Identity theft is a crime that has gained a lot of attention in recent years, and it has established a growing trend and with the convenience of online shopping, online banking and online business, more opportunities have arrived for identity thieves to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. So serious is this crime that the government has taken initiatives to coordinate a joint effort among government agencies and commercial entities to curve the growth of credit fraud cases and identity fraud cases around the country.
Because it is a serious crime and it can target different aspects of one’s identity, it has become necessary to centralize the tasks of monitoring and providing identity protection to citizens with more sophisticated methods. Hence the now popular identity theft protection services available today from companies like Life Lock and Trusted ID.
Although most anyone would be able to describe what identity theft is, most people are not fully aware of how serious the consequences are when identity theft strikes and perhaps there are a lot of assumptions about the crime and how it happens. Also we’ll shed some light on what identity protection is how it can help you make sure that if an identity thief gets a hold of your personal information, they can’t actually use it.
What is identity theft? A good number of people would say that this happens when someone takes your credit card and commits credit fraud by making purchases they never intend to pay for. Well that’s partly right, credit fraud does constitute identity theft and if the criminal were identified and caught they would be charged under the laws that govern identity theft. However, there are a few other aspects of your identity, your credit is one of them, others are your medical records, your public records, accounts with utilities and phone companies that may be opened under your name, your mail, your social security number being used for purposes like getting fake ID’s or getting employment etc. So the range of possibilities for identity fraud is pretty wide.
Identity theft can only happen to careless people – Sure, it’s no argument that if you’re careless or too trusting with your personal information then you’re a high risk. But even the most careful person can become a victim of identity theft. Think about this, you have probably heard of the term phishing or phishing scams before, this method of identity fraud was very popular and effective a few years ago. Even today, these random attempts to get a victim to volunteer personal information still works, however, its effectiveness has died down some, and so thieves have gotten a little more resourceful and sophisticated in their scams and are now “spear phishing”. What this means is that thieves are getting to know their victims before they strike, no use going after someone who only has a few dimes in their bank account, there are much bigger fish to fry.
Credit monitoring is the key to identity theft prevention – Not really, it is a very important part of an identity theft protection program, but credit monitoring alone will not protect every aspect of your identity. As mentioned earlier there are many different fronts to your personal identity and any of them can be a target. Even though credit monitoring companies may advertise this service as identity theft protection, you need to measure their services against those who specialize in total identity protection and not just credit monitoring.
Identity thieves are most likely to steal identities online – online identity theft is definitely thriving, but not all identity thieves are technically savvy, they’re mostly opportunistic and opportunities abound off line perhaps more than online. Online identity thieves are known as hackers who exploit weaknesses in operating systems and unprotected computer systems to gain access to personal data or often to plant trojans and other viruses for different purposes. Everyone else who’s interested in taking your identity would resort to the old fashioned forms of identity fraud, such as dumpster diving, mail fraud (redirecting mail), stealing your wallet, digging through public records etc.
There’s no way to stop junk mail and pre-approved offers – There are no laws that make it illegal for credit bureaus and merchants to distribute your personal information for money, which they do a lot and that’s how you get so many credit offers and junk mail for products and services you hardly ever use. But you do have the right to opt out of these junk lists and pre-approval lists at any time. Doing so would dramatically reduce the amount of junk mail you receive.
Everything an Identity Theft protection service does I can do myself – Many of the things they do to protect your identity can be done by you, and although you may think you’re doing all you can to protect your good name, there are certain things that are out of your control. For example how business and financial organizations handle your information. When these organizations mishandle or fail to protect your information it can end up in the wrong hands, these are called security breaches and they happen more than a few times a year exposing millions of personal records. But one thing that these services do that no one can effectively do alone is to monitor online identity black markets, where social security numbers, credit card numbers, banking information and whole identities are sold daily. There are other services they perform that the individual can not, but you’ll have to read the reviews to find out.