How to Protect yourself from Falling Victim to Identity Theft

Identity theft is easily one of the fastest growing crimes. This is due to many reasons, especially the growth of computer use to store personal information. However, not all information attained by criminals are through the computer. You may be surprised to know that many times criminals steal identites by finding credit cards and by roaming through garbages for other person information. Also, some criminals even go as far as to go straight into your mailbox and take your mail that may contain vital information to your financial well being.

Surveys in the USA from 2003 to 2006 showed a decrease in the total number of victims but an increase in the total value of identity fraud to US$56.6 billion in 2006. The average fraud per person rose from $5,249 in 2003 to $6,383 in 2006. (Wikipedia searched, conducted by
^Recent Surveys and Studies, Privacy Clearing House, retrieved on June 30th, 2006.)

It is also noted that having ones identity stolen is emotionally equivalent to being a victim in a violent crime. When a criminal steals your identity and uses it for their own financial means, it can take months, or even years to get your credit back on track, even if you have nearly perfect credit. But there are ways to help prevent having your identity stolen by a criminal who doesn’t care about anyone other than themselves.

Never give out personal information on the internet unless it is a highly trusted site, and is encrypted as well. To see if a web page is encrypted and secure, check for the lock icon which can be located either to the right of the search bar, or at the bottom of the internet window somewhere. If you are giving out personal information in person, make sure you know and trust the person. Make sure that if you do not know them personally, get their contact information and ask for some sort of picture ID. If the person is working for a bank or another trusted organization, you don’t need to do this, but just remember their name in case something ever happens you can say whom took care of you and took your information.

Like I said before, criminals will go through your garbage and your mailbox for information pertaining to your identity. Every time you throw something away that has even your name on it, rip it in multiple pieces so that it cannot be put back together. Better yet, cross out all your personal information with a black marker and then rip it. Paper shredders are great tools to use to rip up your personal information before you toss it in the garbage as well.

Everyone has to leave their mail in the mailbox so that the mailman/woman can pick it up. However, criminals take identity information from there as well, so what do you do? Don’t leave your mail in the mailbox too early, or overnight. A lot of crime happens at night, which further heightens the risk of your information being stolen from your mailbox. If you’re going on vacation do not allow your mail to be delivered to your house. You can call your local post office and tell them to hold it for a verified amount of time while you are on vacation, this way criminals cannot launder through your mail.

The newest and most sophisticated way criminals are taking personal information from innocent people is via the internet and hacking. Like I said before, check for the security lock on websites before giving personal information. Public security (polce officers for the most part) cannot keep up financially with training people in the field of computer crime since it is very costly. If your identity is stolen and you want real help you should contact a private investigator in computer crime matters. But no matter what, contact your credit card company, or any other customer service or help desk officials when your identity is stolen. if you have a PayPal account, refer to their help desk as well as call your bank, and so on.

Remember, keep what is most previous to you, who you are.