Protecting Your Data: Practical Steps to Prevent Identity Theft

Protecting Your Data: Practical Steps to Prevent Identity Theft

In our technology-driven world, identity theft is a major concern. The threat of someone stealing personal information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, dates of birth, or bank account details is a growing fear for many.  It’s important to be able to understand the tricks fraudsters use and how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft.

Arm Yourself with Knowledge

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the average victim of identity theft is unaware of the problem for 12 months. Regular reconciliation of bank and credit card accounts can help catch signs of fraud early.

Protecting your identity and securing your credit by getting a credit freeze is a good idea. In most cases, a credit freeze prevents new accounts from being opened in your name, making your SSN useless to a potential identity thief.

Job Scamming

Criminals take advantage of high unemployment rates by tricking job seekers with fake job listings and “work-at-home” scams. Often, these scams end with the job seeker being asked to provide their SSN. The best rule of thumb? Learn how to spot a job scam, and never provide any personal identification information until signing a contract or new hire forms for the HR department.

New Generation of ID Thieves

There has been an increase in criminals, without a criminal history, who have begun to explore identity theft for the “quick money” to be made. These identity thieves take advantage of “low tech” methods, such as stealing credit card numbers, dumpster diving, making phone calls, or phishing for credit card numbers. Be proactive by shredding all account documentation, and always remain cautious with any information you give out over the phone, Internet, or email.

All-in-the-Family Theft

Many desperate identity thieves have turned to “all-in-the-family” cases, as well as usage of numbers belonging to close friends, roommates, and co-workers. Regularly checking your credit record is essential.

Medical Identity Theft

The Social Security Administration has noted an increase in uninsured people using the coverage of a friend, relative, or even a stranger to get medical care. Double-check your billing statements to ensure your information hasn't been used by another.

Insider Identity Theft

This “intimate” type of workplace theft is due to the failure to follow security protocols and has created opportunities for thieves to gain access to personal identification information retained in databases or hard copy files.

Social Media Identity Theft

Social media identity theft happens when someone hacks an account via phishing and creates infected short URLs or creates a page using photos and the victim's identifying information. Caution remains king when using social media. Avoid posting or giving out personal identification information on social media sites.

Know What to Look For

Day-to-day activities often open up new opportunities for identity thieves. Staying proactive and cautious with your daily habits will help eliminate potential fraud. As Ben Franklin says, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Shoulder Surfing

Criminals often engage in "shoulder surfing" in public places. They will watch you from a nearby location as you punch in your telephone calling card number or credit card number.

Dumpster Diving

Some criminals will go through garbage cans, communal dumpsters, or trash bins to obtain copies of checks, credit cards, bank statements, or other records that typically bear your personal information.

You’re "Pre Approved"

If you receive applications for "pre-approved" credit cards in the mail, but discard them without tearing up the enclosed materials, criminals will retrieve them and try to activate the cards for their use without your knowledge.

While it may not be possible to completely avoid having personal information end up in the wrong hands, the risk of identity theft can be reduced. The ID Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit focused on helping consumers understand and manage identity theft, recommends you shred documents that include personal information, avoid using Social Security numbers or other intimate data unnecessarily, and password protect all financial accounts. Additionally, it is important to utilize the free annual credit report each and every year, as well as regularly monitor accounts to ensure no erroneous charges or transfers have been made.

To find out if you’re at risk for fraud or identity theft, take our quick fraud assessment.  You’ll also find more information on protecting your identity, as well.

Stephanie Dreiling, CCUFC, CUDE
Stephanie Dreiling, CCUFC, CUDEAVP of Education and Community Development

Related Articles

Read More from The Way > Blog Home