Monday, April 18, 2011

Guest Post - Intern Stephanie Graziano

Intern: Stephanie Graziano
Topic:  Identity Theft

It’s strange to think that there could be another you in this world, but in today’s world it’s not impossible.
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) estimates that approximately 9 million Americans have their identify stolen each year.

Internship Outline #3
Version 1.0
Date: 8 April 2011

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your own identifying information as their own. They can use a social security number or a credit card number without your permission to commit a crime or fraud. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) estimates that approximately 9 million Americans have their identify stolen each year.

I myself was a victim of identity theft last summer. I received a strange letter in the mail from a local banking chain, that I had no affiliation with, telling me that I was overdue on payments. I spoke with my Dad about the letter and we decided we needed to look into this letter further. After speaking with a bank representative the next day, I found out that someone living two hours north of me in Connecticut used my social security number to withdraw a loan from the bank. I proceeded to go online and check my credit statements to see what actions had been taken. I used the three credit report companies, Equifax, Experian and Transunion. When I printed out the credit statements there was about fifty pages worth of actions under my social security number that in fact were not mine, and a total debt of $76,000. The most shocking of all the actions was where it said I took out a $40,000 college loan… I was 8 years old at the time the loan was taken. It took about two months, working with my father and our local police department, to restore my credit statements to the way they should be.

  I feel that it is important for every person to keep updated on their own personal credit check. If I had not caught this issue last summer, I would have had a very hard time applying for jobs after graduating or even taking out a loan if needed. I now receive weekly emails from Experian, Equifax and Transunion making me aware if there have been any strange actions in my accounts.

Creating accounts with the three leading credit check companies to receive annual credit reports and records. (Equifax, Transunion and Experian)
When hiring, do elaborate backgrounds checks on possible employees.
When at work, companies should not allow employees to explore Internet sites which are not affiliated with the company tasks. Limit Internet access to restrain employees from getting into trouble.

Identity thieves can take another person’s information and rent apartments, open credit cards and establish telephone records under the victim’s name. Some victims can resolve their identity theft quickly, while other can spends up to two years, as well as hundreds of dollars, clearing their records. Many victims of identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of fraudulent charges on their credit reports. In rare cases, victims even are arrested for crimes they did not commit.

It has been researched that young people are more vulnerable to identity theft because they are online more, share more information often and are less careful with their information. For example, college students living in school housing such as dorm rooms and apartments may be at fault for leaving their information vulnerable without knowledge. Their information and personal belongings make be unsecured and an easy target.

Financial histories and credit records can suffer from identity theft. 85% of Identity theft victims report loss or misuse of one or more accounts.
The amount of time and money needed to re-establish identity, credit and clear your name.
Businesses, particularly in credit and financial fields, also suffer financial losses from ID theft. A business can suffer from lost time and productivity when the victim is an employee.
Re-establishing a legal identity, including social security number, passport, tax records and even military records.
Once your identity is out on the “black market” you are more vulnerable to following attacks.

Stealing someone's identity to acquire -- and use -- new credit cards has become one of the most popular white-collar crimes today, according to fraud investigators from across the country.
This year alone more than 500,000 Americans will be robbed of their identities...with more than $4 billion stolen in their names.
Experts report that a victim can spend anywhere from six months to two years recovering from identity theft.
Most people don't find out they have been a victim of a stolen identity until they are turned down for a loan or credit card. A copy of their credit report explaining the denial may unveil weeks or months of fraud.

When setting up Internet accounts, be sure to create “strong” passwords with more characters (combinations of letters, numbers, special symbols, upper and lower cases). It will help protect your information if you create a password that is hard for others to know.
Always ensure that the URL of the site you are using is the correct URL. If you are ever not sure of the exact URL, type it into Google and then enter the site with the link from Google. This will help ensure that you do not enter a hacker’s site.
Never enter any financial information or other sensitive information into any website that does not use the secure “https” protocol (note the “s” added to “http”). When buying over the Internet with a credit card or otherwise, if a site does not use https, do not use it.

“ID Theft Red Flags” By: Lankford, Kimberly. July 2010

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