TechSmartSenior Getting along with Technology after 50
Avoid ID Theft
Identity theft is a serious crime, and it occurs when criminals steal and use your
information to commit financial fraud or other crimes. These actions can have a serious
impact on your financial credibility and security. Thieves or cyberbullies may use
your information to ruin your reputation, steal and sell your medical records, obtain
loans in your name, or misuse images of you. Whatever else these criminals steal
and do, at a minimum they take away your sense of security and safety.
The total cost of identity theft is astounding. In 2007, the cost in the U.S. was
$45 billion dollars. Business loss drives up business costs, so consumers pay this
portion as well, just indirectly. The average victim spends hundreds of hours trying
to restore his or her identity. Although most victims are discovering the abuse earlier
(and quick action is key in reducing the time it takes you to clean your records
up), it now takes longer on average to eliminate fraudulent transactions from credit
reports and other sources than ever before.
Stay alert to avoid this kind of attack, and take the following actions wherever
you roam online:
Be conservative with personal information online, whether it’s on your social networking
page, dating site, discussion board, survey, quiz, or somewhere else. ID thieves
look to accumulate information about you.
Never delay. If you see a questionable charge on an account, check it out. The sooner
you identify and begin to solve a case of identity theft, the easier it is to clean
ID theft may also be very emotionally distressing. Most victims feel violated and
frustrated, particularly because they don’t know how or from where the information
was stolen. If you’re a victim of ID theft, get help from the Identity Theft Resource
Center at www.idtheftcenter.org.
Also, remember that if one family member’s identity is compromised, it increases
the risk to other family members. If your child or grandchild is a victim, for example,
some of your information may make its way into criminal hands. Don’t assume that
youth is any protection from ID theft. Some children’s identities are stolen even
before they’re born if parents announce the child’s name and expected birth date
in a public way. If something happens to anybody in your family, take all the steps
given here to monitor your credit reports, financial accounts, and medical records
to spot irregularities.
–from Using the Internet Safely for Seniors For Dummies, by Nancy Muir and Linda