Imagine waking up one morning to find your bank account has been emptied by a stranger who had been patiently collecting your personal information and waiting for the right time to strike. You might also find your credit in tatters due to maxed out accounts you never even knew had been opened in your name.
You would probably feel angry, scared, and violated… but what are the chances of this happening to you? Higher than you might think: the National Foundation for Credit Counseling estimates that, in 2010, over 8 million people were victims of identity theft. Identity theft occurs whenever your personal information is used without your knowledge for fraud or other criminal activity. With the proliferation of electronic transactions and massive electronic databases that are periodically hacked into, stolen, or compromised, you need to know how to protect yourself against identity theft and how to recover if someone targets you. As Shakespeare writes in Othello, “But he that filches from me my good name . . . makes me poor indeed.”
How does identity theft happen?
- Accessing public records
- Infiltrating personal computers through the use of spyware that users accidentally download
- Hacking into computer networks and databases
- Offering bogus jobs that require personal details in the application
- Exploiting IT/customer service insider access to account holder information
- Guessing password reset answers
- Using limited personal information to obtain additional information or passwords from customer service
- Obtaining checks in order to learn bank account numbers