In todays increasingly interconnected and digitized society the theft of personal information is a lot easier to perpetrate than before. As a result, we must become increasingly diligent to ensure that we secure our most private and personal information. The theft of personal information, or identify fraud as its most commonly called costs consumers quite a lot. A big portion of loss could’ve been avoided had people been a bit more educated about identity fraud and what they can do to prevent themselves from becoming victims. Just to drive the point home a bit, check out this information compiled in 2005. I know it’s a bit old but I doubt that the dollar figure given has declined; in fact I bet you anything that it has increased.
This data was taken from an official U.S Government report published over here:
Here is the pertinent quote:
Between January and December 2005, Consumer Sentinel, the complaint database developed and maintained by the FTC, received over 685,000 consumer fraud and identity theft complaints. Consumers reported losses from fraud of more than $680 million.
Scary, isn’t it!
So, what is identity fraud?
Identity Fraud is commonly described as occurring when an impostor obtains a piece of your personal information like your name, credit card number, Social Security number, etc without your permission.
How do this thieves steal your identity?
Skimming- stealing your credit/debit card numbers using special storage device when processing your card.
Changing Your Address – diverting your billing statements to another location by filing change of address.
Dumpster Driving – rummaging trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
Pretexting – using false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.
Phishing – pretending being a financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
Old-Fashioned Stealing – stealing wallets,mails that include bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers, and new checks or tax information.
The Internet is a major venue for fraud to victimize merchants who sell and ship products and also for those who provide online services. If you are using credit cards to transact business using the Internet, protect your self against these thieves. Be responsible enough with your identity.
The following are tips on how to prevent thieves from obtaining your identity:
Delete any suspicious emails from organizations requesting personal information from you. Don’t even think about clicking on any links present in such e-mail.
Be extra vigilant when giving out personal information (trust your instincts; if it smells suspicous, don’t give out your personal info!)
Shred all personal information before throwing it away in your rubbish. Get a paper shredder – they aren’t all that expensive!
If you move house, make sure you tell your bank and other organizations in advance
Tell your Postal Service if you suspect your mail is going missing
Encrypt the personal information stored on your computer. In Windows XP for example you can either use Windows’ own “encrypt contents to secure data” feature available by right clicking on a folder and going to properties then advanced. Alternatively I would also recommend a great program called AxCrypt.
If you absolutely must store password or any other highly sensitive information in digital format get a USB jump-drive and store the information on it in ENCRYPTED format (see AxCrypt or TrueCrypt). Then store this USB drive in a SECURE location.
Use password managers that store your password in a strongly encrypted format! One great program that I love and use is called RoboForm. You can download a free copy from my site (the software is 100% free to use) by clicking over here. Alternatively if you don’t trust downloading from my site you can always visit RoboForm’s official website.
For those of you who like to use BitTorrent you can download the RoboForm torrent file over here.
Stay tuned to this blog as later on I intend to write an article for you really paranoid folks (like me) about how to ensure maximum computer security when transacting online or doing anything where the highest level of security is a must.
Cheers everyone. Thanks for visiting my blog!