It seems like you cannot tune into the news without hearing about identity theft. You know the story, the perpetrators may open credit cards using personal information, make purchases, take out loans or transfer funds.
But there is something that this constant stream of news is missing, and not educating yourself can put you at risk. 80% of all identity theft cases are not related to credit card or financial theft. With only 20% of identity theft getting 90% of the airtime, people continue to be put at risk for identity theft in ways that are more harmful and more prevalent than anything that may affect your credit history.
What happens if you are victim of a much more serious form of identity theft?
Identity thieves have been known to use victims’ personal information to commit crimes, which then show up on the victims’ background reports. Imagine being pulled over for speeding, only to discover that you have already been convicted for a crime you had nothing to do with.
Another form of identity theft includes the use of your personal data to obtain medical procedures in your name, which can have results far worse than financial loss. Your medical records could contain inaccurate information, which in turn, could lead to improper care in the case of an emergency. These types of identity theft are not only difficult to fix, but for the average consumer, nearly impossible to detect on their own.
Sunday starts the beginning of National Protect Your Identity Week, so we thought it would be a good time to remind you about these issues and the steps you can take to improve awareness of your personal information.
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In the first half of 2011 there were more than 350 corporate data breaches resulting in exposure or theft of 126.7 million personal records.
While stats like these are interesting and make for big news headlines, there is a bigger problem. That problem is that you are essentially helpless in what some like to call “ID Theft Protection.”
You are ultimately caught between the hacker and the corporation that is being attacked.
Today, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) unveiled new tools and services in the form of IDTheftInfo.org to address these issues and help in the ongoing battle for both consumers and businesses.
As part of the CFA’s Identity Theft Service Best Practices Working Group, ID Watchdog has been working closely with the CFA and other advocates to develop the Best Practices for Identity Theft Services and the Nine Things to Check When Shopping for Identity Theft Services tips for consumers, as well as the new website.
We firmly believe that the only real protection against identity theft is active knowledge. In other words, playing a role in what is happening in your online portfolio of personal information.
The launch of IDTheftInfo.org is another great step toward educating people on the reality of identity theft by providing tools and information that empowers you to be active and understand the first signs of possible identity theft.
Check out the site at IDTheftInfo.org or learn more from the press release.
The three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are responsible for monitoring and maintaining the current system of creditworthiness. These three companies are responsible for proper maintenance and protection of all of the sensitive information relating to your credit history.
But, did you know there are other companies collecting your personal and financial information? These companies collect information that the credit bureaus do not, such as rent payment history, utility payment history and prepaid card purchases.
Collectively, these companies are referred to as “The Fourth Bureau” because the information collected by them can be used to create a type of credit profile for you.
The Fourth Bureau fills a particular niche left open by the three credit bureaus – it enables consumers to build up a type of financial history without relying on traditional credit cards or loans and allows businesses to view a different type of financial history. Data collected by these companies can be used to create a credit profile for those who would normally have no credit.
This collection of this additional information can have its downsides. If you are late on a utility bill payment, for example, that information can be tracked and sold to various data collections. In some cases, this can come back to haunt you in instances like an employment background screen which collects data from these companies as well as the major credit bureaus.
Federal regulation surrounding The Fourth Bureau collective is hazy at best. Currently, there are no exact provisions as to what data can be collected or what notification should be provided to consumers. These businesses are not required to notify you if they collect your information – because of this, it is nearly impossible to track down all of the information that is bought or sold to various businesses across the nation.
Data collection can be a difficult process for consumers even with the three major credit bureaus. A simple mistake or inaccuracy can lead to a mound of problems later on, and it is now more important than ever to keep an eye on your credit.
August 31st, 2011 by jamil
It’s that time of year again when the kids return to school. Whether your children are just beginning elementary school or embarking onto their first days of college, there is likely one thing that was not on your back-to-school list – identity theft protection.
Children represent the largest growing segment of the population victimized by identity theft. While a child cannot purchase a car, a house, or open a credit card, their identity can be stolen. And, when a child’s identity is stolen, the possibilities for the thief are endless.
For most parents, their child’s credit is pristine, their social security numbers are untapped, and there is little reason that any irregularities would be noticed.
Because children have no use for credit, when identity theft is finally detected, the damage can be devastating. A recent study by Carnegie Mellon found:
- 10.2% of children were victims of identity theft within the last year, compared to 0.2% of adults.
- The youngest victim was 5 months old.
- A 17-year-old’s identity was used to open 42 accounts racking up $725,000 in debt.
Why you should care….
Because of the former practice of assigning social security numbers at birth based on a child’s location and date of birth made it easy for people to obtain access to a child’s social security number.
In July, the SSA announced it would begin assigning social security numbers in a random fashion. Read here to learn more about the SSA Randomization Project.
Did you send your son or daughter off to college with an emergency credit card or maybe they are thinking about opening on campus for the first time. How about the general disclosure of your children’s personal information at schools and doctor’s offices? All of these practices have the potential to put their identities at risk because these institutions often fail to adequately protect personal information and are slow in responding should a data breach occur.
What you can do…
There are a number of basic precautions that you can take to keep your children’s personal data safe.
- For starters, exercise extreme caution and protect it just as you would your own sensitive personal data.
- When asked for your child’s personal data, do not hesitate to ask why it is needed.
- Ask if alternate identification is accepted.
- When disclosing personal data, ask how it will be stored and protected, or how it will be destroyed.
Always practice identity safe guards at home and teach your children why it is important to protect their personal information. Common tips include:
- Do not carry social security cards with you. Always keep them locked in a safe place.
- Shred documents containing any personal information before throwing them away.
- Do not give your children their social security numbers until they understand their importance and how to protect them.
- Teach your children the importance of sharing personal information, especially online.
Although it is not recommended to routinely monitor your child’s credit, it is suggested that you do keep your eye out for a tell tale indicators, which include receiving any type of preapproved credit cards sent under your child’s name or any offers that signal an open line of credit. Additionally, the FTC suggests that parents run their child’s credit report on their sixteenth birthday to look for possible irregularities. Doing so offers enough time before the child will apply for employment, student loans, apartments, or any other credit related responsibilities.
You can’t protect your children from everything, but taking a few, easy precautions can help ensure their identities and futures are protected.
A recent article at a local Florida news site about the State of Florida selling driver information to various companies for revenue is making waves with drivers across the state.
The State of Florida made roughly $73 million between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011 by selling driver information like the first and last name of the driver, personal address, date of birth, and make and model of vehicle.
Who is the State of Florida selling driver information to? Data collection companies are like Lexus Nexus and Shadow Soft are two of the buyers identified in the article.
According to federal guidelines, the state is not permitted to sell personal data to any business that would use the information to directly solicit drivers.
The fact is that this has been going for some time now, and it is not just the State of Florida that can legally sell driver information without consent or knowledge of the driver.
The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act was passed in 1994 to control the amount of information that the state departments of motor vehicles can pass on to third parties; however, there are exceptions that still leave the door open for your information to be passed on to data collection companies.
How many businesses have purchased your information?
Your data will inevitably be bought or sold by countless companies creating even more potential for one of your records to be mishandled, lost, or stolen. It is increasingly difficult to control public, and private, data because we are caught in a cycle between the corporations (organizations, businesses, government, etc.) we trust and those that want to use or misuse this information.
We think that the question isn’t how do you prevent this from happening, but how do you maintain and preserve your identity knowing that there is the ever-present potential for identity theft?
In an earlier post – Data Breaches Happen – we talk about what you can do to take a more active role in the process and what some of the early warning systems are that can become an early warning system that your personal data has been compromised.