Identity theft is a serious crime in the United States with as many as 9 million victims each year. Identity thieves steal personal information such as name, Social Security number, driver’s license number or credit card numbers with the intention of committing fraud. Once the thieves have your information they may rent an apartment, open a credit card account, establish telephone, utilities or automobile bills in your name, and since the regular payment of these credit lines do not effect the thief there is little regard to the destruction of the victim’s credit score. The scariest part of this type of crime is that the victims are sometimes unaware of the sabotage against their credit history until after the fact when contacted by debt collectors. The aftermath victims face can range from a quick resolution to hundreds of hours and dollars spent to restore their good name to missing out on opportunities like employment and housing or education loans.
Understanding how the thieves typically obtain information can help prevent being victimized by the crime. The follow are some of the common methods used by identity thieves to gather information:
- Dumpster Diving. Literally digging through trash to locate bills or other documents that contain your personal identifying information. The most effective way to avoid this type of theft is to shred or tear up these types of documents before trashing them.
- Skimming. A special device steals and stores credit or debit card numbers when the card is swiped and processed. Beware of allowing just anyone to swipe your card.
- Phishing. There are an overwhelming number of fake companies that spam our email inboxes and constantly send pop up ads; these companies often claim to be financial institutions or credit counselors because it seems logical that type of organizations would need the personal information. Be sure to check into the background of any company before providing any personal information.
- Changing Your Address. The process of forwarding your mail is not a difficult one to complete. Thieves will often send your billing statements to a location to which they have access.
- Old-Fashioned Stealing. Never underestimate the lengths that people will go to steal anything they can get their sticky fingers on. Identity thieves will steal wallets and purses; mail, including bill statements and pre-approved credit offers; new checks; tax information even stooping to bribing employees with access to personal information.
- Pretexting. Thieves obtain access to your personal information from financial organizations, bill companies or other services under false pretenses. Pretexters may also contact your directly and claim to be a research firm and proceed to ask personal questions.
Her political science background helped her fine tune her research skills, while her advertising focus gave her a deeper understanding of the importance of branding. Branding is not just for companies; everyone projects their own personal brand, the image interpreted by the world of who you are and what you stand for. Financial responsibility plays a large role in an individual’s personal brand, and Lacy hopes to help readers develop the financial skills that lead to remarkable personal brands.