Imagine working hard for years to be able to buy a new home. Your credit is spotless — or so you think. Now imagine being turned down for the loan because your credit report is riddled with late payments, delinquent loans, collection accounts and dozens of maxed-out credit cards — none of which are yours. Welcome to the nightmarish world of identity theft.
How thieves steal your personal information.
Thieves use every means possible to get important pieces of your personal information — such as a Social Security number, bank account number and mother’s maiden name — then use that information to open accounts and commit fraud. They get the money and the merchandise, you get the bad reputation and the bills. Here’s how they do it:
- Stealing mail or rummaging through garbage. This is called “dumpster diving.”
- Utilizing government registries, internet search engines and public records looking for personal information.
- Stealing payment or identification cards.
- Eavesdropping on public transactions to obtain personal data. This is called “shoulder surfing.”
- Stealing personal information by hacking into computer databases.
- Advertising bogus job offers or get-rich-quick schemed that require the victim to reply with their full name, address, phone number and Social Security number. Oftentimes, they say a small payment via credit card is needed to complete the transaction.
- Stealing records from organizations that store large amounts of personal information.
- Emails from someone pretending to be from a trusted organization — a financial institution, government agency, merchant, charity — asking for personal information, such as an account number or Social Security number. This is called “phishing.”
- Browsing social network web sites, like MySpace and Facebook, looking for personal details that have been posted by users.
What you can do to protect yourself.
Fighting identity theft is often as easy as keeping your personal information out of the hands of thieves.
- Pay bills online, electronically, rather than through the mail.
- If you do receive bills, checks or other personal financial information in the mail, get a mailbox that locks.
- Be sure and review all financial statements, making sure any charges or other activities belong to you.
- Shred any financial information you no longer need.
- Never give out personal information over the phone or online — including your Social Security number, PIN number or account number— unless you initiated the contact.
Helping safeguard your account against identity theft.
Here at iQ Credit Union, we offer a variety of free and convenient services to help you minimize the amount of personal information floating around.
- Receipts and statements show only the last three digits of your account number.
- e-Statements make it possible to review your transactions each month online, safe and secure, printing a hard copy only if you want to.
- Free online Bill Pay service lets you pay bills electronically, eliminating the paper trail that identity thieves use to steal your information.
In 2007, more than 8 million people were victims of identity theft.
Your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft is 1 in 23
Victims of identity theft spend an average of 600 hours and $1500 in out-of-pocket expenses recovering from the crime.
In a single year, identity theft cost Americans $5 billion — or $500 per every man, woman and child in the United States.