Where is your personal information now, do you know? Lately, there has been quite a bit of press about computer systems have been hacked or security has been breached. The Choice Point situation where the information was sold to an identity theft ring. There was also the Lexus-Nexus case, Ralph Lauren, and a handful of others recently in the news. [more]The scary part is that much of the data that’s taken isn’t used immediately; perhaps the data will be used in a few months, once the victims have lowered their guard and the fraud alerts expire. This is the case, according to representatives of the Privacy Rights Clearing House.
Identity theft is one of the quickest growing crimes in history, according to a Berkeley Police website, which quotes that “The government statistics are staggering. The largest credit bureaus report millions in losses every year and the crime has risen 1400% since 1997. In 1998 the U.S. Office of General Accounting released a report detailing the damage this crime had caused. They reported 750,000,000 in losses in 1997 alone. The Federal Trade Commission reports that one in four will fall victim of the crime.”
And, although the companies are required to tell people when their information has been accessed, that’s something that happens AFTER the fact.
If you want to know how to protect yourself, do a quick search on “protection from identity theft” on the web and dig a little. In the meantime, don’t carry your social security card, use a PO Box or a locked mail box, don’t print your driver’s license number or your social security number on your checks and be sure any credit card receipts or slips are shredded at home, not disposed of in a public area.
So, I may be paranoid, but I think it might just pay off for me. The seemingly endless battles to NOT divulge my social security number may be actually saving me time in the long-run. How secure is your personal information?