The crime of theft of identity is one in which someone takes a vital piece of personal information from you. This could be your driver’s license number or your social security number, for instance. They then use this in order to pretend to be you. Through identity theft, impostors can obtain services, merchandise and credit in your name, or they can obtain false credentials. Besides often running up debt in your name, they may also pretend to be you when identified by the police, leave outstanding arrest warrants in your name, and even create a criminal record in your name.
Two Main Categories
There are two basic types of identity theft, which are account takeover and true name. In the latter, someone uses your name in order to create new accounts. For instance, they may apply for a credit card, start a cellphone contract or even open a bank account so that they can get new checks. On the other hand, with account takeover, an impostor will use your personal information in order to take whatever is in your existing accounts. Usually, they will change the account’s mailing address and then run up huge bills. You will probably not be aware of this until it is much too late. Because so much is now done online, it is very easy to make transactions without actually having to identify yourself.
It is also possible for an identity thief to hack into a huge database and take personal information from there. However, in most cases, they use more old fashioned methods, including taking your old mail out of your trash, which is a practice known as ‘dumpster diving’. Shoulder surfing, whereby someone stands next to you in a queue as you fill in your personal information, or your PIN number, is another popular method.
Protecting yourself from identity fraud is difficult. In fact, it should be pointed out that it is impossible to prevent identity theft from occurring. It is, in the main, about being proactive. You must be aware of the fact that dumpster diving and shoulder surfers are out there and be mindful of them. You may also want to sign up for protection services such as those offered at http://www.identityguard.com/. These services help to identity theft of identity if it has occurred so that you can take steps to stop further damage, for instance, by closing those accounts being used by the criminals to steal from you.