Tags: Identity | Theft | Millions | Victims | Billions | Losses

Identity Theft – Millions Of Victims – Billions In Losses

Friday, 24 September 2004 12:00 AM

he U.S. Department of Justice, in their report, “Identity Theft: The Crime of the New Millennium,” outlines some shrewd ideas on how to possibly prevent the fastest growing crime in our county - identity theft. The report says while it is extremely difficult to prevent identity theft, the best approach is to be proactive and take steps to avoid being a victim. Here are a few of the suggestions:

1. Only Share Identity Information When Necessary: Be cautious about sharing personal information with anyone who does not have a legitimate need for the information.

Quick Security Tip: Credit card numbers should never be provided to anyone over the telephone unless the consumer has initiated the call and is familiar with the entity with which they are doing business.

2. When In Public, Exercise Caution When Providing Identity Information: So called “shoulder surfers” regularly obtain such personal information for their fraudulent use.

A Quick Security Tip: Be extra alert when entering account information at an ATM, or when entering long-distance calling card information on a public phone.

3. Do Not Carry Unnecessary Identity Information In A Purse Or Wallet: According to the FTC, the primary means for thieves to obtain identity information is through the loss or theft of purses and wallets. To mitigate the danger that identification might be misappropriated, only carry the identity information necessary for use during the course of daily activities, such as your driver’s license, one credit or debit card, insurance card and membership cards that are required for daily use.

A Quick Security Tip: In general, there should be no need to carry a Social Security card, birth certificate or a passport on an everyday basis. These items should be locked in a safe or a safety deposit box.

4. Secure Your Mailbox: According to the FTC, the second most successful means for thieves to obtain identity information is through stolen mail. Some good ideas may include depositing outgoing mail in a locked post office collection box or at the local post office, installing a locked mail box at your residence, and promptly removing mail after it has been delivered.

5. Secure Information On Your Personal Computer: Credit card numbers should not be provided to anyone on the Internet unless the consumer has initiated the contact and is familiar with the entity with which they are doing business. Also, computer users should install a “firewall” on their personal computers to prevent unauthorized access to stored information.

6. Keep Financial And Medical Records In A Secure Location: It is important to keep all financial and medical records, and any other information containing identity information, in a secure location under lock and key.

7. Shred Nonessential Material Containing Identity Information: It is especially a good idea to shred pre-approved credit applications and subscription solicitations.

A Quick Security Tip: Expired credit or debit cards should also be cut into several pieces before being discarded.

8. “Sanitize” The Contents Of Garbage And Recycling: Junk mail or old financial documents may be a “gold mine” when obtained by an identity thief.

9. Ensure That Organizations Shred Identity Information: Customers, clients and patients should insist that all data be shredded before being discarded, and that all retained data be kept in secure storage.

10. Remove Your Name From Mailing Lists: Customers of businesses that may market identity information should submit such requests, notifying the entity in writing of their desire to opt out of any mailing lists, and to not have identity information shared.

A Quick Security Tip: To opt out of the mailing lists of the three major credit bureaus, call 1-888-5OPT-OUT.

11. Carefully Review Financial Statements: Promptly review all bank and credit card statements fore accuracy, and report any irregularities to the bank or credit card company immediately.

12. Periodically Request Copies Of Credit Reports: The reports should be reviewed carefully to make sure no unauthorized accounts have been opened or unauthorized changes made to existing accounts.

A Quick Security Tip: Many ID theft experts suggest checking your credit report even more frequently than once a year.

For more details on this essential Justice Department report, log on to: www.usdoj.gov.

Also, a super place to learn more about identity theft is the FTC’s website at www.ftc.gov or call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP.

My Final Thoughts: Identity theft is unquestionably a reprehensible crime. In addition to the undeniable harm of your possible monetary losses, many times the process of attempting to extricate yourself from the perplexing web of clearing your good name and credit history is not only costly, but truly exhausting.

It is best, therefore, if possible, to avoid the venomous trap of identity theft thugs before they have the opportunity to scam you.

Think about this: In essence, an ID thief is not just stealing from you, but is, in effect, stealing you!

Copyright 2004 by Bruce Mandelblit. Bruce welcomes your thoughts. His email address is: CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com. Bruce is a nationally known security journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve Law Enforcement Officer. Bruce writes Staying Safe, a weekly syndicated column covering the topics of security, safety and crime prevention. Bruce was commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel -- the state’s highest honor -- for his public service. This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.


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he U.S. Department of Justice, in their report, "Identity Theft:The Crime of the New Millennium," outlines some shrewd ideas on how to possibly prevent the fastest growing crime in our county - identity theft.The report says while it is extremely difficult to prevent...
Friday, 24 September 2004 12:00 AM
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