Identity Theft is defined as one person, using information gathered from some source, taking on the identity of another person without permission and conducts a variety of activities using that identity. Their intent is to use your identity for their own personal gain, generally with the intent to defraud others.
It’s important to mention some common misconceptions about ID Theft. The following are NOT examples of ID Theft. If someone uses your credit card with your knowledge and consent to make a purchase; someone properly exercising a legally granted power of attorney on your behalf; someone making up a fake name and signing into a hotel (this may be a crime but it’s not ID Theft).
You are not helpless in protecting yourself from ID Theft and studies have shown that common internet usage does not increase your risk of identity fraud. Senior citizens are the most frequent targets of ID thieves.
Unfortunately, the deterrence and apprehension aspects of ID Theft are not yet very effective. There are common jurisdictional problems concerning where the crime occurs and it is an attractive crime to thieves because of the general low risk and high return. The best thing is prevention.
ID thieves look for information in a number of ways. They use discarded documents in the trash, receipts from purchases, lost or stolen wallets/purses, online “phishing” for personal data, stolen mail from mailboxes and they are always thinking of new, inventive ways. Sometimes ID thieves will call you and claim to be “updating records” or steal your incoming mail which usually shows your account number on the incoming bill.
A helpful bit of advice; if you get an email or a pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply or click on the link in the message. Legitimate companies will not ask for this kind of information via email. If you are concerned about your account, contact the organization via its legitimate telephone number or open a new Internet window and type in the company’s correct web address. A “lock” icon on the status bar or a URL for a website that begins with “https:” indicates you are on a secure site. The “s” in “https” is an easy way to check.
What can you do to prevent Identity Theft???
-Purchase and use a paper shredder. New paper shredders are coming into the market that make thorough document destruction easier at home.
-Check your bank, credit card and similar statements monthly. Make sure you receive them and make sure the charges listed on them are yours. Immediately call your bank or Credit Card Company if you don’t receive your bill.
-Consider registering with the Direct Marketing Association to stop unsolicited credit offers.
-NEVER provide account information over the internet or phone unless you originated the call and are absolutely certain of the party to whom you are speaking.
-Rip up receipts if you will not need them for warranties or returns.
-Shred any unwanted loan or credit card offers.
-Do not give out your real name or other personal information in Internet Chat Rooms. Use a screen name.
-Do not authorize others to use your credit cards. They may not take the same care you do.
-Deposit your outgoing mail directly into a U.S. Postal Service mailbox.
What to do if you do become a victim of Identity Theft:
-You should immediately file a police report with Sealy PD and obtain an ID Theft packet with attached affidavits. Instructions and information will be located inside the ID Theft packet that the officer or detective will issue you.
-You should notify the three major credit bureaus and each of your credit or debit card issuers.
- You can also file an online report and affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission registry at www.ftc.gov under the identity theft section.
-Check your credit report and report any incorrect activity immediately.
-Carry copies of your documents with you (copies of the police report, the affidavit, and any other formal records that attest to your identity in case of emergency).
-Check court records in your general area for bankruptcies and mortgage liens using your name. Many of these records are automated now which makes this easier.