Identity theft is a truly disturbing phenomenon in our world today. Although identity theft has occurred for centuries, it has become a particularly severe problem in the last twenty years as a result of the Internet. This wonderful invention allows us to do so much that we otherwise would not be able to do, but it makes our personal lives available to many people we would rather avoid. The general ease and speed of communication has led to a much more common incidence of identity theft. This is also a problem because the Internet tends to be much less personal than other forms of communication, meaning that it is the perfect place for fraud and deception. We never know exactly who receives and email when we send it or who is on the other end when we purchase something. We essentially send our personal information out into a black hole and have faith that all will turn out well. Although I am certainly not claiming that the Internet is a bad thing, it requires that we learn a little more about the dangers associated with it. Other forms of identity theft, such as mail fraud and dumpster diving, are also serious problems, with hundreds of thousands of people suffering each year.
You might think that identity theft only occurs when someone across the world sends you a fraudulent email, but this is not the case. Some statistics regarding the identities of perpetrators and victims illustrates a much more disturbing picture:
1. Something like twenty to twenty five percent of victims think that the theft occurred when someone at a business they patronize uses their information inappropriately. This means that every time you use your credit or debit card you could be giving some employee your personal information.
2. Almost fifty percent of victims claim that identity theft occurred when someone they know used their personal information inappropriately. This could be a friend, family member, accountant, lawyer, acquaintance, or colleague at work. Although you don’t want to be overly suspicious, realize that identity theft occurs all the time among people who know each other well.
3. Perhaps the most disturbing statistic shows that when children have their identities stolen their parents are often responsible. That is true desperation and shows how personal the problem can be.
4. Many victims claim that the perpetrator is someone they know who feels some anger or animosity toward them. If you have an identity theft make sure to consider your enemies as potential suspects. Don’t leave anyone out of your case.
The difficulty of finding and punishing perpetrators makes it clear that the best strategy when it comes to identity theft is prevention. By following a few basic rules we can avoid most identity theft and the terrible consequences that come with it. As these statistics have shown, identity theft is truly a plague that taints the lives of millions. In order to avoid it you need to be very cautious about what you do on the Internet. Never send personal information in an email to anyone, including friends or family. Be cautious about purchasing anything at sites that are not well known. Purchase a mailbox with a lock on it and shred all documents that are going into the trash. Lock up your personal papers and invest in some anit spyware software for your computers. With some basic education and good practices you can avoid just about any identity theft. With a little effort we can make identity theft a thing of the past.