What is identity theft?
You may have heard of identity theft, but what does this term really mean? Identity theft is officially defined as the deliberate assumption of another person’s identity. It is a crime where a criminal acquires and uses the victim’s personal information, such as social security or driver’s license number, to take out loans, obtain new credit cards, rent an apartment, purchase a car, run up debt, file for bankruptcy and other criminal activities.
Identity theft can not only damage someone’s creditworthiness, it can also create unknown criminal records that can result in the identity theft victim being wrongly arrested or denied employment after a routine background check.
How does the identity thief get my information?
Identity thieves use a variety of methods to gain access to your personal information:
- Steal records from their employer, bribing an employee who has access to the records, con information out of employees, or hacks into the organization’s computers
- “Dumpster dive” through your trash at home or work to find bills and credit statements that contain personal information
- Fraudulently obtain credit reports by either posing as a prospective landlord or misusing an employer’s authorized access to credit reports
- Steal credit and debit card account numbers by using a special information storage device in a practice known as “skimming”
- Steal wallets and purses containing identification, credit and bank cards
- Steal your mail or complete a change of address to redirect your mail so that they will receive your credit card statements or tax information
- Use camera phones to take a picture of your credit or personal information while you complete a retail transaction
- Steal personal information from your home
- Scam information from you by posing as a legitimate business person or government official
What can I do to protect myself from identity theft?
There is no absolute way to prevent identity theft but the best way to minimize your risk is to protect and monitor your personal information with a monitoring product or service. Early detection of fraud greatly reduces the financial, emotional and legal burden associated with identity theft.
Here are some tips to help protect your identity:
- Protect your Social Security number (SSN) and do not carry your card with you
- Don’t put your Social Security number on your driver’s license – ask for an alternative number to be provided
- Don’t put your Social Security number on your personal checks
- Watch for people who may try to look over your shoulder, eavesdrop or take a picture with a camera phone when exchanging personal information
- Shred. Before you throw out any documents that contain any sensitive or personal information such as credit card statements or offers, utility bills or tax documents, make sure you completely shred them
- Frequently check your Public Record Profile to validate that all of the information reported is correct
- Frequently check your credit report(s) to validate that all of the information listed is correct
- Do not respond to suspicious “Phishing” email requests and never send information such as your social security number, credit card number or User ID/Password information through an email
- Never provide information to a telephone solicitor unless you have initiated the call and it is a legitimate institution
How should I dispose of old records?
Old personal records should be shredded before being thrown away. If personal files are thrown out without being shredded, an identity thief could steal them from the trash.
If your records are stored, is it with a secure document facility? Many businesses use a pick-up shredding service to dispose of old documents. Ask how long your records will be kept before they are deleted or destroyed. Data theft is common at universities, medical offices, financial institutions, and other businesses that keep records about you. A trustworthy company should be able to quickly and honestly answer your privacy questions.
How can I tell if I am a victim of identity theft?
Consistently monitor both your financial and public record information and look for:
- Unfamiliar criminal records, court records, address information or bankruptcies
- Unexplained charges or withdrawals
- Failing to receive bills or other mail. This may signal an address change by the identity thief
- Being served court papers or arrest warrants for actions you did not commit
- Receiving credit cards for which you did not apply
- Being denied credit for no apparent reason
- Receiving calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you did not buy
How will Sherpa keep my information safe?
We maintain a highly secure environment with specific security measures and policies in place to ensure the utmost secure handling of all data.
How long does it take to gain access to my reports?
All reports are generated and immediately available upon enrollment.* Ongoing monitoring and reporting/alerts will be provided thereafter.
*Report access varies by product enrollment. Change of address report takes up to 24 hours to generate. See Membership & Services for a full list of monitoring and reporting services.
- What is identity theft?
- How does the identity thief get my information?
- What can I do to protect myself from identity theft?
- How should I dispose of old records?
- How can I tell if I am a victim of identity theft?
- How will Sherpa keep my information safe?
- How long does it take to gain access to my reports?