Picture yourself walking down street, all alone. It's late at night. It's a bit brisk, and wind is blowing through tall buildings on both sides of you. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, someone runs by you, knocks you over, grabs your wallet, and takes off.
It sounds like a scene from a movie, and there may come a time in future where this type of person-to-person crime is only found in movies. Why would anyone rob a bank, or rob an individual, when they could simply use a person's information to obtain employment, credit cards, and lines of credit?
By now, everyone knows what Identity Theft is. Identity Theft has been showing up in news for several years, and there has been a large public awareness campaign since FTC Report in September 2003.
In their report, FTC shared that average Identity Theft victim spends over $1,400.00, and more than 200 hours, just to clear their good name. Reports now are saying that victims can end up spending much, much more in terms of time, money, and frustration.
Other people may be willing to spend that kind of time and money, but if you don't have an extra $1400 or 200 hours, read on!
What is Identity Theft?
Identity Theft couldn't happen to me, right?
What can I do to protect myself?
There is good news.
Identity Theft Insurance?
What is Identity Theft? ID Theft happens when someone takes any piece of your personal information, and fraudulently uses it to obtain access to your credit, bank accounts, or to obtain employment.
How can it happen? There are literally thousands of ways your information can be stolen, and, as Harris County district attorney Chuck Rosenthal knows, if it can happen to him, it is proof that identity theft and fraud can happen to anyone. "Rosenthal said nearly $8,000 was stolen from his account before it was discovered […] He said that he still has problems because of crime -- his check was refused when he tried to buy supplies for his daughter."
There are thousands of stories like this one, which you have already been hearing about in your local or national news.
What can you do to protect yourself? To be proactive, here are what "experts" are telling you to do. Read this list carefully, and while you do, think about what it would mean in added time and frustration for your life:
Avoid giving out your Social Security number…Shred or destroy bank and/or credit card information…Shred or destroy any credit card or other direct mail offers…Create passwords containing numbers and letters…Avoid buying or making donations via phone…Buy goods online only from a reputable Web site…Install a computer firewall at home… Read privacy statements for all your accounts and your bank's liability clauses…Check your credit report more frequently… Use only one credit card for purchases… Avoid shopping online… Update your computer virus protection daily… Install Spyware software on your computer to be sure that you're not accidentally having your keystrokes recorded… Drop your mail in blue post boxes, not in your mailbox… Don't leave mail in your mailbox overnight or on weekends... While you're at it, sign up for a locked mailbox, because you can't trust that your mail will stay in your mailbox… The list goes on...and on...and on...
The "experts" are telling you to rearrange your entire life to proactively defend yourself against Identity Theft. However, what no one is telling you is this:
There is no 100% guarantee that your information won't be used. No matter what you do, you are as likely a target for Identity Theft as any other person you know.
Approximately 2,500 Washington County (Maryland) Board of Education employees discovered this when their Social Security numbers, names, birth dates and other private information were accidentally posted on school system's web site for up to 45 days during 2004.
Consumer Reports states, "It is an equal-opportunity crime, affecting victims of all races, incomes, and ages. Overall, more than 33 million Americans, about 1 in 6 adults, say they have had their identities used by someone else sometime since 1990."
There is good news If you become a victim of Identity Theft, you basically have two choices. You can try to handle it on your own, or you can let a professional help you.
If you try to handle it on your own, you might try to contact Better Business Bureau (BBB). A visit to BBB's web site reveals this statement:
"If your complaint is against identity thief, it is unlikely that BBB can assist you. We urge you to report identity theft to Federal Trade Commission.