Identity Theft: Separating Fact from Fiction

There are many misconceptions that keep people from protecting themselves and their family from identity theft. Read below to separate the fact from fiction concerning identity theft.

When we have more accurate information, we can better protect ourselves from identity theft and the serious consequences stemming from it. This is why it’s important to separate fact from fiction, so you will be more vigilant when it comes to your habits and practices when it comes to protecting your personal information.

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Myth #1 – Identity theft can be completely prevented.

No matter how careful you are, or no matter what the advertisement tells you, there is no practice and no product (or service) that can completely prevent identity theft. This is because a person’s information has several components to it which are collected and used for a variety of reasons. It’s quite impossible to only keep all your personally identifiable information in one place where you alone can access them when you need to. Certainly, there are things you can do and software or services you can use to reduce the risk of falling prey to fraudsters and alert you of suspicious activities related to your identity, but it is not possible to totally thwart all types of identity theft.

Myth #2 – Social media is a safe place.

Social media has become such an intrinsic part of our daily lives. We check-in to vacation spots and restaurants, add new friends, and take selfies nearly every day without thinking that these activities can all be used by identity thieves to our detriment. Criminals can take advantage of our check-ins to track our whereabouts and determine when we won’t be home. Even our mother’s maiden name can be easily uncovered on social media and used to break into our accounts through account questions. In order to protect yourself and your information, keep the information you share private and implement the strictest privacy settings available for your social media profile. Be selective of the people you add and allow to follow you. Refrain from checking in to places and ask family and friends not to tag you in their posts.

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Myth #3 – Identity theft mostly happens online so avoiding shopping online and shredding my documents will keep me safe from identity theft.

While it’s true that many cases of identity theft are the result of data breaches, it’s also true that numerous identity theft cases happen offline. If you lose your company ID, laptop or mobile device, or your wallet containing your credit or debit cards, driver’s license or Social Security card, that can be the beginning of the lengthy and exasperating process of clearing your name and restoring your credit. Your credit or debit cards can be skimmed virtually anywhere. Your mail can be stolen from your unlocked mailbox. Storing our documents containing sensitive data in a safe or safety deposit box is good practice, as well as shredding them when no longer needed. While shredding documents containing personally identifiable identification on a regular basis to reduce the risk of having our identity stolen is a great thing to do, it isn’t a perfect solution – we must remember that there are other ways that our information can be captured. In addition, identity theft is sometimes committed by people who already have access to some of our vital information, such as family, friends, and roommates.

Myth #4 – If someone asks for my Social Security number, I am required to provide it.

There will be times when you will be asked for your Social Security Number, and there are cases in which laws require you to provide it. However, not everyone who asks for it are required to do so. Entities that request for SSN for legitimate reasons include, but are not limited to, government agencies, financial institutions (especially for credit applications), Department of Motor Vehicles, or employers upon your acceptance of their job offer. Sometimes, other entities and organizations, such as doctor’s offices or schools, colleges and universities, may ask for your SSN because it is a readily-available identifier. In these cases, ask why they need your SSN, how they will use it, and how they keep sensitive information such as SSNs safe. Inquire if you can provide a different identifier.

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