People are worried about their finances very much and want to minimise the risk of identity theft. As the personal and financial information of people can be easily retrieved with the improvements in the technology. Identity theft has become one of the fastest growing crimes because of increasing cases of identity theft year after year.
Most of the people are not aware of the harms that can be caused by sharing personal information on the internet. The information can be used by identity thieves for various fraudulent purposes which would surely not be in your favour.
You might have heard the term “phishing”. Phishing and identity theft are always related as phishing is a type of identity theft. It is a well-known and rising crime on the internet these days. It is the technique of sending emails to various individuals to commit fraud. The emails appear as if they are sent from some genuine company which asks you to visit a link and enter your personal and bank details.
The phishing scammers usually target big companies such as eBay, PayPal, and banks for their identity theft scams. These emails usually say that due to some problems in the company, you are required to update your information and if you fail to do so then, it will lead to termination of your account. Many even say that they are doing this to prevent your account from being used fraudulently.
The most popular example is the email with the message: “You qualify for low rates on home refinancing.”
Approximately 30,000 phishing attacks are reported every month. Most of these are related to financial institutions. The phishing scammers have targeted many big companies like eBay, Yahoo, Wells Fargo, PayPal Citibank, Halifax Bank, out of which eBay and PayPal are their favourites.
Prevention of phishing attacks is possible. If the scam emails can be detected, then these attacks can be easily prevented. You can detect the phishing emails by checking that the URL seems different from the one given in your email.
Also, it is always better not to reply to any emails asking for your personal details. If you are worried that it could be something genuine, then first call or write to the concerned company.
“Skimming” is another type of identity fraud. It is a very common scam in which the identity thief places a skimming device over the payment machine/terminal such as credit/debit card reader, ATM, etc. which steals the card information. Skimming costs U.S. banks hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
Sometimes, the scammers convert the entire ATM into a skimming machine instead of installing a skimming device. By doing this, the thieves are able to withdraw money and acquire card information anytime a card is inserted including account number, card number, and even PIN. After acquiring the card information, the identity thief can create fake cards and use them for withdrawals and online shopping.
You can minimise skimming attacks by paying more attention in public places. When you use your credit and debit cards at various stores and eating outlets, pay attention to the device used by the employee for making payments. Also, try to use those ATMs which are inside a bank as these ATMs are not an easy target for the scammers to install skimming devices because of the security.
There was a case of ATM skimming in New York, USA in 2010 in which two brothers from Bulgaria used stolen bank account information to fraudulently gain $1 million. For their fraudulent activities, they installed skimming devices in various ATMs of New York City by which they were able to acquire customers’ bank account information and PINs.
Identity theft prevention is the duty of both consumers and the financial companies. You should take measures to protect your identity.
Here are some steps which you can take to protect your identity:
• Make sure that your bills arrive in a timely manner. Contact the respective company if they don’t arrive on time.
• Try to carry the least number of personal documents with you whenever you travel.
• When filling your check, never write all the digits of your credit card number on it. Just write “ends in” and then write only the last four digits of the number.
• If you are applying for a job online, never share your important personal details such as bank account information, SSN, etc.
• If you are disposing of an old computer, remember to format the hard drive. Formatting the drive is not enough and can lead to identity theft. So you need to clean it with a special software. If you do not have the software, then you should destroy the hard drive.
• If you want to carry your health insurance card with you every time for medical reasons, then you can try the following method: Create a Photocopy of your health insurance card and cut it down to wallet size. Also, remember to remove the last four digits of your SSN. Carry this instead of carrying your original card.
• Use credit monitoring services to review your credit in a timely manner.