What is Identity Theft?
As more consumer purchases are made online with the advancements of computer technology, identity theft has unfortunately become an everyday occurrence. It is estimated that nearly $50 billion dollars were fraudulently usurped through identity theft practices, with the average victim losing $6,000.
As defined by the Federal Trade Commission, Identity Theft occurs when a person uses another person’s personal and financial information, such as their name, address, bank account information or Social Security number. An estimated 9 million American’s are victims of identity theft annually.
Identity thieves access the aforementioned information by taking part in numerous fraudulent activities such as phishing, pretexting and skimming. Other more simplistic means to steal someone’s identity include obtaining personal information from the garbage or the outright theft of information.
Identity protection includes any action that actively protects your identity. As technology advances, there are more avenues an identity thief can take advantage of. That being said, as technology continues to evolve, there are also more ways to protect such unfortunate situations from occurring. Although the largest portion of identity theft occurs electronically, there is still an enormous amount of identity theft that occurs through other means.
The simplest and arguably most effective way to protect your identity is to destroy all documents that hold your personal information; credit card offers, bank statements, bank letters, and all documents that store your personal or financial information should be shredded before they are thrown out. The Internal Revenue Service suggests that all individuals should store their financial information from the past seven years in a secure area; anything past this point should be shredded.
Since the advent of the Internet, personal and financial information has become more accessible to identity thieves and other parties looking to expose the information. All computers connected to the Internet maintain a level of susceptibility of being hacked.
The installment of firewalls, antivirus and anti-spyware software are necessary to protect your computer from such vulnerabilities. Furthermore, when you purchase items online, be sure that you are doing so from a reputable site or one that is secured through the installment of anti-piracy software.
In addition to firewalls, a user can take advantage of identity theft protection companies, such as Lifelock. These companies offer a consumer or business with numerous resources to protect their information from falling into the hands of identity thieves. These companies will monitor your credit scores and financial information to ensure that no scams or thievery have taken place.
Additionally, identity theft protection companies will exhaustively monitor your personal information and review all transactions, credit card applications and address changes to ensure that fraudulent maneuvers are not affirmed. Subsequently, if fraudulent actions were indeed committed against your account, identity theft protection services, such as Lifelock, will quickly respond to the illegal actions and will dedicate an exorbitant amount of time and money to hire experts, investigators, lawyers and consultants to facilitate the recovery of funds or information.