An Identity Theft Follow-Up
Last month, we posted an update on identity theft. It marked the anniversary of the passing of the Identity Theft Prevention Act. Victim statistics were shared, followed by tips on protecting oneself from thieves. We even learned what cryptographic algorithms were. By coding and decoding your private data, they block third parties from illegally accessing it. In our world, both national security and personal safety hinge on the enforcement of laws related to identity theft, not to mention other forms of cybercrime. These are no longer matters of concern for hackers and spies. Each and every citizen must remain vigilant and aware of the nature of these crimes. Attorneys continue to educate themselves on this area of the law so that they may be prepared to answer your questions. In the meantime, it cannot hurt to revisit the topic from time to time. With this follow-up, the idea is to simply revisit the crime itself, consider further methods of prevention and understand the punishment that awaits perpetrators.
Identity Theft: Crime
According to New Jersey’s Wrongful Impersonation statute (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-17), identity theft is a crime. Impersonating someone, assuming a false identity and using another’s ID to avoid a debt or prosecution are just a few examples. How do they do it? Here are some of their most common methods:
- Dumpster Diving: Those two words pretty much say it all. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? I am fairly certain the phrase was not meant to be taken so literally. Yet, that is just what some thieves are doing by digging through debris in the hopes of obtaining your personal information.
- Skimming: You would think that 21st century scam artists, especially data thieves, would have slightly more sophisticated methods than dumpster diving. In the case of skimmers, you would be correct. Skimmers employ a device that requires one swipe of a credit card to retain all of the information on that magnetic strip.
- Phishing: Plenty of us know by now that legitimate sources do not ask for your account and password information via e-mail. Yet, enough still fall prey to bogus e-mails designed to elicit your personal information. It is called phishing and it remains a threat.
- Pretexting: If they can get you by e-mail, they can get you via text. The flurry of stimuli emitting from your phone on any given day could easily be smuggling what seems like a simple text from a legitimate financial institution.
- Theft: If they are willing to dive into a dumpster, criminals will have no qualms resorting to more traditional methods, whether it is stealing your wallet, breaking into your car or burglarizing your house.
Identity Theft: Punishment
Identity Theft Update merely scratched the surface in terms of preventing identity theft. Law enforcement will always entail remaining up to date on criminals and their methods. Attorneys must continually educate themselves on the living, breathing letter of the law. As a citizen, you owe it to yourself to do your part to protect what is yours. Take notice of this short list:
- Order a copy of your credit report. Actually, you should order three. In New Jersey, you are allowed to receive one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Check for any suspicious activity or discrepancies.
- Remove your mail from your mailbox ASAP. Unless you are using a locked box, refrain from letting your mail sit for any prolonged period of time. Not only will letting it pile up entice shady characters to steal, it may give them the impression that you are away on vacation.
- Shred paperwork. Pre-approved credit card and loan applications are what you must especially filter out of your junk mail. They contain personal identifiers and financial information. Shred away.
- Stop pre-approved credit offers. You can stop receiving that sort of mail all together. Just call the Credit Reporting Industry at 888-567-8688.
- Keep updated anti-virus software. The security of home computers and laptops continues to remain a hot topic in this post-Snowden era. If you already are aware that hackers can spy on you through your webcam, you are probably up to speed on anti-virus software and software firewalls. Even so, we live in a time when it is perfectly reasonable to assume that personal information sent over the internet is being viewed by others. Just be sure that your wireless network is secure. If you are conducting financial transactions over the internet, check that “https:” appears at the beginning of the web address.
Does all of this intimidate you? It should. You are not alone. Most people are like you, living their lives, not applying for the NSA. The good news is that common sense still prevails. Know where you keep your personal information. Do not leave your wallet or purse unattended. Be aware of your surroundings. Stay safe.
Please be advised that this blog is for informational purposes only, is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.
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