What Are Identity Theft and Identity Fraud?
Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.
Identity Theft affects everybody, and there is very little you can do to prevent it and, I think, worst of allóyou can't detect it until it's probably too late and is the fastest growing crime across the country right now.
Identity theft is the taking of the victimís identity to obtain credit, credit cards from banks and retailers, steal money from the victimís existing accounts, apply for loans, establish accounts with utility companies, rent an apartment, file bankruptcy or obtain a job using the victimís name. The Impersonator steals thousands of dollars in the victimís name without the victim even knowing about it for months or even years. Recently criminals have been using the victimís identity to commit crimes ranging form traffic infractions to felonies.
It is easy. All that is needed is your social security number, your birth date and other identifying information such as your address and phone number and whatever else they can find out about you. With this information, and a false driverís license with their own picture, they can begin the crime. They apply in person for instant credit, or through the mail by posing as you. They often provide an address of their own, claiming to have moved. Negligent credit grantors in their rush to issue credit do not verify information or addresses. So once the imposter opens the first account, they use this new account along with the other identifiers to add to their credibility. This facilitates the proliferation of the fraud. Now the thief is well on his/her way to getting rich and ruining your credit and good name.
Recovering from Identity Theft
Is someone using your personal information to open accounts, file taxes, or make purchases?
Visit IdentityTheft.gov, the federal governmentís one-stop resource to help you report and recover from identity theft.
Identity Thieves send out bogus e-mails in hopes of scaring, enticing or just tricking the naive into giving up personal information at fake websites that resemble those of legitimate financial institutions and other commercial outfits. The volume of phishing e-mail has reached astounding levels. The software company Symantec (of Norton fame) pegged traffic last year at 1.5 billion messages a day; less than half were blocked before reaching their destinations.
Be Safe and never click on a link in emails to access your bank account or log into ebay
Legitimate websites are hit with malicious computer code that steers those visiting them to lookalike sites. Data can then be harvested without a key being struck. In a twist, there's crimeware that instead attacks browsers (Internet Explorer, for one) and does its pharming from there...... more information ....... Pharming
Software planted on a computer (perhaps via a virus) records everything a user types and passes it back to an identity thief.
They can snatch and send images of what's on-screen.
Spyware is another big problem. At its most innocuous, it's just an annoyance, spawning unwanted advertising, like pop-ups. In its more nefarious form, it can arrive as a "Trojan downloader," a program that lies dormant on a computer, only to perk up later to retrieve and install destructive code under a hacker's direction.
Many people do not realize how easily criminals can obtain our personal data without having to break into our homes. In public places, for example, criminals may engage in "shoulder surfing" ≠ watching you from a nearby location as you punch in your telephone calling card number or credit card number ≠ or listen in on your conversation if you give your credit-card number over the telephone to a hotel or rental car company.
Even the area near your home or office may not be secure. Some criminals engage in "dumpster diving" ≠ going through your garbage cans or a communal dumpster or trash bin -- to obtain copies of your checks, credit card or bank statements, or other records that typically bear your name, address, and even your telephone number. These types of records make it easier for criminals to get control over accounts in your name and assume your identity.
If you receive applications for "preapproved" credit cards in the mail, but discard them without tearing up the enclosed materials, criminals may retrieve them and try to activate the cards for their use without your knowledge. (Some credit card companies, when sending credit cards, have adopted security measures that allow a card recipient to activate the card only from his or her home telephone number but this is not yet a universal practice.) Also, if your mail is delivered to a place where others have ready access to it, criminals may simply intercept and redirect your mail to another location.
In recent years, the Internet has become an appealing place for criminals to obtain identifying data, such as passwords or even banking information. In their haste to explore the exciting features of the Internet, many people respond to "spam" ≠ unsolicited E-mail ≠ that promises them some benefit but requests identifying data, without realizing that in many cases, the requester has no intention of keeping his promise. In some cases, criminals reportedly have used computer technology to obtain large amounts of personal data.
With enough identifying information about an individual, a criminal can take over that individual's identity to conduct a wide range of crimes: for example, false applications for loans and credit cards, fraudulent withdrawals from bank accounts, fraudulent use of telephone calling cards, or obtaining other goods or privileges which the criminal might be denied if he were to use his real name. If the criminal takes steps to ensure that bills for the falsely obtained credit cards, or bank statements showing the unauthorized withdrawals, are sent to an address other than the victim's, the victim may not become aware of what is happing until the criminal has already inflicted substantial damage on the victim's assets, credit, and reputation.
As soon as you are made aware of the fraud (usually a creditor will contact you or you will be denied credit, or you will see charges that are not yours on bills) you must immediately contact the three major credit reporting agencies by phone and letter to put a fraud alert on your credit profile. Get copies of the reports so that you will know which are the fraud accounts, and call the police in the county where the fraud occurs.