Identity Theft and Online Safety
Identity Theft is the taking over
of someone else's identity, for purposes of fraud. This allows the
person to drain your bank accounts, run up charges on your
credit and debit cards, etc. while redirecting your mail so that you are unaware of
it. It is a frightening prospect!
What information do they
typically need in order to do this?
Date of birth
Mailing and residential addresses
Financial account numbers
What have I done to protect you,
while providing useful family information for you?
I include full names and family
relationships, but no other information on living people. The deceased
have no worries with identity theft, and by law the Social Security
Administration must publish the SSNs of all deceased individuals to
prevent fraudulent re-use of these numbers. Some financial accounts may
ask for the mother's maiden name, but you can always request a
different security question. So to the best of my knowledge, my website
offers no risk to you, and I will keep it that way.
The greater risk
greater risk is people gaining access to financial or employment
records and using them to impersonate you. Always shred such records
before putting them in the garbage. Don't leave financial papers in
areas of your house where a babysitter, tradesman or visitor might see
them. And watch your credit/debit cards.
My son-in-law's van was recently broken into and some
valuable equipment was stolen. He hadn't noticed that the credit card
he keeps in the van was also stolen until he had a phone call from the
bank asking about some unusual large purchases. Fortunately he was able
to cancel the card
and was not liable for the fraudulent purchases. Personal safety can be
compromised online by giving out too much personal information in chat
rooms and social networking sites such as Facebook. (Remember to set
your privacy settings so that only "friends" can see your information.
And restrict your list of Facebook friends to people you actually know and trust.)
It has recently come to my attention that most large photocopiers
contain a hard disk that stores images of all copied documents, which
can be retrieved by the purchasers of used photocopiers. Here is a link
to the article and CBS video report.
So there are risks to everything. If you are selling or giving away
your old computer, make sure you are not also selling or giving
away personal and financial information stored on the computer.
We live in interesting times. There have always been risks, but in the electronic age some of the risks have changed. Keep safe!