Posted on August 31, 2017 in Crime
Identity theft has been a major concern of the digital age since the 1990s. Once digital commerce proliferated, hackers, fraudsters, and other criminals saw an opportunity to commit serious crimes from the relative safety of a remote computer. Identity theft refers to any fraud committed by obtaining another person’s personal information and acting as that person. For example, stealing a neighbor’s mail and obtaining his or her social security card to apply for a credit card in his or her name would constitute identity theft.
Some identity theft happens due to carelessness, such as sharing passwords to online accounts, while others keep login information written down in accessible areas. Some fraudsters will rifle through the trash for bank statements and other pieces of mail containing personal information. Still others use the internet to hack into personal accounts, steal personal information, and commit fraud digitally online. In many cases, victims of identity theft do not immediately realize their personal information has been stolen, and recovering from identity theft can be an arduous process.
As with most problems, prevention is the best cure when it comes to identity theft. By forming good habits and staying safety conscious with your personal information and other sensitive data, you can protect yourself from identity theft. Some of the best ways to prevent identity theft include:
Do not give out personal information to strangers or people who you do not completely trust. Don’t reply to or even open suspicious emails, as doing so can sometimes infect your computer with viruses that allow hackers to access your personal files.
Remain cautious about people who you suspect might try to steal personal information. When walking around, be mindful of your surroundings, especially in areas known for pickpocketing. While some street thieves will simply take the cash out of a lifted wallet, others will sell credit cards and ATM cards to other criminals who use them to steal more from their victims.
If a virus infects your computer, you may lose lots of important personal files, photos, documents, emails, and other bits of data. A good rule of thumb for backing up data is the “3-2-1” rule: try to maintain at least three copies of your data in at least two locations, one of which should be remote and completely separated from your computer.
Shred old personal documents, bank statements, medical records, tax filings, and any other documentation that contains sensitive information. Throwing these documents away is not good enough, as criminals will not shy away from rifling through the trash if it means stealing useful information.
Many banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions offer members the chance to activate alerts for suspicious account activity. These alerts can be invaluable, as they will notify you of suspicious activity on your account as soon as it happens so you can respond quickly.
If these preventive measures fail and you experience identity theft in any form, it’s important to reach out to your financial institutions and freeze all activity on your accounts until you have resolved the situation. It is also highly recommended that you contact a criminal lawyer to see if you can take any legal action after identify theft. While this can be a tremendous, time-consuming headache, it is imperative to act quickly before criminals can take further advantage.