Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Common Victims of Identity Theft

Identity theft can happen to anyone, but there are many people and groups that are commonly targeted. These individuals are targeted for specific reasons, but it must be noted that when someone is looking to steal an identity, they are not looking for a complicated process. The simpler it is for someone to get ahold of your information, the more likely it is that theft will occur. Victims of identity theft should always remember that they are not alone, and that others are experiencing the same thing as them, especially if they fall into one of the following groups.

Users of Store Branded Credit Cards and Frequent Shoppers in Retail Locations

In the recent months, many big name retailers have been the victims of credit card breaches. Although these stores and corporations took precautions to prevent these "hacks" thieves were still able to get into the system, obtaining information of thousands of customers, credit card holders, and employees. Although these cards are in your name, it is up to the company to keep track of your account - you can check the balances and transactions, but you cannot validate the safety and security of the network as a whole. The large number of users for these types of accounts also make them targets because of their sheer size; being able to break into the database will allow thieves access to numerous accounts and copious amounts of information.

The Elderly

Many older people have access to the Internet and smartphones, making them easy targets. In many cases, these individuals are not up to date on how things work - so receiving an email asking for information and passwords or even doing something as simple as clicking on a pop-up window may allow identity theft to occur. Older people cannot always keep up with the new trends, and may think that they are simply installing updates or updating account information when in reality they are installing spyware or viruses - or even worse, giving someone their banking or personal information. After the age of 65, senior citizens rely on their Social Security number for many things, and someone asking for it over the phone or even online will not seem out of place, but it can lead to terrible things if used by the wrong people.

College Students

College age students are likely candidates for identity theft due to the sudden influx of applications and information released under their names. Many of these students are applying for financial aid, apartments, credit cards, loans, jobs... the list is endless, but it all comes down to releasing a lot of information in the span of a few months. As students send these pages out to many different companies, there is a lot of opportunity for this information to get "misplaced" or intercepted - creating the potential for identity theft. Another way that thieves get information from college age students is by sending similar forms to them at the same time that application forms are sent. Although there is no way to pinpoint exact times to send these mailers, the months when students are filling out loan and acceptance applications are prime time for this type of thievery. The envelopes will seem innocuous enough, but filling them out and sending them back will often not accomplish anything except compromising information.

In order to protect yourself from becoming a victim, it is important to first understand what it is, and then decide how to best protect against ID theft. Those in the groups outlined above are certainly not the only ones at risk, but these groups tend to be more susceptible, making them easier targets - necessitating the use of software like credit and identity monitoring services to help prevent the occurrence of identity theft, which can be learned about by visiting

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Rising Occurrence of Identity Theft

Before the age of computers and the Internet, identity theft was only possible in very specific ways. The focus of the theft in these situations was on financial gain, and typically stemmed from ATM cards being stolen, checks being falsely handled and cashed, or obtaining credit cards in other people's names. Though these types of theft are serious and need to be handled as such, computers have allowed thieves to dive deeper into the personal information of others with very little effort. In part, this is due to the fact that many internet users use very little thought when coming up with passwords and entering their information. This combined with setting up multiple accounts, projects or games increases their online presence, and means that they are freely giving out their information, which can become problematic when and if thieves get their hands on it. 

Where Does Identity Theft Occur? 

There are two types of identity theft: online and in person.These two types can be further broken down into individual instances of identity theft, which include different categories that the theft falls into. When identity theft is done online, people often strike hard and fast, doing everything in one fell swoop so that the likelihood of getting caught is decreased. In person identity theft may occur at a slower pace, which gives the thieves more time to do things like withdraw money from ATMs, open store charge cards, or even rack up purchases over an extended period of time before the true individual even knows what is happening. 

Specific Cases of Identity Theft

While not exhaustive, the following is a list of some of the most prevalent instances of identity theft that people face today. 

- Financial identity theft is one of the most common types of theft. Data breaches, card compromises, and in some cases, sheer carelessness are reasons for this to happen. 

- Driver’s license or personal identification identity theft is also quite common, and happens when a purse or wallet is stolen, and someone uses your identification for their own personal gain. This includes state issued forms of identification, passports, ID badges and even store loyalty cards.

- Social Security theft happens when your number is stolen and used by someone that is hoping to gain financially without having to have put in the time or effort to work for their reward. Felons, illegal immigrants and those who are having their wages garnished or are working "off the books" are some of the most common groups of people that partake in this type of identity theft.

- Targeting children in cases of identity theft is quite crafty, and has been happening more and more. These thieves are often very hard to catch for one big reason: children have no need to access their credit reports or use their Social Security number until they are trying to get a job or go to school, therefore theft may occur for many years before being noticed, at which time it can be difficult to trace. Sadly, in cases like this, it is often someone with close ties to the family that has obtained and misused the child's information and identity.

Who Are The Victims of Identity Theft?

Although the answer to this question is open ended, the truth is that the victims of identity theft are those that experience it - along with their friends, family and other loved ones. It may seem like the only people in this situation that are affected are the ones whose information has been compromised, but the act of identity theft also makes everyone surrounding them a potential victim as well. The practice of identity theft sets off a ripple effect that may take months - if not years - to completely erase. 

How Are People Victimized? 

Identity theft, when broken down into simple terms refers to the use of someone’s name, information or likeness without that person's permission, but it can mean so much more than rifling through bank accounts or accessing people's personal information. The people whose identities have been stolen often lose large amounts of money, the feeling of security and their sense of safety - but their families also suffer. When people are victims of the different types of identity theft, the thieves also often learn information about other relatives and friends, including names, address and phone numbers, which may open the flood gates for future cases of identity theft if the initial one goes unnoticed for long enough. 

Where Can I Learn How to Prevent Identity Theft? 

In order to prevent it, you must first educate yourself about identity theft and the ways that it can be prevented or detected. Websites like will give people a better idea of the ways that they can stop identity theft by recognizing the signs of potential breaches, and stop or cut back on behaviors that may be making their information more accessible to thieves. One positive to come from a large number of victims is that their stores are broadcast and serve as warnings for others to see, giving people the ability to learn from the mistakes of others. This also gives them an inside look at what the process of recovering from identity theft can be like. 

Can It Happen to Me? 

Identity theft can happen to anyone that releases information about their lives to others. It can happen while you’re entering your PIN number at the grocery store or trying to sign up for an online newsletter - all it takes is one individual getting one piece of your information. There are people that are professional scammers, spenting the days coming up with schemes to get others to release information to them, or to "hack" into major databases - and these people care about one thing and one thing only... obtaining and using your identity for their own personal gain. It may sound scary and exaggerated, but identity theft is not something that should be taken lightly. Websites offer guidelines for creating user names and passwords for a reason, and following their suggestions can do a great deal toward keeping information from becoming compromised. 

Identity theft can happen to anyone, and although it is a scary process that will not resolve itself overnight, taking
precautions to prevent it from happening can save people a great deal of time, effort, and grief in the long run. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft Online

The Internet was created as a way for people to connect with others and share knowledge across the world without having to leave their homes. Over the years, it has evolved into a way for people to conduct different types of business - both personal and commercial - with large numbers of people. With this widespread reach, the possibility of online identity theft has grown, sadly becoming almost commonplace. It is imperative for those that spend any time online, and have entered in any personal information to understand exactly what identity theft is, and websites like provide vital information to consumers to help them better protect themselves. 

How to Prevent Online Identity Theft

A few simple measures taken can help to protect you and your information from online identity theft. You may choose to take all of these preventative measures, or you may only practice what is important to you; it all depends on what you feel is a necessary level of security. From using varied passwords to only perusing reputable websites, the different measures that you can take will be unique to each individual. 

Do not enter information unless you can verify the security of the website. Your bank will never require you to email them personal information, nor will retail websites. Always log in and update information through the official websites, and ensure that anyone who uses your information to purchase items (spouse, children, etc) does the same. 

Make up unique passwords for various websites. Although many sites require you to come up with varied passwords including capitalization, numbers and even special characters, it is important to folly guidelines and create passwords that other people cannot guess easily. Names, birthdays and pet names may be easy for you to remember, but that also makes them easier for others to guess...and misuse. 

Use common sense. Sorry to say, but that Nigerian prince that emailed you about the millions of dollars that he’s planning on sharing does not exist. Scams like these are called phishing scams - all they are doing is attempting to get information from people as a way to invade their privacy - and use their information for nefarious purposes. In this same vein, entering information into pop up windows, chat rooms or even untested retail or merchant sites can result in stolen information and a huge hassle. 

What Else Can I Do? 

In addition to these ideas, you can also take measures to protect your actual computer - not just your information. Putting a password on your WiFi network may not seem like it will do much, but it can keep people from leeching off of your connection and using your network for illegal activities. Another suggestion is to ensure that you'e using protection on your device. Anti-virus software, Malware protectors and even routinely running system clean up scans can do wonders to help protect yourself and your important information. Protecting yourself from online identity theft is about vigilance and choices, not about constantly worrying about your security. Many of these precautions - the passwords, security questions, anti-virus, not entering information each time it is asked for, and even sticking to reputable sites - are extremely effective in helping to prevent identity theft, which should set your mind at ease when it comes to your personal safety and online security.