Many articles have been written about ID theft but what many people fail to understand is that they are not immune, even if they have been cautious with their pertinent information. Identity thieves are using more and more methods to obtain information, some of them are very crude while others are highly sophisticated. This article explores a few of the nefarious uses a stuben identity is used for and offers some common sense preventative measures.
One of the simplest forms of ID theft is from your checking account. You do not have to have stolen checks to be the victim of this scheme. Anything that has your checking account number on it can be used to steal your money. All the thief has to know is which bank the account is from. The way it works is simple. Popular software such as Quicken, VersaCheck, Quickbooks, Checksoft and others are used to make checks "from scratch". The thief uses your account number and your bank's routing number to write a check in someone else's name. This name usually matches the ID of someone who is paid to cash checks for the ID thief (they rarely use their own information). When the check is presented it goes through the check verification process without any problems, even the scanner that reads the magnetic ink on the bottom of the check. In a moment your hard earned money is in someone else's pocket.
In order to prevent this from happening you must be extremely cautious of anything that requests for your account number, whether in person or online. Use your debit card at the check out stand. If you must write a check use the computerized check that allows you not to actually turn over a physical check to the attendant. If you must hand over a physical check then do not leave the register until you see your check put into the proper location in the register.
The other common targets for your information are you garbage and your mail. The solution for the garbage is simple; make sure that you never throw away anything that has not been shredded if it contains any personal information whatever. As for the mail; This is a little more difficult in some circumstances. If you are using an old fashioned mail box such as on a rural route, consider changing to a mailbox service instead. It is just as easy for a thief to drive up and take your mail as it is for the mailman to drive up and leave it in your box. Driving to a mailbox "store" may be a little more of a hassle, but not nearly the hassle you will have if you have to try to clean up the mess an ID thief will make your life if they get your information.
One of the things you really need to look out for is to make sure your address is always up to date AND correct. Mislabeled mail is to blame for much information falling into the wrong hands. This may sound simple but it happens daily and is the source of untold problems for the victims. Make sure your mail gets to you where you are now. Banks and other financial institutions should be updated directly. Do not rely on the postal service to forward your mail. Go into most large apartment complexes and see the number of mislabeled envelopes sitting out for anyone to grab because they were put into the wrong box. Sometimes this is the error of the postal carrier, but more often it is mail from someone who was never updated on the recipients new address.
The watchwords are caution and awareness. It might sound like overkill but do not allow your information out of your sight, regardless of how innocent it might seem. Be aware of who you are giving your information to, and, more specifically, why you are giving it to them.
The old adage is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That has never been more true than today.