Identity theft – what you should know about it.

 Identity theft is a term used to describe those circumstances when someone uses another person’s name, address, certificate, bank account number, international passport, ATM information and other identifying information to commit fraud or other crimes.

Identity fraud like every other fraud can only be perpetrated when the three necessary conditions for fraud are met. These conditions are:

  • Motive,
  • Opportunity and
  • Rationalization

Many times, those whom we trust the most are in the best position to defraud us. I know you may be wondering at this point how these “nice guys” can possibly benefit from these information. May be the following paragraph will interest you most.

I know a guy in my neighbourhood whose international passport was found at the scene of robbery. Now tell me. How can this guy deny that he was not involved in the robbery. The only saviour he had was that he was hospitalized in a government recognized hospital during the time the robbery took place.

A fraudster can use your certificate to secure employment, commit fraud in that company, disappear into thin air, leaving you to face the trouble. Or still, your personal information could be used to collect a dedicated IP address from ISP (Internet Service Providers). In turn, this IP will be used to commit online fraud knowing fully well that the Police and other relevant Security Agents will be looking for the wrong person.

The most common and easiest use of personal information illegally is to open a new Credit Card account with the victim’s details. These fraudsters complement this by applying for a change of address from the postal authority so that the victim doesn’t find out on time, if at all. Always check out with the postal authority if you fail to receive your bills for some time.

Ones personal identification information could also be sold to group of other fraudsters that will even employ more sophisticated means of defrauding and putting one into trouble in the long-run.

Stealing a victim’s identity is not a rocket science (i.e. not as difficult as you may probably be thinking at this point in time). Fraudsters use numerous ways to get the information required to commit identity theft. Some of the more common types of information gathering technique used by these fraudsters are as follows:

  1. Posing as Legitimate employee, bank official, government official or representative of any organization.
  2. ‘Bin scanning’: the fraudsters rummage through victim’s trash with the hope of finding pre-approved document with necessary information.
  3. Skimming of victim’s credit card information. Though this involves some advanced technical knowledge, but is not impossible. The perpetrators often employ the following: War driving, war walking, hacking, sniffing (with the help of protocol analyzer), and infiltration of victim’s computer with dangerous Trojans, etc.
  4. Fraudsters can gather information from businesses by bribing or conning a worker in the company who has access to confidential information.
  5. Shoulder surfing is also another easy way of stealing your identity – especially ATM (Automated Teller Machine) information.
  6. Fraudsters can resort to stealing their victim’s wallet, sneaking into victim’s house, stealing victim’s mail, personal computer, PDA (Personal Digital Assistant)
  7. They also employ some social engineering techniques via the use of the internet.

As it stands now, education is the only weapon you have to protect yourself from these unscrupulous evil agents of our time. At the barest minimum, always do the following:

    • Guard your mail and Trash from theft.
    • Protect your wallet, all personal information, your home, your password and personal computer.
    • Take advantage of  any of the several privacy Acts out there e.g, Gramm-Leach-Blily Act. Opt out of it. Go to your bank and other financial institutions you deal with and opt out of sharing your personal information with marketers. Just like every other endeavour of life, what really matters is not he amount of information you have but the action you are able to take to benefit from those information. Take action today!

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