Identity Theft

Identity theft is a crime involving illegal usage of another individual’s identity.

Generally identity theft is sub-divided into four categories:
– Financial Identity Theft: using another’s name and SSN to obtain goods and services.
– Criminal Identity Theft: posing as another when apprehended for a crime.
– Identity Cloning: using another’s information to assume his or her identity in daily life.
– Business/Commercial Identity Theft: using another’s business name to obtain credit.

The acquisition of personal identifiers is made possible through serious breaches of privacy. For individuals, this is usually due to personal naivete about who they provide their information to, or carelessness in protecting their information from theft. Guardianship of personal identifiers by individuals is the most common intervention strategy recommended by the Federal Trade Commission and most sites that address identity theft. Personal guardianship issues include recommendations on what individuals may do to prevent their information getting into the wrong hands. The strongest protection against identity theft is NOT to identify at all- thereby ensuring that information cannot be reused to impersonate an individual elsewhere. As such, identity theft is often a question of too little privacy or too much identification.

What are some of the techniques for obtaining individuals information?
* Stealing mail or rummaging through rubbish (dumpster diving)
* Stealing payment or identification cards or the information on them (pickpocketing)
* Eavesdropping on public transactions to obtain personal data (shoulder surfing)
* Stealing personal information in computer databases (Trojan horses, hacking)
* Infiltration of organizations that store large amounts of personal information
* Impersonating a trusted organization in an electronic communication (phishing)
* Obtaining castings of fingers for falsifying fingerprint identification
* Browsing social network sites online for personal details that have been posted by users
* Simply researching about the victim in government registers, at the internet, Google, and so on
* Or simply calling an individual, posing as someone else, and have them give up some personal information without realizing it

We have posted links to several sites that deal with identity theft. By clicking on the tabs in the left column you will be linked to the individual websites.

How Do I Avoid Identity Theft?

Be stingy about giving out your personal information to others unless you have a reason to trust them, regardless of where you are:

At Home:
1. Start by adopting a “need to know” approach to your personal data. Your credit card company may need to know your mother’s maiden name, so that it can verify your identity when you call to inquire about your account. A person who calls you and says he’s from your bank, however, doesn’t need to know that information if it’s already on file with your bank; the only purpose of such a call is to acquire that information for that person’s personal benefit. Also, the more information that you have printed on your personal bank checks — such as your Social Security number or home telephone number — the more personal data you are routinely handing out to people who may not need that information.
2. If someone you don’t know calls you on the telephone and offers you the chance to receive a “major” credit card, a prize, or other valuable item, but asks you for personal data — such as your Social Security number, credit card number or expiration date, or mother’s maiden name — ask them to send you a written application form.
3. If they won’t do it, tell them you’re not interested and hang up.
4. If they will, review the application carefully when you receive it and make sure it’s going to a company or financial institution that’s well-known and reputable. The Better Business Bureau can give you information about businesses that have been the subject of complaints.

When Traveling:
1. If you’re traveling, have your mail held at your local post office, or ask someone you know well and trust; another family member, a friend, or a neighbor to collect and hold your mail while you’re away.
2. If you have to telephone someone while you’re traveling, and need to pass on personal financial information to the person you’re calling, don’t do it at a public location. Be wary of someone standing too close while making a call.

Check your financial information regularly, and look for what should be there and what shouldn’t:

What should be there:
1. If you have bank or credit card accounts, you should be receiving monthly statements that list transactions for the most recent month or reporting period.
2. If you’re not receiving monthly statements for the accounts you know you have, call the financial institution or credit card company immediately and ask about it.
3. If you’re told that your statements are being mailed to another address that you haven’t authorized, tell the financial institution or credit card representative immediately that you did not authorize the change of address and that someone may be improperly using your accounts. In that situation, you should also ask for copies of all statements and debit or charge transactions that have occurred since the last statement you received. Obtaining those copies will help you to work with the financial institution or credit card company in determining whether some or all of those debit or charge transactions were fraudulent.

What shouldn’t be there:
1. If someone has gotten your financial data and made unauthorized debits or charges against your financial accounts, checking your monthly statements carefully may be the quickest way for you to find out. Too many of us give those statements, or the enclosed checks or credit transactions, only a quick glance, and don’t review them closely to make sure there are no unauthorized withdrawals or charges.
2. If someone has managed to get access to your mail or other personal data, and opened any credit cards in your name or taken any funds from your bank account, contact your financial institution or credit card company immediately to report those transactions and to request further action.

Ask periodically for a copy of your credit report.

Your credit report should list all bank and financial accounts under your name, and will provide other indications of whether someone has wrongfully opened or used any accounts in your name.

Maintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts.

Even though financial institutions are required to maintain copies of your checks, debit transactions, and similar transactions for five years, you should retain your monthly statements and checks for at least one year, if not more. If you need to dispute a particular check or transaction, especially if they purport to bear your signatures, your original records will be more immediately accessible and useful to the institutions that you have contacted.

1900 Frederick Road
Opelika, AL 36803-0688
(334) 749-5651

Site developed by