According to a study by the Federal trade Commission (FTC), many victims of identity theft don't report the crime to police. In its report on 2006 consumer fraud and identity theft complaints, of the more than 233,000 victims who responded to a question about whether they had contacted a police department, 62 percent said they did not.
"This crime hits millions of Americans every year and it's not always a stranger doing the damage," says Todd Davis, Chief Executive Officer of LifeLock, an online proactive identity theft prevention service. "Often the person doing the most damage is the one closest to us, the one who knows the same details about our life."
Classic unreported identity theft scenarios range from a vengeful ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend who intentionally harms their ex's credit, to elderly parents who discover their son has been dealing with his debt by stealing their identity and good credit rating. And in the most unsettling cases, parents have been known to steal their child's identity and ruin his or her credit before the child even finishes grade school.
Many times an ex-spouse will know and use the log-on id and password of the ex when shopping online, or when ordering vital documents. Or, worst yet, because the ex still has the computer or access to it along with all the log-on personal information. With this information and with a little malicious, vengeful motive, it is easy to see how easy it is to take advantage of the other.
The Identity Theft Center reports that victims of the crime often liken its emotional impact to violent crimes including rape, assault, and repeated battery. Others blame the crime for break ups of marriages, or relationships with significant others, and creating other stress in their family lives, the center reports on its Web site.
Experts agree the best offline way to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft is to take decisive steps to protect your identifying information. These steps may include, but are not limited to, shredding identifying paperwork before it goes in the trash; storing Social Security cards, birth certificates and passports in safety deposit boxes outside the house; and declining to share social security, account numbers and passwords with anyone who doesn't absolutely need to have the information.
For online preventative measures, here are several steps to take into consideration:
* Update log-on information regularly and immediately upon the break-up of a relationship.
* Get computer security updates or use the automatic updating features to shield computers from viruses, worms and other threats.
* Use a firewall to protect computers from hacking attacks while connected to the Internet.
* Use up-to-date anti-virus software to help protect against the latest threats.
* Get anti-spyware software and beware of tricks designed to get people to download and install unwanted and sometimes destructive software. This software is sometimes distributed in non-commercial music downloads, file-sharing programs, and free games.
* Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files in e-mails from unknown senders.
To protect yourself, you need an Internet security team of experts making sure that you, your family, and your business computer are always safe and secure. The best protection you can have in today's rapidly changing world of cyber-attacks from strangers or someone close to you, is to have expert support for all your Internet security needs that will provide technical support without any hassles and without charging you extra fees. It will become even more critical than it is today as time goes on.
You need to find your own personal team of experts to rely on. If you ever have a security problem, you will want to have a trusted expert you can call for professional help, without any hassles and extra costs!
Because cybercriminals are becoming smarter and more sophisticated in their operations, they are real threats to your personal security and privacy. Your money, your computer, your family, and your business are all at risk.
These cybercriminals leave you with three choices :
1. Do nothing and hope their attacks, risks, and threats donít occur on your computer.
2. Do research and get training to protect yourself, your family, and your business.
3. Get professional help to lockdown your system from all their attacks, risks, and threats.
Remember: When you say "No!" to hackers and spyware, everyone wins! When you don't, we all lose!
© MMVII, Etienne A. Gibbs, MSW, The Internet Safety Advocate and Educator
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Etienne A. Gibbs, Independent Internet Security Advocate and Educator, consults with individuals, small business owners, and home-business entrepreneurs regarding online protection against spyware, viruses, malware, hackers, and other pc-disabling cybercrimes. For more information, visit www.SayNotoHackersandSpyware.com/.
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