Zeroing in on Identity Theft

Did you know that identify theft is less likely to happen online than through traditional means, like losing your wallet or having your purse stolen? Moreover, the identity thief is more likely to be one of your relatives than a stranger?

According to some statistics compiled by the 2005 Identity Fraud Survey Report, released recently by the U.S. Council of Better Business Bureaus and Javelin Strategy and Research, family members, friends, and neighbors make up half of all known identity thieves. Computer theft is way down the list.

Computer identify theft can occur when fake e-mails (known as phishing) claiming to be from your bank or credit card company warn you that there has been a problem with your account and that you need to log on to the attached link (URL) in the e-mail. These can look like the real thing, but the links will take you to a bogus website. Do not respond to these.

Only 2.2 percent of identify fraud comes from viruses or hackers and 1.7 percent from fake e-mails. The biggest risk for identify fraud comes from the old-fashioned method of stealing your wallet or purse or via paper records obtained from your unshredded trash or from people who know you. The other risk comes from stolen mail. But the thieves need more than just your name, address, e-mail or your mother’s maiden name. They need your Social Security and/or bank numbers. This data is usually obtained from stolen mail or unshredded records, which allows the crooks to complete credit applications and get a credit card in your name.

Learn more about this problem and how to protect yourself at:

Reprinted with permission. Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 2 March 2005, Vol. 8, No. 9.

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