security number or bank account number.

I hope that by reading this brief article that you have gained awareness as to the means that thieves will use to get your identity. As technology advances the problem will only be compacted. Inspect all your documents and take the extra minute or two to shred documents containing personal information. It is a fairly preventable problem, and one that you should take seriously to avoid major financial ruin.

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