Since identity theft can occur when even the smallest bit of a consumer's personal information is misplaced or compromised, it is often difficult for law enforcement agents to trace the beginning of this crime. As a result, comprehensive statistics on exactly where and how these cases begin aren't widely known.
That said, identity theft can be traced. The most widely publicized crimes often involve large-scale data breaches at international corporations and phishing or email scams, but in many cases, law enforcement agents suspect the seeds of identity theft are far more basic.
Petty criminals, the kind who break into an individual's car or home can also come away with vital bits of an individual's personal information. Similarly, consumers who travel with their wallets, mail or sensitive documents could misplace these items, leaving themselves vulnerable if a thief finds this data lying around.
Family, Coworkers and Identity Theft
Some of the most publicized cases of identity theft occur when a family member or relative of the victim is the perpetrator of the scam. Oftentimes these individuals look to bolster their finances by illegally cosigning a loan or opening a new account with the supposed consent of the victim.
Making this matter more troublesome for victims is that the decision of whether to press charges is generally placed on their shoulders, as prosecution is often the only way they can correct damage to their credit.
Identity Theft and the Workplace
Studies have also shown that identity theft can begin in the workplace. In this scenario, an employee may deliberately steal the financial information of employees in order to profit. Other times, these individuals comprise the information of customers for their personal gain.
Similarly, job websites and social media outlets have been known to be hubs of identity theft. Since many job seekers list their personal data on these sources, these profiles can be a prime target for hackers and other identity thieves.
Online Identity Theft
While identity theft can be perpetrated by friends, family members and coworkers in real-world settings, online cases tend to be the most common and preventable. But, in these instances, consumers can protect themselves. By having up-to-date virus and spyware protection, being vigilant about websites they visit and using only one credit card for their online shopping, experts say consumers can reduce their chances of becoming a victim.
Now matter how it originates though, the best defense may be for consumers to maintain their financial vigilance by viewing their credit reports regularly or enrolling in credit monitoring. By keeping a watchful eye on their financial data, consumers can better spot instances of fraud before they cause long-term damage.
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