“Interested in credit card theft? There’s an app for that.”
Information security specialist Gunter Ollmann on how easy it is to use
malicious software to access private or business information
we told you that more than 11.5 million Americans were robbed at
gunpoint every year, there would be an outcry for the banning of all
firearms, right down to BB guns.
If we told you that taxes had
increased by 60 percent in the past three years, there would marches
down the streets of Washington D.C. in order to protest.
subjects around both of those sets of numbers have been fabricated, the
statistics themselves are true. They deal with identity theft.
report released by the U.S. Department of Justice and Javelin Strategy
& Research last June showed that 11.5 million Americans are touched
in some way by identity theft each year, affecting approximately seven
percent of all U.S. homes. Each time an identity is stolen, it costs
consumers an average of $4,930, a growing financial loss. In 2010,
identity theft was responsible for $13.2 billion in losses, a staggering
amount by itself but that number had grown to $21 billion by 2013.
The non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center breaks down identity theft into five separate categories:
- Criminal identity theft - This includes using another person’s identity when caught in the act of a crime.
Financial identity theft - This is perhaps the most common example. In
this case the criminal uses another person’s identity to either obtain
loans or uses existing accounts (such as a credit or debit card) to buy
goods and services.
- Identity cloning - This identity involves stealing enough information to assume someone else’s identity in real life.
- Medical identity theft - This theft occurs in order to obtain medical care or drugs.
- Child identity theft - This instance involves using the social security number of a minor for personal gain.
theft has been back on the front pages again recently because of the
theft of nearly 70 million customers’ account information from retailer
Target over the Christmas holidays. Since the software attack on the
company’s records, Target has offered customers credit monitoring
services and identity theft insurance as a way of atoning for the
security breach. On page A2 of today’s Times Bulletin, the Better
Business Bureau has issued a news alert informing customers that Target
has reached out through contact information, including email accounts,
in order to tell them of some of these offered services. The BBB has
stated that these are actual contacts from Target but they also warn to
be alert for scammers as reports are also surfacing of phones calls
involved with recent purchases.
Most importantly, identity theft
is not a crime that happens “someplace else.” Van Wert residents have
had their identities stolen in the past few years - sometimes taking
months and costing thousands of dollars to rectify. Also, Van Wert area
residents have been contacted in regards to the Target theft as well.
federal government offers tips on how to avoid identity theft at
USA.gov. These ideas include only giving out your social security number
when absolutely necessary, protecting your PIN by not keeping it with
your credit/debit cards, shielding the ATM keypad with your hand so
another person cannot look over your shoulder, paying attention to
billing cycles, destroying mail credit card offerings, installing
firewalls on personal computers, and checking your credit report at
least once per year. There are also reputable companies that help to
track credit and money transactions, alerting the account holder when
there is suspicious activity. Most of these companies also include
recovery services if any money is stolen.
We urge everyone to be proactive in protecting your identity. After all, there should only be one you.