Ten Common Identity Theft Myths Dispelled

The Santa Fe Group Vendor Council Awareness and Education Subcommittee has helped to clarify some common misinformation with regards to this increasingly common crime.

By Robert Siciliano | Posted Nov 9, 2009
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The National Foundation for Credit Counselors, which sponsors Protect Your Identity Week, has compiled a number of identity theft myths.

To support their efforts, the Santa Fe Group Vendor Council Awareness and Education Subcommittee has helped to clarify some common misinformation with regards to this increasingly common crime.

Myth #1: There's no way to protect yourself from identity theft.

Identity theft is preventable. As with any other crime, the risk will always be there. But there are many things people can do to minimize that risk, both online and offline.

Preventative measures include keeping financial records protected and private, shredding junk mail, and tracking who sees your personal information.

An identity theft protection service uses a variety of techniques to prevent, detect, and, if necessary, resolve identity theft.

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/deter.html
http://www.onguardonline.gov/topics/computer-security.aspx

Myth #2: Identity theft is only a financial crime.

While financial identity theft (theft of information for financial gain) is most prevalent, other types of identity theft can be equally dangerous, potentially costly, and time consuming to resolve.

For example, with medical identity theft, personal medical records are used to access medical treatment or drugs, or to make false insurance claims.

With criminal identity theft, a person uses faulty or stolen identification to avoid prosecution by law enforcement.

Medical identity theft: http://www.worldprivacyforum.org/pdf/wpf_medicalidtheft2006.pdf
Criminal identity theft: http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs17g-CrimIdTheft.htm
Employment fraud: http://www.idtheftcenter.org/artman2/publish/v_art_solutions/Solution_27_-_Someone_Working_as_You.shtml

Myth #3: It's my bank's fault if I became a victim of identity theft.

Some identity crime does originate with the theft of bank records or is perpetuated by lax security practices. However, the majority of identity theft begins elsewhere.

Personal information may be stolen with low tech tools such as a lost or stolen wallet, checkbook, or a debit or credit card, or more high tech methods, such as skimming, phishing, and hacking.

http://www.onguardonline.gov/topics/computer-security.aspx
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/about-identitytheft.html#whatdothievesdowithastolenidentity

Myth #4: It is safe to give your personal information over the phone if your caller ID confirms that it is your bank.

It is never safe to give personal information to unsolicited callers, no matter who they say they are. Caller IDs are easily spoofed.

If you believe the caller is legitimate, hang up and call the bank back at its listed phone number.

http://www.ncpc.org/programs/catalyst-newsletter/catalyst-newsletter-
2009/volume-30-number-1/vishing-a-new-twist-on-identity-theft-threatensconsumers

http://www.onguardonline.gov/topics/computer-security.aspx

Invest inIntelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.

The National Foundation for Credit Counselors, which sponsors Protect Your Identity Week, has compiled a number of identity theft myths.

To support their efforts, the Santa Fe Group Vendor Council Awareness and Education Subcommittee has helped to clarify some common misinformation with regards to this increasingly common crime.

We've already discussed a few of these myths, and will continue to do so throughout this week.

Myth #5: Checking your credit report periodically or using a credit monitoring service is all you need to do to protect yourself from identity theft.

There are many useful and effective credit monitoring services available. However, no monitoring service is 100% effective, and many do little to protect your identity.

If you want to be vigilant about identity theft, you should check your credit report periodically, but you should also keep accurate financial records, review your bank and credit card statements frequently for unauthorized charges, and follow the FTC's tips for minimizing your risk.

You can obtain one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus from AnnualCreditReport.com. Many consumer groups suggest that you stagger your free reports throughout the year, rather than ordering all three at once.

The FTC offers facts for consumers regarding identity theft protection services, which take additional steps beyond the level of protection offered by credit monitoring services.

The FDIC offers tips for safe Internet banking.

Myth #6: My personal contact information (mailing address, telephone number, email address, etc.) is not valuable to an identity thief.

Any information that could be used by a thief to impersonate you should be protected. For example, many people use their email address as a user ID for online accounts.

Consider making your information available on a need-to-know basis only. Often, businesses ask for personal information they really don't need, and will simply omit information you're not willing to give.

The U.S. Department of Justice answers the question, "What should I do to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft?”

Myth #7: Shredding my mail and other personal documents will keep me safe.

Shredding documents that contain personal information before you throw them away is a great way to protect yourself from "dumpster diving,” which occurs when thieves search the trash for personal information.

But relying on your shredder alone to protect you is like locking one window while leaving the rest of your house wide open.

Think defensively: secure your personal information in your home, your car, and at work, and always use safe online security practices.

Get Safe Online offers tips on safe social networking.

The FTC answers the question, "How do thieves steal an identity?”

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discussesdata thefton Fox News.

Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.

Myth #8: I don't use the Internet, so my personal information is not exposed online.

Your personal information appears in more places than you might realize, whether it's your medical records, a job application, or a school emergency contact form.

Many of these records are kept in electronic databases and transmitted online. Social networking sites are another good source of personal information for identity thieves.

Even if you do not use them yourself, your friends or members of your family may be sharing personal information about you. Not using the Internet may offer some protection, but it won't keep you safe from online criminals.

The identity theft resource center has compiled a list of high profile data breaches.
Get Safe Online offers tips on safe social networking.

Myth #9: Social networking is safe.

Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter can be fun to use. But they can be dangerous when it comes to your identity.

These sites are used by thieves and others to steal information, trick people and promote a variety of scams.

To protect yourself, avoid making personal information available to large groups of "friends,” take advantage of the privacy controls offered by most of these sites, and use common sense.

I blogged about social networking websites for the Huffington Post.

Myth #10: It is not safe to shop or bank online.

Like social networking, shopping and banking online are safe as long as you use common sense and make good choices about where and how you do it.

Most importantly, always take care to confirm a site is legitimate before you use it, watch out for copycat sites, and keep your computer safe from viruses.

Get Safe Online offers tips on safe online shopping.
The FDIC offers tips on safe Internet banking.

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