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Identity theft – What can happen?

Identity theft is a crime on the rise, and it’s a complex one. Instead of just grabbing the contents of your wallet or making off with your car, an identity thief steals essential information about you. Your social security number, credit card information, tax details and the like – any scrap of information unique to you – are what this new breed of criminal is after. How does this happen and what are the consequences?

Low tech vs. high tech identity theft
Low tech identity theft can take place in a number of different ways. Frequently, it occurs when your wallet or handbag is stolen. Not content merely to spend all your hard earned cash, the thief also helps himself to your credit cards, driver’s license, Social Security card, passport and any other identification that you were carrying.

Another possibility is that a predator might go through your mail or even your trash can to find valuable information such as bank statements, new checkbooks, credit card bills, utility bills and other important personal data.

High tech identity theft happens online. In this type of case, a criminal (or group – often online thieves are not acting alone but are highly organized) harvests your personal details from posts and photos you’ve shared via social media, in comments to blogs, and so on.

What are the consequences?
Once they have the information they need, the thieves get to work. They can rob you in all kinds of ways – transferring sums of money from your bank account; writing checks with the checkbook they lifted from your mailbox; opening new bank account, loans or lines of credit with your ID.

The list goes on and on. A determined criminal may even hand over your ID when he is stopped for another crime, leaving you at risk for a police record.

What can you do?
The first line of defense is prevention. Make sure your mail box is securely locked. Have vital documents such as bank statements sent to you via Internet, and arrange to pick up new checks at your bank branch. Avoid keeping security information such as your account passwords or PINs, or even your home address, in your wallet or bag.

Shred bank statements, credit card bills and the like before putting them in the trash. Online, do not make personal information available for all to see. Never click on a link or download an attachment from an unknown or unexpected source. Use up to date virus protection and firewall programs.

If you do become a victim, file a report with your local police department. Contact the major credit bureaus, your credit card company and your bank immediately. Change any insecure online passwords.

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Grace Chen
Grace Chen - Writer & Editor
A graduate of the Haas School of Business, University of California, which is one of the top three (3) business schools in the U.S., Grace Chen has 10 years of experience in this field and have been delivering stellar business content through her written word. She’s the chief editor of Communicate Better and has written and edited thousands of content published in various online and printed media, including the NYSE-sponsored research studies and MEC Global. Connect with Grace on LinkedIn, https://www.linkedin.com/in/grace-chen-9254ab8/