Lesley Asks About
Certainly "Identity Theft" is rather new. It's made possible by a combination of our reliance on credit cards, the speed of the Internet, and man's (and woman's) insatiable greed. The Internet did not create credit cards, it just made them easier to use. The Internet didn't create crooks, it just makes it faster for crooks to steal your money and now your identity.
And what's really being misreported is that somehow the Internet is reason why Identity theft is becoming such a widespread problem. Actually, it has little to do with the Internet - at least as far as the theft of identities goes. Most identities are stolen by such low-tech means as "dumpster diving" and "looking over the shoulder" or just out-and-out stealing items from your home which have your personal information included. According to the Federal Trade Commission the following are the way most thieves steal identities:
• stealing records or
information while they're on the job
One other way people can steal your identity is by Phishing which is when someone sends out millions of emails to random email addresses and pretends to be a bank or financial institution. Normally phishing attempts to fool you into believing that these requests to "update your account" or "change your password" are genuine. Most phishers are very good at making these emails look "official". But, keep this in mind, NO, NOT ONE, financial institution, credit card company, or bank will ever ask you for any personal information by email. The links in phishing emails are disguised to look like the link to your financial institution, credit card company, or bank, and the sites they lead too, will look just like your financial institution, bank, or credit card company. Do not be fooled. NEVER, EVER click a link in an email that asks you for personal information, to update your account details, or "change your password" etc. If you need to visit a site like your financial institution, auction site account, credit card company, or bank, or you question whether the email you received is genuine, visit the site by typing in their Web address directly in your browser's address bar. For example: if you get an email from Bank of America, and you're not sure if it's genuine, just type www.bankofamerica.com in your browser's address bar. That way you're sure you're on the legitimate site. But, again, we stress, NO financial institution, bank, online stock brokerage firm, credit card company, auction site, etc. will EVER ask you for any personal information in an email.
You can keep yourself safer by looking at the list of ways thieves steal identities and making sure you do all you can to prevent these things from happening to you. But, you can never be 100% safe. And it's not because of the Internet, or credit card companies, or anything else. It has to do with the nature of man (and woman) and the nature of greed. It's been this way for hundreds of thousands of years. That poor caveman who spent weeks hunting down a wooly mammoth and storing the meat for winter, wasn't safe. Some hungry predator might come in the night and eat up all his mammoth meat. Or his neighbors might find a way to trick him out of it or just plain steal it from it. Alas, the world has always had its thieves, con artists, and predators. Be wary. Be watchful. Use common sense.
What to do if you suspect you're a victim of identity theft (Advice from the FTC):
Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three consumer reporting companies to place a fraud alert on your credit report. The fraud alert tells creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too. Once you place the fraud alert in your file, you're entitled to order free copies of your credit reports, and, if you ask, only the last four digits of your Social Security number will appear on your credit reports.
Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Use the ID Theft Affidavit (PDF, 56 KB) when disputing new unauthorized accounts.
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