Identity theft is a huge problem that is only growing larger every year. According to the New York Department of State, Consumer Protection Division, identity theft costs consumers and business over $50 billion every year. The problem is particularly difficult to solve because identity thieves are constantly modifying and updating their techniques to obtain personal information to be used to illegally impersonate individuals.
Sources of Information for Identity Thieves
Identity thieves are very creative in how they obtain your personal information. One common way to obtain personal information is to simply take your mail out of an unlocked mailbox. Using either incoming or outgoing mail, thieves can open billing statements, invoices, or other personal documents from the mail to gain enough information to later impersonate you in a financial transaction, such as by obtaining a new credit card fraudulently in your name. Another simple way to obtain your information is by “dumpster diving.” That is, the prospective thief will go through your trash can and look for documents that contain personal information. And finally, another major way to obtain personal information is through unauthorized access to your personal computer.
Many hackers will send out emails that either launch viruses or other “malware” that will search your computer for data which will then be sent electronically to a thief. Alternatively, some identity thieves engage in “phishing.” Phishing is an email scam by which the thief sends out a fraudulent email that is designed to look like an official email from a legitimate bank or store. The email asks that the user input certain personal information to unlock or validate their account, such as a Social Security Number or credit-card number. The unsuspecting consumer then replies thinking that the information is necessary for his or her account, when in fact the consumer is just sending his personal information directly to an identity thief.
Shred, Shred, Shred
While it may be impossible to be completely protected from identity theft, there are some simple steps to take to avoid becoming an easy target.
First, it is important to shred documents that contain personal information, such as Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers, birthdates, or any other sensitive information, before throwing them in the trash. This includes junk mail such as pre-approved credit card applications that have some of your information pre-printed on the application form. All these documents should be shredded if you are not storing them in your files to keep them out of the hands of identity thieves.
It is a good idea to shred your documents as they come in so that they are not lying around and potentially end up in the garbage before getting shredded. If you have simply too much to shred using a personal desktop shredder, consider going to a community shred event. Many municipalities, financial institutions, and other organizations offer such events in which you can bring boxes of confidential documents to be shredded, generally free of charge.
Contact an Attorney
If you think you are a victim of identity theft, get legal help as soon as you can. If you are looking for a dedicated, experienced identity theft protection attorney, then contact the Bromberg Law Office, P.C. to make an appointment today.