Identity theft is defined as the unauthorized use of personal information without knowledge or consent of the affected party in order to commit a crime such as fraud, theft, forgery or even a more serious crime. “Personal Information” can be any piece of information, recorded or not about an identifiable individual; things like your name, social security information, phone numbers, credit card numbers and such fall within the range of personal information.
The worst part about identity theft remains in the fact that the affected party will not usually notice until it is already too late. Generally, thieves will steal vital pieces of personal information and use them to impersonate a person and commit crimes in their name. Usually restoring the damage done by these criminal is a long and arduous process that involves getting in touch with the authorities and spending hours on the phone and in person trying to fix this mess while being unable to use credit cards or losing access to certain privileges.
In order to identify whether or not you’ve been a victim of identity theft, keep an eye out for the following signs:
- Calls from credit card companies or banks regarding unusual credit card transactions or suspicious bank account activity
- Missing mail or bills as they may be forwarded to a different address or simply stolen by thieves from your mailbox
- Difficulty accessing personal accounts such as email or social networks on the internet
- Purchases not made by you show up on account statements
Thieves will usually steal your identity by accessing correspondence that has been left on your mailbox or by going through your recycling bin. This is why it is important to check your mailbox every day as well as making sure that any documents that go into the recycling bin are properly disposed of. Consider investing in a document shredder if necessary.
Thieves can easily access your information after stealing electronic devices that belong to you such as personal cell phones, laptops or even an mp3 player. If you own these devices make sure to establish a secure PIN and enable any options that allow you to lock and wipe the device remotely. If you have any passwords saved on these devices, make sure to change them constantly and never use the same password for two different accounts as this could lead to phishing -a social engineering technique used to retrieve a user’s password-
Ultimately, the best resource against identity theft is common sense and a bit of caution. Never hand out your credit card to just anyone and make sure to keep an eye on it when it is being swiped. Never give your passwords to anyone and develop the good habit of constantly changing your passwords, a good password will use a combination of upper case and lower case letters as well as numbers and punctuation signs; pick something that is easy for you to remember and difficult for others to guess.