If you have bank accounts, a social security number, an online presence then you are at risk from Identity Theft. Yes. That means we are all at risk from the crime that lost people over $160 million in 2019 according to IC3 (the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Centre).
What is Identity Theft?
ID theft is when someone steals and uses someone else’s personal information to commit fraud. It covers and encompasses a wide range of fraudulent and criminal activity. Below is a breakdown of some facts:
- The person or persons who steal personal information may not be the one/s who use it –it is likely to be sold on the so-called dark web.
- Information that can be used to steal your identity includes(but is not limited to):
- Actual documents such as passport, driver’s license, birth certificate.
- Social security number.
- Name and address.
- Date and place of birth.
- Email addresses.
- Bank account details.
- Passwords for any online accounts.
Identity thieves may use your details to:
- Access your existing accounts (this is also called ‘Account Takeover’).
- Set up a new bank or credit card account or take out loans.
- Shop online.
- Access Government benefits.
- Rent property.
- Access healthcare.
- Avoid prosecution by law by giving someone else’s information if apprehended for a crime.
- Travel probably with the intention to commit crime or evade prosecution.
How At Risk Are You?
According to the IC3 report, the most at-risk age group of internet crimes, including identity theft are those over 60. With over 68,000 cases reported in 2019 by this age group at a total cost to victims of over $830 million.
However, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of becoming another statistic.
- Keep your documents such as passports, licenses, birth certificates safe and secure.
- Buy and use a shredder or otherwise destroy all paperwork that has your identifying information on it including full names, address, social security number, and account information.
- Complete regular credit score checks to ensure there is nothing amiss.
- Consider putting a credit freeze on your accounts with the consumer credit bureau.
- Ensure all of your devices are protected with a firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spam software and that you install updates as soon as your provider sends you a prompt to do so.
- Do your best to keep yourself informed of methods Identity thieves may use to access your information, particularly online.
- Make sure you are password smart. This means using passwords that can’t be guessed easily such as “123456”, “password” or “qwerty” which are among the commonest passwords linked to hacked accounts. Experts suggest using phrases made up of random words. However, if this is difficult for you, consider using a password manager.
- Be conscious of the dangers of social media. How much personal information have you shared? And who with? Maybe you accepted a friend request from someone you didn’t know. Maybe you haven’t checked your privacy settings for a while. It is highly likely that everyone in your contacts/friends list knows your DOB and possibly even your place of birth. Did those old family photos you shared let everyone know your mother’s maiden name? Hopefully, none of your passwords involve the Grandchild’s name and DOB you might have wished a happy birthday too on your news feed!
- Shop safely. When making purchases online always use reputable stores rather than following links that offer unbelievable deals. Always look for the closed padlock symbol and for the use of HTTPS rather than HTTP as that little S means secure and means your information will be encrypted.