Identity theft is a rapidly growing crime in the United States. About 10 million people are victims of this damaging crime each year.
The information age has created new challenges for law enforcement and with the recent wave of bank takeovers; cybercriminals have new and sophisticated means to scam consumers through “phishing” techniques. These techniques allow criminals to acquire sensitive information such as passwords and credit card details by posing as trustworthy entities through electronic communication.
According to a recent survey by Experian, 11% of people over the age of 65 reported that they have had their financial information stolen. The types of identity theft crimes seniors and retirees experience are similar to those impacting the rest of the population. Along with basic credit card fraud, most are at risk for large identity theft compromises involving loans, Social Security numbers, and insurance. These crimes include:
· Dumpster diving- Digging for personal information in the trash of homes and businesses.
· Phone Scams- Thieves posing as insurance companies, charities, or other businesses in order to gather personal data over the phone.
· Personal Theft- Theft of personal information by an employee, nurse, relative or friend.
· Records Theft- Medical records, Social Security records, and other forms of personal documents are a potential goldmine for thieves.
· Online Fraud- Fake e-mails and websites are set up as data traps for unsuspecting consumers.
It is impossible to completely prevent identity theft, but there are some important precautions that can be taken to guard against these crimes. These prevention tips include:
· Do not give out personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
· Do not carry your Social Security card or Medicare care in your wallet or purse.
· Research the authenticity of charities and other organizations before you donate money.
· Opt-out of receiving pre-screened offers based on your credit data.
· Regularly review your financial and credit reports for signs of fraud.
If you do become a victim of identity theft despite these precautions, it is crucial that you report the crime immediately. The Federal Trade Commission recommends placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on your account until the issue is resolved.
Visit the Credit.com identity theft center (www.credit.com) for more information about how identity theft occurs, how to spot the signs of fraud, and how to recover from an identity theft crime.
Based on information from:
“Costly credit-monitoring services offer limited fraud protection”- www.consumerreports.org/money/industries/banking/2008
“Prevention Tips Against Identify Theft”- www.credit.com
Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Brochure- www.ftc.gov/idtheft