Let’s Play Identity Theft Roulette

Identity theft roulette It’s the fabulous new game that’s sweeping the globe.  Every day you hear about some organization losing someone’s personal information.  These activities go from the simple act of finding someone’s paper credit card statement to sophisticated hackers stealing customer data from a website or database.  It can get a little overwhelming sometimes and make you feel like you are in a gambling casino.  Let’s look at some of the ways that people steal information.

Dumpster Diving – recently some hospitals in Massachusetts had paper documents with patient information show up at the dump.

Listening to your Phone Conversation – consumers give their credit card information to someone over the phone in a public place.

Using Digital Copiers – reports from CBS News showed that copiers keep scanned, copied and printed documents on their hard drives for others to grab.

Finding USB Drives – people lose these devices all the time with personal information on them.

Walking out the Door – employees walk out of the office with paper or electronic documents with customer information.

Preventing some of the things are difficult because you need to rely on the security of the organization that has your information.  Here are a few tips to help you prevent identity theft:

  1. Don’t give out personal information unless absolutely necessary
  2. Check you privacy settings on social networking sites
  3. Shred credit card statements and other mail before throwing them away
  4. Don’t use the same password for all your online activities
  5. Ensure only authorized people can access confidential information
  6. Review your bills and financial statements regularly for suspicious activity
  7. Keep your computers (including servers) up to date with patches
  8. Don’t click on suspicious email links or go to suspect websites
  9. Use a secure file transfer service to send confidential files
  10. Use encrypted portable media for moving files

 

What can you do if you think you’re the victim of identity theft?

  • Notify your financial institutions
  • Inform your credit card issuers
  • Contact the fraud departments of the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, TransUnion
  • File a police report with local law enforcement

 

Some of this is common sense, but we all need the occasional reminder.  There is no need to be paranoid or panic.  You need to get in the habit of prevention, rather than spinning the roulette wheel and hoping for the best.  Just like you got into the habit of locking your front door as you leave your house, you can easily get into the habit of theft prevention.

 

Photo credit Sunny Side Up

Comments 2

  1. Two things I would add: Don’t give your social security number to anyone unless you are sure it is both legitimate and necessary. Doctors often ask for basic information on a form for new patients which asks for the SSN, but it is rarely necessary. (Some insurance carriers and Medicare still use it as an identifier, unfortunately.)

    Also, people should be encouraged to be SURE that they’re dealing with whom they think they’re dealing before giving information such as SSN or credit card numbers. This means that if someone CALLED YOU, you don’t really know who it is (caller ID is NOT reliable for this!); you only know who he SAYS he is. Similarly, if someone sends you an e-mail claiming to be your bank, for example, and asks you to go to a web site by clicking a link in the e-mail, you don’t really KNOW it’s really the bank’s web site. If you follow a link you have saved from the last time you visited the bank’s site, you’re much safer.

  2. Peter,

    That’s good advice. With all the call centers out there, who knows who you are really speaking to when someone calls you. I have asked for a call back number so I can initiate the call as a precaution. Amazing what this does.

    And you are right about SS#. A lot of forms have it, but many organizations don’t really need it. Some use it as a unique identifier for you in their database, but they should have their own way to generate a customer/patient number. The healthcare industry is one that is a bit behind on that and until the government changes, everyone will still use it.

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