In our previous post on identity theft, we discussed the “dos” for protecting personal information from identity theft. In this article, we will explore the ‘don’ts’ – bad habits to avoid in order to protect against identity theft.
In most cases, criminals are motivated by financial gain, however perpetrators can also use false identities to commit other crimes such as fraudulently receiving healthcare benefits or obtaining employment. For this to happen, the criminal first needs to gather personal information on their victim - name, home address, and birth date serve as a good starting point. By following these helpful don’ts, one can avoid identity theft.
1. Don’t Store Sensitive Information on Non-Secure Websites
More people are making use of Web applications, such as Google Calendars and Facebook, however it is important not to store sensitive data on non-secure Websites. Despite the usefulness of online calendars, to-do-lists and other organizers, one must ensure that their account numbers and passwords are not collected by these sites, since normally these are not protected the way a banking Web site would be.
2. Don’t Give Out Data to Unsolicited Requests
One should refrain from providing private information, such as a social security number, over the phone or Internet, unless the individual initiated contact and is certain that the company is reputable. Identity thieves may sometimes dupe individuals to revealing personal information by posing as businesses, or representatives from banks or government.
3. Don’t Put Private Information on Public Computers
If an individual uses or has used a public computer, he or she must ensure that no private information is saved to it. When accessing a private account at an Internet café or library, they must be sure to log out of personal accounts, and never opt to save login information (such as username and password) on these computers.
4. Don’t Carry Your Social Security Card
The Social Security card should not be kept on your person, and the social security number (SSN) should never be written down on any documents stored in wallets. The SSN should be given only when absolutely necessary.
5. Don’t Leave Mail Sitting in an Unprotected Mail Box
Mail should be safe-guarded from theft. Mail should be promptly picked up daily and outgoing mail should not be left in an unprotected mailbox.
Business Identity Theft
Identity theft is no longer only a consumer crime. Business identity theft occurs when criminals impersonate the business itself. This can occur via the theft or misuse of key business identifiers and credentials, manipulation or falsification of business filings and records, and other related criminal activities intended to obtain illegal gains, thereby damaging the victimized business; and, to defraud other organizations or individuals, such as creditors and suppliers, financial institutions, the business' owners and officers, unsuspecting consumers, and the government.
Businesses are being targeted by identity thieves due to their higher potential to yield gains; for instance, businesses have higher credit limits and larger bank account balances compared to the average individual consumer.
Suspected Identity Theft
If something vital such as a purse or wallet is lost, or the individual’s identity is stolen, one should take action immediately. A police report should be filed, and the fraud departments of any one of the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian) contacted. It is much easier to stop the shopping spree before it ever begins.
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