A recent article by Paul Coleman, vice president of compliance at International Banking Group, is a good refresher of how to steer clear of identity theft—particularly in a bad economy that brings out the criminal in otherwise honest people. Coleman has more than 40 years experience in the banking industry. He is a professionally qualified expert in Operational and Business Risk, Internal Audit, Anti Money Laundering and Regulatory Compliance.
Starting with the basics, identity theft is a form of fraud, in which someone pretends to be someone else by assuming that person’s identity.
To identity thieves, everyone is reduced to information, such as national insurance numbers, credit card details, bank account details, addresses and dates of birth. The more information identity thieves can get about an individual, the more there is the opportunity to impersonate that individual.
Such impersonation ranges from highly organized crime rings to individuals who see the benefits of impersonating someone else, perhaps of a person who lives their life very close to them.
Don’t just assume that identity theft is all about the high-tech world of computer hackers. Old fashioned pick-pocketing and street theft recently saw such a high profile person as Ben Bernanke, the U.S. Federal Reserve Board chairman, become one of hundreds of victims of an elaborate identity fraud ring that stole more than $1.2 million from unsuspecting consumers.
So what can we do as individuals do to protect ourselves?
- Make sure that you shred all personal information rather than throw it in the trash.
- Ensure that redundant information technology (IT) equipment you may throw onto a dump site is sanitized by removing all personal information from personal computers, servers, mobile phones, USB memory sticks, hard drives and other similar items.
- Ensure that you have the most up-to-date anti-virus software and firewalls on your personal computers to prevent malware such as key logging software being loaded onto your computer without your knowledge.
- Only respond to e-mails, SMS text messages, phone calls or other forms of communication from trusted organizations. Without such caution, you may be duped into disclosing personal information or login credentials.
- Take extreme care with social network sites, such as Facebook, not to disclose sufficient about yourself that your personal information could be guessed.
- Take care not to be overlooked when using IT equipment located in public places, allowing observers to see you typing in login credentials, credit or calling card numbers, etc.
If you have a business, then ensure that you screen your employees, particularly if in the normal course of their business they have access to the personal information of your customers.
For more information on steering clear of id theft visit www.hvshred.com