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Protective Identity Theft Measures

In: English and Literature

Submitted By matty1178
Words 3176
Pages 13
Easy Measures for Increasing Identity Theft Protection
Introduction
Imagine getting ready to purchase a home. Your family has outgrown the house you are currently living in, and a bigger home would be a perfect fit for your family. Since you have owned your home for many years and made your payments on time (along with your other bills), you feel applying for a home loan will be easy. With banks offering lower interest rates and trying to obtain business from customers, now is the time (you feel) to apply for a home loan. You walk into the bank and meet with the local loan officer. After explaining your financial and work situation, the loan officer provides an interest rate and term on a home loan. You find the home loan favorable and wish to proceed with the home loan. The loan officer is happy to proceed and explains that a credit report will need to be pulled. You agree to have your credit report pulled, as you feel your credit score is in good shape. The loan officer pulls your credit report and you see a look of concern come across his face. The loan officer prints your credit report and proceeds to tell you that due to your high debt, failure to make payments, and low credit score; the bank cannot offer you a loan. You now have this look of horror on your face as you do not know how you have late payments, your debt is high, and your credit score is low. You ask to see your credit report. When you review the credit report, you realize these unpaid, high-balance transactions are not yours. You have become a victim of identity theft. The loan officer gives you some advice on how to handle the identity theft, and some written information on how to proceed with the identity theft. Upon your own investigation, you realize you are now a statistic. You are now part of a group that has had their identity stolen. You also realize the long and uphill battle you are going to have to repair your credit. Your dreams of a bigger house are put on hold, if not completely destroyed. Stories like these are unfortunately common. The days of wondering how identity theft could happen are changing to wondering if and when identity theft will occur for victims. In 2010, 8.6 million (7%) of US households had a member of the family who experienced identity theft (Wahl 2013). From e mails stating you have a long lost relative that has passed away and is leaving you a bunch of money, e mails offering work from home opportunities, credit card skimmers, to even people digging through trash; identity thieves have a number of ways to obtain personal information. Identity theft does not contain finger prints (per say). Your personal and financial information do not carry any parts that fully say, “This is yours and only used by you.” Your social security number, your bank account numbers, and your address can be used online to apply for a credit card. The system obtaining the personal information requires the information, but the system obtaining the information has no clue if you or an identity thief is entering your personal information. While this outlook may seem bleak, there are methods individuals can take to protect themselves from identity theft. Identity theft continues to affect millions of people each year, with more and more people falling victim to the fraudulent practices of identity thieves. However, there are everyday practices we can incorporate to protect ourselves from identity theft. Most of the protection measures are free or very low cost. By taking daily additional steps, watching where and when you give your personal and financial information, and becoming identity smart will help you protect you from identity theft. While identity theft does not appear to be going away anytime soon; by using the methods described below, you can increase your protection against identity theft.

Section I: Take Daily Steps to Protect Your Identity By taking additional daily steps, you can increase your identity theft protection. The nice part about these daily practices is that the practices are free. The main problem with having our personal and financial information stolen is that the fraudulent activity occurs when we lower our guard. By making these daily practices a routine, the practices change from being a burden to a part of daily life. The practices consist of checking financial accounts daily, do not open e mails or click links from unknown sources, be cautious of phone or letter solicitations, and be cautious of what you throw away. By checking financial accounts daily, it is very easy to monitor credits and debits to accounts. Many financial companies will show transactions as “pending” for a three day period prior to posting the transaction. By checking financial account information daily, you can quickly see if a transaction pending on your account is an item you purchased. If an item appears on your account that is not a purchase you made, it is easier to dispute the transaction with your financial institution during the pending phase. With checking financial accounts daily, you can quickly and easily keep track of your credits and debits. Except for holiday times, most customers do not make a bunch of transactions to personal accounts in a single day. With the easier opportunity to track debits and credits, a user can quickly spot a suspicious transaction. While checking financial accounts daily is a great first step, there are other practices that need to be incorporated as well. Do not open e mails or links from individuals you do not know, or give personal information to telephone solicitors. Burgess shows us the most common form of identity theft is through e mail solicitation and phone scams (Huffington Post 10/13). We have all seen the e-mails stating that we have a long lost relative who is stranded, we have a long lost relative that has passed away and we have inherited a bunch of money, or someone wants to make a donation to a charity you belong to. You have never heard of any of these people, or are aware of any of these situations. All of these e mails or links require you to enter your personal and financial information to receive the funds. The easiest way to deal with these e mails and situations is to place these items in your Junk E mail box and permanently delete the items. Do not give these criminals any information or pay the criminals any attention. Finally, be careful on what you throw away. Just throwing away personal and financial information into the trash simply invites identity theft. Identity thieves will dig through your garbage trying to find account and personal information in order to fraudulently gain financial means. The FTC states we should shred all personal and financial information we are discarding (Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information on Identity Theft). These items include credit card offers that come in the mail as well. The credit card offers, mixed with an item of personal information, can allow an identity thief to open a credit card in your name. Even worse, the new credit card is fraudulently opened without your knowledge. By taking a couple of extra minutes each day in being cautious in what you throw away, you can reduce the risk of having your identity stolen. Identity thieves will dig through your trash for personal information.

Section II: How to implement the Easy Identity Theft Protection Measures Describing the measures of how individuals can protect themselves against identity theft does not do any good without presenting how to implement the measures. By understanding how to use the identity theft protection measures, people can increase their identity and personal information. Parts of creating effective habits are to imply proper practices. The old adage of practice makes perfect goes a long way. A way to understand and develop proper practices is to find memory techniques that are easy to remember.
Wahl describes the SCAM method in his article (Wahl 2013 Pg. 23). The great idea behind using the acronym SCAM is that scam is a word most people already know. Most people associate the word scam in a bad way; however, the word scam is imbedded in most people’s memory. Wahl takes the word SCAM and creates an ACRONYM that others can use to remember identity theft protection techniques. The S in SCAM stands for: Be Stingy about giving your financial information to others unless you have a reason to trust them. This also goes for being stingy about where you give your personal information. The C stands for: Check your financial information regularly, and look for what should be there. The A stands for: Ask periodically for a copy of your credit report. Finally the M stands for: Maintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts.
One of the best practices is to always be cautious on where, when, and how you give your personal information. How many times have we been in the checkout line of a store and the clerk asks us if we would like to open a charge card? When you decide to open one of these charge accounts, do not open the account in the store. You are asked to give your personal information in front of strangers that you have never met before. You do not have any idea or clue if the person behind you is an identity thief or not. You are typing, speaking, and sharing your personal information in a non-private atmosphere. If you are interested in applying for a department store charge card, ask for the application and mail in the information or apply online in the privacy of your own home.
Another best practice is to not open the spam e mails offering work from home opportunities, stating you are a long lost relative that has been left a large sum of money, or someone is stranded in another county and needs funds to get home. Most of the time these e mails will be directly sent to your Junk e mail box. However, sometimes these e mails do get through to your regular inbox. All of these e mails ask for your personal and financial information upfront. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that you do not know who sent you the e mails, or who is asking for your personal and financial information. This falls back to Wahl’s “Be Stingy on whom you give your personal information to” (Wahl 2013 Pg. 23). If you do not know the company of person requesting your personal or financial information, then do not give your personal information out to those individuals.
Finally, maintain careful records of your personal and financial information. First, request copies of your credit report on a regular basis. While this does cost a few dollars, a periodic view of your credit report is extremely beneficial to check your open and revolving credit accounts. You should only obtain your credit report from trustworthy companies. Experian and Transunion are two trustworthy companies that can provide your credit report almost instantly (FTC Consumer Website). Next, you should check your accounts on a regular basis. By viewing your financial accounts online or by calling the customer service numbers a few times a week, you can check your account activity on a regular basis. It is much easier to verify and dispute transactions when the charges are pending.
The nice thing about these measures is that they are easy to incorporate, easy to become habitual, and fairly inexpensive. The biggest part of these practices is to make them a habit and a routine. Proper and regular use of these practices will help protect your personal and financial information. A benefit on the behalf of customers is the protection measures set forth by financial institutions. Many financial institutions have identity theft protections measures that stem from strong firewalls to stop penetration of identity thieves and triggers that will alert company employees when charges on customer accounts appear that are out of the ordinary. Some people feel these protection measure are enough to protect consumers personal and financial information.
Section III: Protection Measures by Financial Companies are Enough (Opposing View) Identity theft has become such an issue that financial institutions, banks, and other companies that house personal and financial information are required to have protection measures and insurances to protect customer’s information. If personal information is lost or stolen, the financial institutions will refund the charges and work with the customers to restore personal and financial information to the customer’s original form. Some companies offer identity theft protection or insurance for its products and services. These identity protection services and insurances sometimes are free, but usually cost a nominal fee for use. However, consumers feel the protection measures are worth the cost because the consumers do not need to worry about their personal or financial information. Companies such as LifeLock, Credit.com, and Identity Guard are such companies that offer identity, personal, and credit protection services for a fee

Saitlin (Chicago Tribune Review 2013) states that identity theft is not going anywhere. Identity theft will always be an issue. However, the key is to stay ahead of the identity thieves and scams. The best method to stay ahead of identity thieves and scams is to leave it to the professionals. The services and protections offered (even if they cost money) guarantee the replacement of the funds and transactions on your credit if identity theft occurs. This mentality seems pretty easy and simple. Leave the issue to the professionals and don’t sweat the issue of identity theft. If identity theft does not occur to your information while utilizing these protection methods, then the mentality of leaving everything to the professionals will work.
Christopher Burgess states “Identity theft is here and identity theft is here to stay” (Huffington Post Oct 2013). Burgess continues to describe in his article that there is an ongoing battle with identity thieves and companies. Companies will come out with new protection measures and identity thieves will work to infiltrate those systems. The same goes for identity thieves creating new measures to obtain personal and financial information fraudulently and companies working to create new protection measures. With the ongoing battles, it is almost impossible for consumers to protect their identity on their own. Sometimes, the best option is to go with professional identity theft services. However, what happens if or when identity theft does happen? The professional services do not and cannot replace or repair the lasting effects of identity theft.
Section IV: The Lasting Effects of Identity Theft Having your personal and financial information fraudulently obtained and used has more effects than just the loss of funds. Identity theft can cause lasting effects that will stick around longer than the time it takes to replace your lost funds and repair your credit. People who have their identity stolen often feel vulnerable, taken advantage of, angry, and invaded. These feelings can often cause depression and other issues down the road. John Blake describes the behind the scene tolls of identity theft (CNN Dec. 2009). Blake states how many victims of identity theft develop depression, trust issues, and vulnerability issues. The thoughts of how this could happen, why it happened, and how to move forward can drive victims of identity theft nuts. The issue is, while the identity thief only took seconds or minutes to steal your information; the effects of depression can last years. The effects of depression can also lead to physical issues. Depression can cause sleeping, eating, and other physical issues. These issues can cause lasting damage to your body. Depression causes people to stop enjoying the little things in life. Depression also affects those close to the person suffering from depression. Constant worrying and concern take its toll on the loved ones surrounding a person suffering depression.

With the lasting and hidden effects of identity theft causing many more severe problems for victims, wouldn’t you want to take extra measures to try to protect your personal and financial information? With taking the SCAM method and other small practices, you can increase your protection from identity thieves. The protection methods are worth the time. The relatively inexpensive methods are worth the effort to prevent the initial identity theft and the lasting effects of identity theft.
Section V: Conclusion Identity theft continues to affect millions of people each year, with more and more people falling victim to the fraudulent practices of identity thieves. However, there are everyday practices we can incorporate to protect ourselves from identity theft. Identity thieves lurk almost anywhere. Identity thieves can be lurking in stores, gas stations, banks, and online. Identity thieves really do not take on a defined form. Almost daily we can find new articles about identity theft. Some of the articles are good and describe new protection services and methods. However, most of the time the articles are bad and describe how people have lost their savings, retirement, homes, and credit. The question of when identity theft will end has pretty much eluded us. The question now revolves around if we can prevent identity theft. The answer is: we can take extra measures to protect ourselves from identity theft. The biggest protection measure is being mindful of when and where you give your personal and financial information. Sitting in an office, applying for a loan with a certified loan officer of a bank, with the door closed; is probably a safe place to give your personal information. Applying for a store charge card at the register, in front of a bunch of strangers, is not the best place to give your personal and financial information. Being always fearful and essentially “living in a shell” is not a safe protection method. You should still enjoy life and all that life has to offer. The key is to just be mindful of your delivery methods to your personal and financial information. Being cautious is the best policy to follow to still enjoy life and protect your identity. By turning these practices into habits, you can feel safer in applying for credit, purchasing items, and getting the most out of your credit and finances.
References
Blake, John (12/2009) The Hidden Cost of Identity Theft. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECG/12/07/identity.theft.costs/
Burgess, Christopher (10/2013) Identity Theft: ID Theft is Here Today, Here to Stay. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-burgess/identity-theft-idtheft-is_b_4136341.html
Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information on Identity Theft. Retrieved from: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft
Saitlin, Sheldon (11/2013) Fear of Identity Theft. Retrieved from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-11-20/opinion/chi-131120-saitlin_briefs_1_identity- theft-social-security-numbers-credit-card
Wahl (2013). Look Out for Identity Scams. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, Business Economics, (Fall 2013 PG 23.)

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