On February 8, Universal Pictures will release Identity Thief, a comedy starring Jason Bateman as an identity theft victim. However, real identity theft is no laughing matter—the Federal Trade Commission estimates that approximately 15 million Americans fall victim to identity fraud each year. For Data Privacy Day, observed Jan. 28, Cintas Corporation (NASDAQ: CTAS) today identified the most common identity thief personas.
“As the digital environment continues to grow and information transmitted through the Internet increases, so does the risk for identity theft,” said Karen Carnahan, President and COO, Cintas Document Management. “It is important to recognize the many types of identity thieves to reduce your risk of becoming a victim.”
The most common identity thief personas include:
- Dumpster diver. Your trash can be an identity thief’s treasure. Thieves can easily sift through garbage bags to identify documents with personal information. For example, a thief can simply fill out a pre-approved credit card application requesting a change of address, and receive a credit card in your name just days later. Protect yourself from the dumpster diver by shredding all important documents before disposal, including old credit cards and anything with your Social Security, driver's license or bank account number. If you have to question whether information is confidential or not, then it probably is and you should destroy it properly and completely.
- Irreverent wanderer. ID Analytics estimates that personal details of nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans are used every year to illegally apply for credit products and services. Irreverent wanderers typically find potential targets by perusing obituary notices or cemeteries. To keep thieves out of your family tree, provide only limited personal information in the deceased's obituary and avoid printing the individual's complete date of birth or address. Also, notify the Social Security Administration, the state's motor vehicles department, financial entities and all three credit reporting bureaus of a loved one's death.
- Child impersonators. Children are easy targets for identity thieves because the crime can go undetected for years. According to a report by AllClear ID, children are 35 times more likely to have their identities stolen than adults. Keep all documents that show a child’s personal information safely locked up and share their Social Security number only with trusted parties. Additionally, find out who has access to your child’s personal information, and read the notices that schools are required to send explaining your rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
- Pocket picker. Not all thieves go to extremes to steal your identity; some simply steal wallets, purses, mail and even cell phones. If you are a victim of this type of theft, your personal items may be the least of your worries. Filing a police report, notifying creditors and disputing any unauthorized transactions are some of the steps you must take immediately to prevent identity theft. To prevent this risk beforehand, it is important to regularly shred all unnecessary mail and activate the password protect feature on your mobile phone and tablet.
- Computer hacker. Unfortunately, many of today’s brilliant computer minds are not focused on improving our society. Rather, these computer hackers are using their abilities to develop new viruses, malware and scams to obtain your personal information. To prevent these types of attacks, keep your computer(s) updated with virus/malware protection. Never download anything or provide any personal information unless you are certain the website is safe. When you update your computer, be sure to have your old hard drive shredded by a secure vendor that has secure Lockdown™ technology.
- Bored Billy. Generally, the motive behind identity theft is to steal money or credit, but some thieves are looking to assume someone’s identity. This type of thief is often bored with their life and seeking the thrill of taking on someone else’s persona by gathering information from social media accounts or eavesdropping on a confidential phone conversation. Protect yourself from the terror of by securing your personal information online and offline. Do not give out personal information on the phone or through the mail, and be vigilant about sharing information when opening new accounts online.
“Just as victims can vary, so can identity thieves,” added Carnahan. “Data Privacy Day is an opportunity for consumers to empower themselves with the knowledge they need to protect their privacy and prevent identity theft.”