Identity Theft — How to Recognize and Prevent It from Happening

Hermond Palmer, Vice President, Director of Sales & Marketing of Industrial Bank of Washington | 10/9/2013, 2 p.m.
Hermond Palmer, Vice President, Director of Sales & Marketing of Industrial Bank of Washington

What is identity theft? Identity theft occurs when a thief obtains critical pieces of personal information they can use to impersonate someone else to secure credit; obtain merchandise or services in that person’s name. Examples of the personal information include a Social Security number, bank account number and PIN, and driver’s license number.

Identity theft is categorized in two ways: true name and account takeover. True name identity theft means the thief uses personal information to open new accounts, such as a new credit card account or a new checking account. Account takeover identity theft means the imposter uses personal information to gain access to the person's existing accounts. In this situation, the thief will typically change the mailing address on an account and run up a huge bill before the victim whose identity has been stolen realizes there is a problem.

With Identity theft, there can be serious consequences for the individual whose identity has been stolen if that victim is held accountable for the perpetrator's actions. As with the victims, the companies, institutions, and individuals who are deceived or defrauded by the identity thief can also suffer adverse consequences and losses. If you think you could not be the victim of identity theft, think again. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crime categories of our day, which begs the question, “How does identity theft occur? “

Identity theft typically occurs when thieves gain access to sources of personal information such as account statements, old receipts, discarded checks and other potential sources through theft of a home, car, or pick pocketing a wallet or purse. Other methods used to obtain personal information include:

• Searching through trash for personal information, also known as dumpster diving

• Spying on victims typing their login credentials, credit/calling card numbers, etc. into IT equipment located in public places, otherwise referred to as shoulder surfing

• Stealing bank or credit cards, identification cards, passports, authentication tokens — typically by pick pocketing, housebreaking or mail theft

Skimming information from bank or credit cards, using compromised or hand-held card readers and creating clone cards

• Stealing personal information from computers, using breaches in browser security or malware, such as Trojan horse keystroke logging programs or other forms of spyware

• Impersonating trusted organizations in emails, SMS text messages, phone calls or other forms of communication in order to trick victims into sharing their personal information or login credentials, typically on a fake corporate website or data collection form, most commonly known as phishing

How can you protect yourself? As with many things, knowledge is power. Knowing the techniques thieves use to access your personal information is half the battle. Here are some helpful tips to assist you in protecting your identity:

Never share any personal information with any individual without first verifying their identity

Only allow sensitive correspondence (mail) to be delivered to a secured mail box or location

Always cover or block from view the keystrokes you use to enter your PIN for any purpose

Shred all confidential information before throwing it into trash

Report all lost or stolen credit cards immediately

Make it a practice to review all of your financial statements including bank, credit card, investment, and retirement accounts to ensure there is no illegal activity affecting your accounts

Expand your knowledge about identity theft and take advantage of the resources and programs that have been established to assist you. As always, Industrial Bank is ready to serve as your financial partner to support you as you look to invest in yourself, invest in your dreams, and invest in your future.