ID theft continues to be a problem throughout the United States and the world. Many express anxiety and uncertainty when confronted with the possibility of ID theft. Although criminals are getting smarter, it is still possible to keep your identity safe and secure. There are a few simple steps and procedures that one can do to prevent identity theft. Office Zone is a leading online distributor of paper shredders and has several tips and ideas for you to use.
Identity Theft Facts:
- ID Theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States
- Most victimes have no idea how their identity was stolen.
- Most criminals consider ID theft to be a low risk crime with the potential of a high return.
- As of April 2003, one in 20 adults have become victimes of identity theft.
- Dumpster diving is perfectly legal in most U.S. States.
HOW IDENTITY THEFT OCCURS - Federal Trade Comission
Skilled identity thieves use a variety of ways to gain access to your personal information. For example, they may get information from businesses or other institutions by stealing it while they?re on the job; bribing an employee who has access to these records; hacking these records; and conning information out of employees. Or:
Once identity thieves have your personal information, they may use it to commit fraud or theft. For example:
- they may steal your wallet or purse.
- they may steal your personal information through email or the phone by saying they?re from a legitimate company and claiming that you have a problem with your account. This practice is known as "phishing" online, or "pretexting" by phone.
- they may steal your credit or debit card numbers by capturing the information in a data storage device in a practice known as "skimming." They may swipe your card for an actual purchase, or attach a device to an ATM machine where they may enter or swipe your card.
- they may get your credit reports by abusing the authorized access that was granted to their employer, or by posing as a landlord, employer, or someone else who may have a legal right to your report.
- they may rummage through your trash, the trash of businesses, or public trash dumps in a practice known as "dumpster diving."
- they may steal personal information they find in your home.
- they may steal your mail, including bank and credit card statements, credit card offers, new checks, and tax information.
- they may complete a "change of address form" to divert your mail to another location.
- they may call your credit card issuer to change the billing address on your account. The imposter then runs up charges on your account. Because the bills are being sent to a different address, it may be some time before you realize there?s a problem.
- they may open new credit card accounts in your name. When they use the credit cards and don?t pay the bills, the delinquent accounts are reported on your credit report.
- they may establish phone or wireless service in your name.
- they may open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on the account.
- they may counterfeit checks or credit or debit cards, or authorize electronic transfers in your name, and drain your bank account.
- they may file for bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they?ve incurred under your name, or to avoid eviction.
- they may buy a car by taking out an auto loan in your name.
- they may get identification such as a driver?s license issued with their picture, in your name.
- they may get a job or file fraudulent tax returns in your name.
- they may give your name to the police during an arrest. If they don?t show up for the court date, a warrant for arrest is issued in your name.
Possible Signs of Identity Fraud:
- There is no more money in your checking or savings account.
- Credit card companies you haven't applied for, or owe money to, send you bills.
- You can't secure a loan because of bad credit.
Places Personal Information can be obtained:
Anywhere that your name, social security number, telephone number and address appear.
- Personal checks
- Driver's licenses
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Pay stubs - showing your income and employer
- Paying bills - paying your credit card bill and writing your credit card number the check.
Buying a shredder is the best way to protect yourself from fraud. Shredders are very affordable and lightweight and cam be used for home or personal use. Shredding documents with your personal information can ensure financial safety.
- Shred all your waste paper, not just selected confidential items.
- Use a crosscut shredder.
- Make sure anyone with your personal information used a crosscut shredder.
- Make sure your bank properly handles your personal information.
- Encourage the destruction of all waste paper.
- Purchase shredders appropriate to your needs.
- Use crosscut shredders for a high level of security.
Examples of items that criminals can use if not properly disposed of:
|Address labels from junk mail and magazines
||Birth certificate copies|
|Canceled and voided checks
||Credit and charge card bills, carbon copies, summaries and receipts|
|Credit reports and histories
||Documents containing maiden name (used by credit card companies for security reasons)|
|Documents containing names, addresses, phone numbers or e-mail addresses
||Documents relating to investments|
|Documents containing passwords or PIN numbers
||Driver's licenses or items with a driver's license number|
|Employee pay stubs
|Expired passports and visas
||Unlaminated identification cards (college IDs, state IDs, employee ID badges, military IDs)|
||Investments, stocks and property transactions|
|Item with a signature (leases, contracts, letters)
|Medical and dental records
||Papers with a Social Security number|
|Pre-approved credit card applications
||Receipts with checking account numbers|
||Resumés or curriculum vitae|
||Used airline tickets|
|Utility bills (telephone, gas, electric, water, cable TV, Internet)|