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Think you’ve heard it all when it comes to identity theft? Unfortunately, many of us don’t know the half of it — and those who do have probably learned the hard way through becoming victims themselves. The fact is, it’s a complex and everchanging crime. Here are three things you probably didn’t know.
Myth #1: Identity thieves are only out for your money.
While it’s true that most cases involve stealing your identity for financial gain, the fact is, some criminals can have other motives. Medical records can be stolen in the hopes of gaining access to medical treatment or prescription drugs, or to file false insurance claims. Your identity can be stolen by someone looking to avoid the reach of law enforcement as well. For these reasons alone, be sure to protect all of your personal information, not just the financial-related data.
Myth #2: It’s safe to give personal information over the phone if your caller ID confirms the caller is legitimate.
This one seems incredible, but it’s true: High tech techniques make it possible for you to receive calls that look legitimate, but for which your caller ID has been manipulated. It’s called spoofing, and it’s a growing problem. Calls that originate in other states or overseas may be “spoofed” to look like they’re from a legitimate company or a local number, even when they’re not. For this reason, don’t give out any personal information or answer any questions unless you initiated the call to a number that you dialed yourself and know to be legitimate. Incidentally, the same is true about emails and texts that look authentic: If you didn’t initiate the communication, don’t provide any information!
Myth #3: I don’t do business online, so my personal information is safe.
Unfortunately, while you may not expose your information directly over the Internet, others do. Electronic databases are filled with your personal information and, guess what? That information is usually transmitted online and can be hacked or harvested. Before you share information at your workplace, a business, your child's school, or a doctor's office, ask why they need it, how they will safeguard it, and the consequences of not sharing.
In addition, remember that online access is only one way personal data gets exposed. Dumpster diving, where criminals comb dumpsters and other trash receptacles looking for personal information, is prevalent. Be sure to shred receipts, credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks, bank statements, expired charge cards, and similar documents when you don’t need them any longer. Destroy the labels on prescription medicine bottles before discarding them, too. Finally, be sure your financial records and documents — including your Social Security card — are locked away safely.