Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft
Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft
By: Wilmington Trust

Simply stated, identity theft is the process by which a person with criminal intent assumes the identity of a legitimate person in order to utilize their good credit and lack of criminal record.

Generally speaking, there are several facts that a criminal needs to know to assume the identity of another. The most common are the person's full name, address, social security number, and mother's maiden name. The one other element that is usually, but not always, needed is a form of identification in the victim's name, such as a driver's license or ID card. This information can be obtained in many ways - from raiding your mailbox to creating an elaborate email Internet hoax. This article will alert you to the various ways identity theft can occur and help you protect yourself and your good name.

It's the Law
Officially, identity theft became illegal when the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 was passed (Title 18 United States Code - Section 1028). Believe it or not, up until that time, identity theft was not actually a crime! Since then, additional laws have been introduced to address specific components of identity theft, such as obtaining social security numbers.

High- and Low-Tech Identity Theft
While emphasis is often placed on the high-tech ways in which criminals steal identities, in reality, most identity theft is done with low-tech methods. Most of the information that identity thieves need is often readily available and can be surprisingly easy to obtain. Some of these low-tech methods include the following:

While these low-tech methods of obtaining information have been utilized for some time, high-tech identity theft crimes are rising steadily. The majority of high-tech identity theft crimes occur using the Internet. The most common methods include the hacking and cracking of merchant databases for customer information. However, infiltrating an individual's personal and financial information over a home computer using a simple email is also becoming more commonplace. Some methods of high-tech identity theft crimes include:

How Can I Protect Myself?
In light of all these potential dangers, what precautions can you take to safeguard your personal information? A good first step is to consider your mail handling practices. As previously mentioned, a large number of identity theft cases are carried out through low-tech methods with the mail being the easiest to infiltrate. Some suggestions for reducing your risk are as follows:

When conducting retail or financial business through the Internet, be sure that a padlock symbol appears on your browser status bar. This means that the site uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) 128-bit encryption technology, which protects information as it crosses the Internet by encrypting - or scrambling - your information so that it is virtually impossible for anyone other than you to read.

I'm a Victim - What Should I Do?
As soon as you are aware that you may have become the victim of such a crime, you should first complete a police report. Once the report is filed, the following steps should be taken:

Finally, listed below are some resources where you can learn more about identity theft and find help if you become a victim.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the sale of any financial product or service or as a determination that any investment strategy is suitable for a specific investor. Investors should seek financial advice regarding the suitability of any investment strategy based on their objectives, financial situations, and particular needs. This article is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, accounting, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. If professional advice is needed, the services of a professional advisor should be sought.

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