Identity theft is big business now. You might think you’re only at risk if you fit a certain profile – but that’s simply not the case any more. Fraudsters are coming up with more and more inventive ways to gain access to your personal information and steal your identity for a variety of reasons. We’re going to look at how and why they do it – along with how you can protect yourself.
Why do criminals target your identity?
The simple answer to this is to make money. Identity theft is normally profitable and it’s also easy to do. It’s also low risk for the criminal as they don’t have to put themselves in any violent or confrontational situations that many other thieves do. Clever thieves can cover their tracks and minimize the risk of getting caught.
It’s also a type of theft that so few people are fully aware of or protected against. Most people have burglar alarms in their home, but they aren’t as well protected against the methods of an experienced identity thief.
What methods do they use?
Identity theft can be perpetrated in a number of ways. Traditionally, thieves have rummaged through trash to gain access to documents that have been thrown away. Anything with your name or address on could be used to gain access. Some fraudsters like to use this information to place a re-routing order on all your mail, meaning any future bank statements or other important information gets sent to them.
Access to your banking information could allow thieves to take money out of your account or set up loans in your name. Not only could you be out of pocket initially – but you could have your credit rating ruined.
Thieves could also get access to your social security number and start claiming benefits in your name – or use it for other types of government fraud. This information can be gained with a simple bag snatch.
Fraudsters have also started using the internet, where they can gain access to your passwords, giving them many more important documents that are stored online.
How can you protect yourself?
Make sure you keep all important documents secure. When you’re finished with them, shred them. Check your mail regularly so you know when any suspicious charges appear, and also so you can see if you aren’t getting something you should be (which could be an indication your mail is getting stolen). Keep your online information secure and change your passwords regularly. You could also consider using identity theft protection.