Monday, December 10, 2007

Is Identity Theft Inevitable?

(Still looking ...)
Is Identity Theft Inevitable?

The proliferation of electronic money, online shopping and lagging security standards confirm that the answer is a resounding yes. Here are a few facts to jog your memory on this subject
- The FBI calls it the fastest growing white collar crime in America
- Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, and Tiger Woods, all have had their identities stolen
- FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen every year
- Identity theft costs almost $53 billion annually
- Americans spent 300 million hours resolving issues related to identity theft
- Victims know the thieves who steal their precious name. In over 25 percent of reported identity theft cases, the victims know or are related to the identity thief.
- Most identity theft cases start in the workplace. Studies show that up to 70 percent of all identity theft cases are an inside job--perpetrated by a co-worker or an employee of a business that you patronize. Perhaps the greatest surprise is that a large number of the identities were stolen not by an employee -- but by the business owner.

So what is identify theft?
The FTC defines it as

"Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes."

How are you exposed?
If you use a credit card, get credit card offers in the mail, shop online, visit a health care faciltiy, have a bank account or maybe throw out your garbage - then you are vulnerable. If your personal information is with someone and in today's world it is probably with someone, then you are exposed. Plus cyber criminals are using more advanced techniques like phishing to get you to divulge your personal details.

What can you do?

  • Check your bank statements and credit card bills regulary for any discrepancy.
  • Monitor your credit reports on a regualar basis. Now you can get a free freeze put in place which could act as another deterant.
  • Shred your sensitive financial information before you throw it in the garbage
  • Never disclose your financial information to unknown email inquires
  • Get firewall protection for your computer, secure encryption for your wireless router and activatve your virus/spyware protection
  • Add identity theft protection to your insurance policy. It is not very expensive and should help pay for the expenses you may incur if your identify is stolen.

Check out the Federal Trade Commision site for good identify theft information.
Department of Justice also has a good section on identity theft.
CBS 60 Minutes recently had a segement on identity theft
MSNBC reviews the merits of identity theft insurance
Forbes claims identity theft insurance isn't insurance
MSN Money presents 10 ways to stop identity theft cold
Interesting facts from

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