Identity thieves sometimes use complex and covert methods to gain access to a victim’s information, though they can also accomplish that goal much easier through fraud. Clicking on a suspicious link in an email or providing personal data to an unfamiliar solicitor are just two ways to fall victim to fraud. At a time when technology and the Internet have given identity thieves more ways to approach a victim, practicing sound fraud protection strategies may help individuals keep their data — and identity — safe.
What is fraud?
In a broad sense, fraud defines any instance in which a person tries to deceive another for his or her own personal gain. Specifically, identity thieves may try to deceive an individual by offering him or her some sort of benefit or reward in exchange for private information. The U.S. Department of Justice says identity thieves may look to entice a potential victim with an offer that requires an immediate response in the hopes that he or she will provide valuable data before thinking the matter through. The department notes keeping an eye open for suspicious activity is often a person’s best tool when it comes to fraud protection.
1. Stick with reputable companies and websites. The best way to avoid identity theft and fraud may be to avoid suspicious websites or organizations altogether. Legitimate companies and websites generally will not ask a person for vital information, particularly if they are a banking institution with which a person has an account.
2. Enroll in paperless billing. Identity thieves could also perpetrate fraud without ever making contact with their victim. A 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report from Javelin Strategy & Research showed identity theft more often occurs offline — with thieves sometimes combing through victims’ trash or checking their mailbox for bills and financial statements. Those documents often have account numbers and other critical data that can provide thieves with the information they need to commit fraud. Enrolling in paperless billing programs may help avoid instances in which bills are stolen from a mailbox, and shredding critical documents before throwing them in the trash may deter dumpster-diving identity thieves.
3. Keep personal information safe. Consumers should also protect their personal information by keeping it in a safe place. The United States Postal Service (USPS) warns consumers against carrying their Social Security card in a wallet or purse, both of which could be stolen. In fact, the USPS says most personal information should be kept at home, warning consumers against carrying around any cards or documents that can make an identity thief’s scheme easier.