Important Facts about Identity Theft
Identity theft occurs when somebody assumes another person's identity for any reason. Often, this reason is for financial gain or to evade the police. It is also not uncommon for family members to steal each other’s identities, for gain or to extract revenge. Unfortunately most victims of identity theft do not realize that they are victims until they have been for quite some time. Even when victims do discover that their identities have been stolen, it may take years to find the thieves. The scariest thing about identity theft is that it can happen to absolutely anybody.
Criminal theft of identity occurs when a criminal represents him or herself as somebody else. If the criminal has thought out the act of stealing the identity he or she may even hold documents, real or fraudulent. In this case, charges would be pressed against an innocent victim who would have to follow up to ensure that he or she is not held responsible. In many cases, the identity of a child is stolen by an adult, often a family member. A child’s identity is seen as higher value than an adult’s because there is no history associated with it. It is also possible to use a child’s identity for years with very little chance of being caught. It is also for this reason that thieves will impersonate dead people.
How Identity Theft Happens
People often become victims of theft after they have revealed too much information online, but that is not the only way it happens. People who seek to steal identities often dig through the trash, hoping to become lucky by finding a social security number and other identifying information. Other thieves might be hackers who use software to steal online passwords and other information. Some people forget to wipe their computers and phones clean of information properly before disposing of them as well. Phishing is a new method of identity theft in which the victim receives an email and is asked to log in to their account. Unfortunately, the website is not the legitimate site it pretends to be.
There are some steps that people can take in order to prevent and avoid the consequences of identity theft. When disposing of confidential and potentially damaging documents, shred them into squares rather than strips that could be easily taped back together. Adequate computer safety is necessary, especially when disposing of equipment. Any information left on computers should be encrypted. When using the internet, do not click on links in emails from unknown senders, especially when they lead to fields that ask for identifying information. Always check the URL of a website before entering the user name and password. People should never give away their social security numbers or banking information online, unless it is through a reputable website.
It is also essential to take care in speaking to people on the phone. It is common for some legitimate businesses to call and verify information or give a reminder to customers to pay their bills. If a business calls to do this, do not give any payment information. Ask them to verify that they are the company they say they are. A legitimate company will understand the need to be confidential.
For victims of identity theft, the consequences may seem never-ending. In most situations, the victim is held responsible for all the actions of the thieves, including those that are related to finances. For those who are victims of criminal identity theft, the victim must find a way to clear his or her record. This can be difficult and may require a trip to court, often in an inconvenient location. Even after the record has been cleared, the victim’s background check may still show the fraudulent activity for months after. The victim may also suffer from psychological consequences including feelings of fear and insecurity.
Identity Theft Protection
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