According to the Federal Trade Commission, “ID Theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States”. Identity theft is less publicized when it happens on the individual level. ID theft can happen to anyone and at any time.
To avoid becoming a victim of ID theft, the first and foremost thing to consider is to categorize the information which defines you, i.e. electronically or physically (paper). You should evaluate which Information is critical to you and what measures you need to implement to control this information from falling into wrong hands.
The most common source or spread of information is done through bank statements, ATM receipts, medical records, pieces of paper you throw away, etc. The combination of all this information can be used against you. As the old adage goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’; similarly, every one irrespective of what he/she is with regard to status, designation, rich or poor; the truth is if you don’t give proper attention to your information you are at risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. In both aspects (online and offline) being mindful of your information is the best thing to avoid unnecessary complications.
Another source of such crime to take place is you. There is a saying which goes, “he who holds his tongue is wise”. This is true; sometimes we speak a great deal and share information unknowingly. An ID thief uses this opportunity to collect as much information as possible. Don’t get lured when people offer a gift for providing your personal information. Bits and pieces of your information can be used as bait to access your finances.
Types of ID Theft:
- Credit card theft: stealing your credit card information and purchasing goods and services at your cost.
- Driver’s license theft: when someone steals your driver’s license, forges your license and commits traffic violations this will lead you being billed for all violations.
- Criminal identity theft: a criminal steals your identity and uses your name for his gain.
- Medical record theft: considered as the most dangerous identity theft, people living with high-risk lifestyles do not want to be tested for diseases such as AIDS under their own identities. Hence they steal your identifiable information and test themselves and leave you with a medical record indicating you are HIV positive.
Prevention tips to follow:
- Shred sensitive documents before disposing of them
- Never leave important documents unattended and don’t store or keep in unsafe places
- Search on the Internet via Google Search and other search engines by typing your name and check if your identity is available, if so, request the web administrator to remove your information.
- Inform your bank in case of a change of address
- Never leave your wallet/purse unattended
- Put your cards, passports and other documents in a safe place
- Do not carry ID cards, credit / debit card and passport together
- Change your PINs and passwords regularly
- Install good antivirus software and update it on a regular basis
- Keep in mind how much information is already out there about you