Identity Theft

Background

Shade was recently stopped by law enforcements agents, she was taken to the station and questioned for hours. It took the intervention of her lawyer and family members for her

Shade was recently stopped by law enforcements agents, she was taken to the station and questioned for hours. It took the intervention of her lawyer and family members for her to be released. It turns out that someone with her identification had recently run down a law enforcement agent during a routine stop and search effort.

Identity theft  is a crime in which an imposter obtains key pieces of personal information, such as national ID  or driver’s license numbers, in order to impersonate someone else.

The information can be used to obtain credit, merchandise, and services in the name of the victim, or to provide the thief with false credentials. In addition to running up debt, an imposter might provide false identification to police, creating a criminal record or leaving outstanding arrest warrants for the person whose identity has been stolen.

Identity theft is categorized in two ways: True name and Account takeover.

  1. True name identity theft means that the thief uses personal information to open new accounts. The thief might open a new credit card account, establish cellular phone service, or open a new account in order to obtain blank checks.
  2. Account takeover identity theft means the imposter uses personal information to gain access to the person’s existing accounts. Typically, the thief will change the mailing address on an account and run up a huge bill before the person whose identity has been stolen realizes there is a problem. The Internet has made it easier for an identity thief to use the information they’ve stolen because transactions can be made without any personal interaction.

How to prevent Identity theft

  • Keep personal documents in a safe. Consider keeping a personal safe for your home as well as a safety deposit box elsewhere. You can use your safe at home to protect items such as your social security card, birth certificate and passport.
  • Protect your purse or wallet at all times. The best purses are those that can be zipped or closed shut. Try not to use bags that others can easily see or reach into, and keep bags close to your body with a tight grip at all times. Do not leave wallets or purses in the car, or if you must, do not leave them exposed or in an obvious place.
  • Examine your bank account statements monthly to ensure that your accounts have no unauthorized charges. If they do, contact your banking institution immediately.
  • Protect your computer with anti-spyware and antivirus software. Make sure you keep them up to date.
  • Do not reveal personal information to unverified sources whether over the phone or the Internet. Do not feel pressured to answer personal questions if you do not trust the source. Feel free to request verifying information before giving anything up.
  • Shred personal documents before throwing them away. Anyone who is out to get you can learn a lot about you through trash papers (bank papers, bills, meetings, shopping list, etc) from the bin. To avoid this, Purchase a shredder for your home and make sure you destroy paperwork containing personal information before discarding. This includes mail, credit card statements and even receipts.

What to do if my I feel my identity has been stolen?

  1. Make sure to notify the banks you use. In some cases the banks would usually alert a user when they notice fraudulent activities such as unusual cash withdrawals from a non familiar location, but other times it’s best to inform them once you notice the tiniest bit of unusual activity.
  2. Go to the police and file a report. If you feel your identity has been stolen, visit the nearest police station and put down your statement informing of them of what’s happening. They in turn can put a word out to the public informing them about the identity theft, and how to respond if they encounter the culprit.
  3. Change all account passwords: It’s never advisable to recycle passwords for multiple accounts most especially your social and bank accounts. If you notice that your identity has been stolen, you should quickly change all accounts that have a password and create passwords for those that don’t. Once an identity thief gets hold of one,he can as well get the others.Always use a password generator and a password manager to create and store unique passwords.
  4. Steer clear of phishing emails: If you feel you’ve been a victim of identity theft, do well to avoid certain emails which would tell you to ‘please follow this link to update your bank account details because they noticed some unusual activities.
  5. Contact your phone service provider and utility provider: There is need to inform your phone service provider about the theft in case the culprit decides to open an account in your name, and if that has been done already you should provide a proof of identify theft and your original identity documents such as national ID, International passport, DOB, Court papers, etc.