Identity Theft is defined as the fraudulent use of a person’s private identifying information, usually for financial gain. There are three types of identity crimes we should know about:
- Lost or stolen personal information, when your information has been compromised through a company data breach or by obtaining a person’s checkbook or cell phone.
- Identity fraud, when someone uses an account fraudulently and often happens when your ATM, debit card, credit card or checks are stolen and used for unauthorized withdrawals or other transactions.
- Assumption of your identity, when someone takes your information and creates a whole new identity in your name. Details like your Social Security number, date of birth, and other personal information are stolen and used without your permission.
The 5 W’s of Identity Theft
WHO is impacted?
Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the Unites States today. As many as 41 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. 35% of fraud victims are Americans over the age of 60. More than 30% of identity theft victims are scammed by family and close friends of the family.
WHAT is the damage?
Financial losses from identity theft total upwards of $50 billion in the U.S. annually. One in five victims have experienced identity theft more than once. Identity theft can damage your credit score, finances, and create a major time burden.
WHEN does identity theft occur?
More than 99% of all targeted cyberattacks rely on users to activate them. Fraudsters often must gather multiple pieces of personal information to commit identity theft. 70% of fraud is initiated over the phone.
WHERE should users be most cautious?
While using public Wi-Fi, social media, your home mailbox, phone calls, ATMs, gas stations, the internet and while engaging in international travel.
WHY do criminals commit identity theft?
Some criminals work for large international crime organizations that fund terrorism for financial gain. And with the advancement of technology, the information fraudsters need is much more readily available.
Protecting Your Identity
How Does It Occur?
- Theft of information from your mailbox, trash, or business. Take your mail to an actual mail drop box or the post office to be safer.
- Victims are tricked into revealing information by phone or through online viruses and emails.
- Criminals place skimmers at gas pumps or point of sale terminals.
- Thieves steal a purse or wallet containing valuable information.
How Do You Know You’ve Become A Victim?
- Your bills go missing, you receive new bills, or mistakes appear on your accounts.
- You receive calls from collection agencies about debts that are not yours.
- If your tax filings are rejected, as someone else has filed in your name.
- You get calls or mail about accounts in your children’s or elderly parents’ names.
- You’re unexpectedly denied for a loan.
How Do You Protect Yourself from Identity Theft?
- Monitor Your Credit. You have a right to a free credit report from all three credit bureaus once every 12 months at annualcreditreport.com. Within banking apps, like Elements, you can see your FICO score monthly.
- Freeze Your Credit. A freeze will prevent any new credit accounts from being opened. There are items you’ll need to place a security freeze. Be prepared with this information. You’ll be asked some obscure questions, but they are designed to verify and validate you.
- Secure Your Social Security Number. Don’t share it with anyone without asking these questions: Why do you need it? How will it be used? And how will you protect it? Also, do not carry your card on you. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
- Watch for Impersonators. Avoid clicking links in emails without hovering over to see the destination first. Hang up and call a customer service line to verify a caller’s identity. Don’t trust caller ID on your smartphone.
- Protect Your Digital Footprint. When downloading apps, be cautious of their legitimacy. Avoid accepting online requests from people you don’t personally know. Search your own name on the internet and track any possible forged social media accounts.
- Create an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission and be sure to file a local police report.
Elements is here to support you. If you have questions or think you’ve been victimized by identity theft, our experts are here to assist you. Contact us today!