Identity theft (aka identity fraud) has become the greatest concern for million Americans and big business for criminals. According to the 2016 Javelin Research, 15.4 million Americans were identified as the victims of identity theft. In simple words, it’s a deliberate use of someone‘s identity (a criminal act) to gain a financial advantage or any other benefit in that person’s name. To commit this crime, an imposter obtains personal information like driver’s license or Social Security number, to impersonate someone else.
1. Tax-related identity theft: A thief files a false tax return with the IRS using someone else’s Social security number.
2. Child identity theft: Children’s information is misused to open bank accounts, apply for government benefits, and other services.
3. Medical identity theft: It is done to receive medical services.
4. Mail-Identity Theft: It is an old school practice but a most dangerous method where criminals steal your email to make purchases, retrieve your financial account details or open up new credit cards. Don’t be defrauded!
Here’s how to protect your identity online:
Alcohol Consumption among Youngsters: The First Source of Identity Theft
A research paper released by “Real Identities LLC” suggests a number of measures that can be taken to control the growing issue of fake IDs. The first step is the need to identify a societal shift to stop the acceptance of underage drinking, which accounts for 11% of the total alcohol consumption in the US. Critics argue that the current legal penalties are not severe enough considering the cost that the society has to bear and that the solutions are not effective enough. Current solutions suggested by experts include training the people checking the IDs and using improved technology of ID scanners.
For example, half of all the states in the US have mandatory laws for training anyone selling or serving alcohol. This number needs to be increased as only less than 20 of the 50 states currently require a responsible vendor program and half the states don’t even mention ID checking as part of the curriculum.
Although alcohol server training is widely available, most lack the detail of thorough ID checks. While the plastic driver’s license is the most common form of identification currently, it is bound to be outdated soon with the introduction of new digital and electronic forms of identification such as mobile IDs and biometrics across all states. These are almost impossible to forge and will reduce the popularity of fake IDs.
Never give your Social Security, credit card number, or other personal information to strangers who call or send emails to you and don’t write this sensitive information on a random piece of paper or forms (except those you send to the IRS).
Avoid carrying your credit card or Social Security cards everywhere, unless important. Also, a big ‘NO’ to written PINs or passwords.
Store financial account statements, credit card reports, tax filings, and medical records in a secure place at home.
Don’t post your DOB, mother’s maiden name, or other personal information on social websites. These details are often used to verify your identity online.
Sign up for bank alerts that warn you of suspicious account activity.
Did you know? People who are below 21 have started looking for Fake ids, to enjoy at club or bars (age-restrictive places) to get drunk with friends. This sounds scary! What if your look-alike steals your personal information to have fun? Do not risk your future!
Secure Your Devices
Do you know about the firewall, antivirus software’s, anti-spyware, etc.? Make sure your device is protected by antivirus software’s and strong passwords so that no one could access it without permission. A password must have upper- and lower-case letters, symbols like #, &, and $, and numerals. Use a complex set of all.
Don’t use personal information such as DOB, kids name, etc.
Change passwords frequently.
Don’t use the same password on multiple accounts.
Place Security Freezes
Protect your credit report by placing a security freeze at all three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. This will prevent a third person from looking at your credit report except for financial institutions you’re in a relationship with and other government agencies.
Think Before Using Free Wi-Fi
Free public Wi-Fi is convenient, but you need to be vigilant in terms of security that public Wi-Fi doesn’t offer much. Never log in to your bank account while on public Wi-Fi. Also, avoid shopping online while you’re connected.
Close Unused Accounts
We all have multiple online accounts opened over time but not in use. To be on safe side, close your accounts immediately once you stop using it as hackers may have access to our personal information associated with that account. Invest some time in shutting them down. Remember, secure less information online.
Final thoughts: No one could dare to hack your personal information if you keep it safe by following the above essential tips.