Identity theft is a crime that continues to rise and there are a number of ways in which a criminal can perpetrate it. Here’s what you need to know:
Identity Theft Targets an Individual’s Financial Information
Identity theft is a crime that involves someone else unlawfully using physical or web-based means to obtain your personal and, ultimately, financial information.
Identity Theft Can Happen Anywhere
Most people believe they have to have their homes burglarized to fall victim to identity theft. However, one of the most common ways the crime is committed is by what is known as “shoulder surfing,” where a person literally looks over your shoulder to gain information such as a credit card number. Many cases of identity theft happen online through hacking devices, phishing and other web-based scams.
You Can Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
Always shred mail that contains your personal information as this decreases the likelihood of thieves gaining access to it. Use common sense and avoid answering emails that appear to be scams. Do not open attachments unless you know the sender and are expecting something from them. Sometimes, e-mail attachments are actually Trojan horses that allow thieves to view data on your device.
When in public, keep mobile device screens concealed from those around you. Avoid checking financial or banking apps while in public, too, and do not access any personal financial information while on a public Wi-Fi network. If you are going away, put a temporary stop on your mail or have it held at the post office. You can also have a trusted friend or family member pick it up for you.
What Kind of Crime is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is considered a “white collar” crime. It falls under the federal offense category that involves knowingly gaining compensation while using another person’s identification.
It Takes a Long Time to Remedy the Damage
Unfortunately, if you fall victim to identity theft, it can take years to fix your credit and remedy any additional damages. Some identity theft victims might choose to file for bankruptcy as a way to start from scratch. Although identity theft can happen in an instant, the damage can last a lifetime.