What is Identity Theft?

Identity fraud occurs when an identity thief obtains pieces of a victim’s personal information, such as Social Security number or driver’s license numbers, to unlawfully impersonate them.

Identity theft is a way to defraud by using someone else’s personal information to access the victim’s credit, bank accounts or other sources of money.

A Case Study of Identity Theft

Tampa Woman Sentenced for Stolen Identity Refund Fraud

On April 18, 2017, in Tampa, Florida, Melissa Hayes, of Tampa, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for conspiracy to commit theft of government property and identity theft. Between January and June 2012, Hayes deposited 22 fraudulent government and tax refund checks, totaling over $160,000, into her business bank account. She then withdrew the funds the same day or the following day, spent the money on point-of-purchase items, transferred the money to her bank account and shared the funds with her co-conspirators.

Source: https://www.irs.gov/compliance/criminal-investigation/examples-of-identity-theft-investigations-fiscal-year-2017

Step 1: Exercise Caution While Accessing E-Mail

  • Send outgoing postal mail from your home mailbox. Make sure that it is has a lock on it for additional security.
  • Never send outgoing mail at your workplace.
  • Never write any financial information on the outside of the envelope.
  • Make sure that you have the post office hold your mail if you are out of town.
  • Empty your mailbox quickly, so criminals do not have a chance to snatch credit card pitches.

Step 2: Exercise Caution While Conducting Financial Transactions

  • Make sure that you are by yourself at an ATM, and that nobody else is around watching
  • Always pay your online site with a website that is secure with the “HTTPS.”
  • As far as possible, never give your credit card information on the Internet.

Step 3: Manage Your Personal Financial Documents

  • Check your credit report at least once a year.
  • Make sure that you are in a private area when giving out your credit card number on your cell phone.
  • Shred all financial documents using a cross-cut shredder.
  • Carry only one credit card with you in your wallet.

Step 4: Protect Your Banking Information

  • Use traveler’s checks instead of personal bank checks.
  • Carefully review all of your monthly credit card and monthly bank statements.
  • Always use direct deposit or ACH for transferring money.
  • Remember, financial organizations never call you to ask for personal and confidential information. If you get such a call, hang up immediately.

Step 5: Protect Your Confidential Information

  • Don’t reveal your personal and confidential information through phones or the internet.
  • You can tear up or shred any sensitive, informative paper that contains private financial information or personal information about your identity.
  • Don’t give out personal and confidential information to unsecured websites. A web page containing “https” in the address is a secure site, meaning that the information you provide will be encrypted and protecting it from hackers.
  • Don’t leave your personal and confidential information from your trash. Never throw away any paper that contains personal and confidential information such as credit card numbers by placing it in a curbside trash can. Instead, shred it or dispose of it in another way. Have your computer’s hard drive erased or removed and destroyed before you get rid of it.
  • If you have any personal and private or financial information stored on your computer, use an encryption program to protect it.
  • Store personal and confidential information in a safe place at home and work.
  • Use a password manager to store and use all of your passwords.
  • Be selective and cautious to whom to give your Social Security number.
  • When you retire an old computer, take out the hard drive, and physically destroy it.
  • Study the various kinds of scams being perpetrated to steal your identity.

Ethical Hacking Training – Resources (InfoSec)

Step 6: Shred Everything

  • Always make it a policy to shred documents that are of value to you.
  • There are two ways to shred files
  1. Buy a personal paper shredder
  2. Shred all papers with PII on them before disposing of them or use file shredder software.
  • Dumpster diving is a conventional method of stealing information or data for the sake of fraud.
  • Purchase a shredder for your safety. Use it on mail, credit card statements and even receipts.
  • Shred receipts, account statements, credit offers, and even expired credit cards to prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal and confidential information.
  • Remember your trash is their treasure

Step 7: Manage Your Personal Belongings

  • Always store your automotive related documents at home.
  • Always carry your wallet in your front protection to avoid being a victim of pickpocketing.
  • Add two layers of Security to protect your home; to protect the outside and the inside premises.

Step 8: Protect Your Social Security Number

  • The Social Security Number has become a sort of national identification number.
  • Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet or purse.
  • Don’t add your social security number to your checks.
  • Don’t carry your social security card with you, or any other card that may have your number, like a health insurance card, driver’s license, checkbook, etc.
  • By knowing your name, address and your social security number (or even the last 4 digits), in many cases a thief can guess your identity.
  • Never use your SSN as any part of a username or password that you register on any website over the internet. You should never give it over a telephone call or in response to spam or phishing scam emails either.

Step 9: Monitor Your Credit Card and Its Report

  • Make it a habit to check your online financial accounts on a daily basis to make sure that there is no fraudulent activity occurring.
  • Review your credit report regularly at least once a year to check for any suspicious activity. If you find anything suspicious, make an alert to your bank or credit card providers. You may also consider credit protection services, which alert you anytime a change takes place on your credit report.
  • Monitor your credit. Take advantage of your free credit reports.
  • Before using a credit card online, make sure you have a working firewall and antivirus software.
  • The covert changing of your billing address is one of the first steps in an Identity Theft attack. Thus, make sure you receive your credit card bill every month: it is an effortless way to prevent identity theft.

Step 10: Be Cyber Aware

  • Participate in cyber and email security awareness and training program
  • Learn some cybersecurity training practices for everyday business safety

Conclusion:

  • Identity theft involves improper monitoring of your identity usage.
  • Millions of dollars are losses suffered each year due to stealing of identities.
  • Simple preventative measures can help prevent identity theft.
  • Unauthorized access to your personal and confidential information leads to theft and can ruin your credit.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equifax#May-July_2017_security_breach