Monday 15 December, 2014
Identity theft is a serious risk and most people don’t take it as seriously as they should. If your identity is stolen, a whole array of very bad things can happen to you. These things can have a serious effect on your life.
If your identity is stole, the thieves could:
* Steal your money. With your identity, cyber-criminals could drain money out of your bank account or make purchases online that you haven’t authorized.
* Ruin your credit. They could run up charges on your credit card, or apply for other lines of credit in your name.
* Commit tax fraud in your name. Cyber-criminals can use your identity to try to scam the IRS. This could result in serious delays and other hassles the next time you have to file taxes.
* Take over your accounts. With certain identity information, thieves could access your email addresses and virtually any other accounts you have online. They can use these to obtain the identities of those you know personally or professionally.
* Sell your identity to others. There is a huge market for stolen identities around the world. You don’t want your identity to be for sale to any cyber-crook who wants it.
I’m not trying to exaggerate or scare you, but simply encourage you to take identity theft as seriously as you should. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but you probably know someone who has had their identity stolen. As our lives become increasingly digital and we share more information online, and as methods for obtaining identities grow in sophistication, it is becoming an even more serious threat.
Here are some things you can do to prevent identity theft from affecting you.
Watch Your Wallet, Purse and Phone. These days, if someone steals your wallet or purse, they’re just as likely to go for your cards as for your cash. The same goes for your phone. If you use an iPhone, it contains a wealth of information about you that’s very useful to an identity thief.
Don’t Enter Information into Unsecured Websites. Whenever you enter information in a website, make sure it’s secured. Look for the icon and SSL certification. This means that it’s properly encrypted. If it’s not, you’re potentially broadcasting your information publicly across the internet.
Practice Safe Emailing. Don’t click on links inside emails, especially those that are suspicious. Watch out for emails from friends or companies you deal with because these can also be fraudulent. Always log out when you’re not using your email. Change passwords often and don’t give your password to anyone.
Keep Your Social Security Number Secret. Although an identity thief can’t do much with your SSN only, it’s like a cheat code that can open doors if they already have your name or other information. Your SSN is often used as verification, so only you should know it.
Destroy Sensitive Documents Completely. Destroy any document that has personal information on it completely. Feed it to the shredder so that there’s no way anyone can find this information if they dig through your trash.
Act Immediately. Sometimes, identity theft can’t be helped. So many companies store your personal information. There are security breaches in major companies sometimes. When your identity is stolen, act fast. Report it immediately to the police and all of your financial institutions, and then get to work replacing your cards and IDs.