Identify theft/fraud is impersonating someone typically for financial gain either by exploiting the reputation of the subject person or stealing from them. Usually this term relates to check or credit card fraud although mortgage fraud and other kinds of financial fraud are common. It is used to enable illegal immigration, terrorism, or espionage.
Identity theft is very possible without serious breaches of privacy, usually due to personal or corporate negligence (not shredding confidential information, or giving out private information to unauthorized persons). If corporate or government entities do not protect consumer privacy, client confidentiality, and political privacy the execution of identity theft becomes much easier for criminals.
Surveys in the USA from 2003 to 2006 showed a decrease in the total number of victims but an increase in the total value of identity fraud to US$56.6 billion in 2006. The average fraud per person rose from $5,249 in 2003 to $6,383 in 2006.
~~ How is it done:
Here are some techniques used to obtaining information:
~~ How to protect yourself:
The US Federal Trade Commission recommends:
~ What if I am a victim:
If you are a victim of identity theft, take the following four steps as soon as possible, and keep a record with the details of your conversations and copies of all correspondence.
1) Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three consumer reporting companies below to place a fraud alert on your credit report. Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too.
* Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; http://www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
* Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); http://www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
* TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; http://www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
Once you place the fraud alert in your file, you are entitled to order free copies of your credit reports, and, if you ask, only the last four digits of your Social Security number will appear on your credit reports. Once you get your credit reports, review them carefully. Look for inquiries from companies you have not contacted, accounts you did not open, and debts on your accounts that you can not explain. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed.
2) Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company. Follow up in writing, and include copies (NOT originals) of supporting documents. It is important to notify credit card companies and banks in writing. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when. Keep a file of your correspondence and enclosures. When you open new accounts, use new Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords. If the identity thief has made charges or debits on your accounts, or on fraudulently opened accounts, ask the company for the forms to dispute those transactions. Once you have resolved your identity theft dispute with the company, ask for a letter stating that the company has closed the disputed accounts and has discharged the fraudulent debts. This letter is your best proof if errors relating to this account reappear on your credit report or you are contacted again about the fraudulent debt.
3) File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Then, get a copy of the police report or at the very least, the number of the report. It can help you deal with creditors who need proof of the crime. If the police are reluctant to take your report, ask to file a "Miscellaneous Incidents" report, or try another jurisdiction, like your state police.
4) File your complaint with the FTC. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them. You can file a complaint with the FTC using the online complaint form; or call the FTCs Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261; or write Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.
~~ Order a Free Credit Report:
You are entitled under U.S law to one free credit report annually from each of the three national credit bureaus. To order your free credit report, visit http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ , call toll-free at (877) 322.8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form on the U.S. Federal Trade Commissions website at http://www.ftc.gov/ and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Do not contact the three credit bureaus individually. You can only get the report via the site, toll-free number or mailing address given above.
~~ Fully protect your computer:
Install VMWare player and set up a Safe Browsing environment compared to a what I call a Junk Browsing VM. More on this in upcoming shows but you must take control of your computer and home network environment.