Identity Theft, as defined by the Department of Justice, involves obtaining and using someone’s personal information for fraudulent purposes. The biggest reason for identity theft is financial gain. A thief can use your credit card number to buy expensive goods. A thief could also use your identity to apply for new credit cards, loans, and jobs. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing Internet crimes.
Now more than ever, it is important to protect your personal information. Keep your social security number, passport number, credit card details, and driver’s license number private. Be careful where you share your birthday, address, telephone number, and other personal information. A thief will falsify credit applications, passport applications, and health records.
It is very difficult to reverse damage from identity theft-It could take years of your life. Meanwhile, you’ll have trouble applying for credit, loans, and jobs. You may not be able to recover the money that you lose.
All people of any age are at risk for identity theft. In any case, the highest occurrences tend to be among college-aged individuals who tend to be in situations that require them to share information. Sharing living spaces and changing jobs frequently also puts you at risk for identity theft.
Identity theft is illegal and can damage peoples’ lives. There are no benefits. The punishment for identity theft is severe.
How It Works
Identity theft takes place in a variety of ways. Hackers can access your email and access personal information like social security numbers, birthdates, birthplaces, driver’s license number, and addresses. Another method of stealing information is through your credit card or ATM card. This method is referred to as “skimming” and takes place when your card is swiped. A skimming device stores your information, which is then used or sold for fraudulent purposes. You are most at risk during the holidays.
Phishing scams provide additional opportunities for identity theft. Scams influence people to give out personal information through emails and pop-ups that appear legitimate. For example, a thief might email you posing as your bank and ask for your account information, personal information, and passwords. Keep in mind that your bank will never email you asking you for your password. If you feel that you have received a suspicious email, contact the agency.
Spyware also enables opportunities for identity theft. Typically, spyware installs itself on your computer without your knowledge. You might accidentally install spyware when you download programs that appear legitimate, or you might accidentally download spyware through pop-up windows. Spyware will then send your information to hackers who use or sell your information.
How to Protect Yourself
Take active steps to protect yourself from identity theft. Monitor your online accounts closely. When using shared computers see that you fully exit websites and applications, clear tracking cookies, and completely log off the computer. If you have a laptop, use locking mechanisms like passwords or fingerprint locks to prevent thieves from accessing your information.
When asked for personal information online, check that the website is secure. Websites have a security certificate that is displayed as a yellow lock symbol located at the bottom right hand corner of the page. Also most secure websites have the letter “s” at the end of the http portion of the URL. Use phishing filters, anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-malware software to keep harmful and intrusive software off your computer.