Identity Theft Advice Portal
Introduction
Protecting Against Identity Theft
Detecting Identity Theft
Recovering From Identity Theft
Identity Theft Laws
Useful Links
Press & News
Buy Identity Monitoring Service

Top 10 Best Practices


IDWatch selected as a Finalist for Consumer Product of the Year for the 11th Annual WSA Industry Achievement Awards

Lance James, author of Phishing Exposed, asserts "IDWatch empowers consumers"
"The landscape of identity theft is constantly changing, making it critical for consumers to be educated and involved in prevention methods. IDWatch empowers consumers by alerting them immediately to activity within their identities, enabling real-time risk mitigation.

The information Intelius provides on identity theft related issues including phishing, pharming, mail theft and more at www.idtheft.com combined with IDWatch provides consumers a critical layer of protection against identity theft. The peace of mind that comes with knowing someone is helping you stay one step ahead of fraudsters is invaluable, and Intelius' solution is thorough and accessible. From the consumer's perspective, there is clear value in Intelius' IDWatch.


Lance James has been involved in information security for more than 10 years, providing consultation to governments, start-ups, Fortune 500 companies and America's top financial institutions. He has devised techniques to prevent, track, and detect online fraud as a chief scientist with Secure Science Corporation (www.securescience.net), a security software company that is busy tracking over 53 phishing groups.)

For more on Phishing Exposed, click here.
Lance James
IDWatch provides consumers a critical layer of protection against identity theft.


Introduction to Identity Theft

How can someone steal your identity?  ID Theft occurs when someone uses personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.  Or, as 'The ID Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act' puts things, it is a federal crime when someone “knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification [name, SSN, etc.] of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity.

 What is Identity Theft?


Put simply, ID Theft is a form of fraud.  That said, it’s not as straightforward as someone stealing your credit card and running down to the electronics store for a stereo.  In that case, you can simply cancel your credit card, claim fraud, and life goes on as normal.  ID Theft means they not only have your credit card, but they have control over your entire financial entity.  They can get credit in your name.  They can run your credit into the ground.

 How do they get my information?


Identity thieves may use a variety of low- and high-tech methods to gain access to your personally identifying information. 

They can steal your information by:

  • Defrauding businesses or institutions:
  • Stealing records from their employer
  • Bribing an employee who has access to the records
  • Conning information out of employees
  • Hacking into the organization's computers
  • Rummaging through your trash, the trash of businesses, or dumps in a practice known as "dumpster diving."
  • Using a method called “pretexting” (on the phone) or “phishing” (over the internet) wherein they pretend to be a business with which you may have had some financial contact, or they are "performing a survey."  They ask for information no legitimate business would ask for: bank account and credit card numbers, about your credit report, investments, savings, Social Security numbers, birthdates, etc.
  • Obtaining credit reports by abusing their employer's authorized access to credit reports or by posing as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a legitimate need for and a legal right to the information.
  • Stealingl credit and debit card account numbers as your card is processed by using a special information storage device in a practice known as "skimming."
  • Stealing wallets and purses containing identification and credit and bank cards.
  • Stealing mail, including bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks, or tax information.
  • Completing a “change of address” form to divert your mail to another location.
  • Stealing personal information from your home.

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 What can they do with my information?


Identity thieves can take over your SSN, drain your checking and savings, make charges to your credit cards, counterfeit checks, transfer your money electronically, open new bank accounts and credit cards, get a drivers license in your name, run up your debt by buying houses, cars, getting loans and mortgage after mortgage, trips to Europe… and then they can declare bankruptcy.  Guess who will be held liable.

Once they have all that history in your name—and by this point, they have more recent history under your name than you do—they can get arrested, give your name, post bail with your money and fail to show up for court.  Guess whose name is on the warrant.

It's difficult to predict how long the effects of ID Theft may linger.  It depends on many factors including the type of theft, whether the thief sold your information to other thieves, whether the thief is caught, and various problems related to correcting your credit report.

ID Theft is a serious crime.  People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years—and hard-earned money—cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record.  In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities and can be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit.

ID Theft is a $53 billion a year industry.  Of that, consumer victims pay only $5 billion a year.  The other $48 billion is paid by the defrauded business—which they then pass right back to consumers in higher prices.  The thieves are rarely caught, the payoff is huge, and they are only getting more ambitious.  Instead of “dumpster diving,” “phishing,” or other methods with absurd names, identity thieves are now breaking into massive credit databases, company personnel files, stealing millions of records at a time. 

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 What can I do about Identity Theft?


ID Theft is a cancer on society.  It is only getting worse, and once it gets you, it is very difficult to get rid of.  More and more people are having their identity stolen.  Soon, $53 billion (roughly $200 annually for every person in the United States,) may seem like a drop in the bucket. 

Protection and prevention are the best answers.  If you catch ID Theft early, it can be easier to get over.  Many people do not know that they have become a victim for a year or more.  A victim may not find out until the day he or she tries to buy a house and the bank denies the loan.  (85% of victims find out about the crime due to such an adverse situation; only 15% learn through a positive action taken by a business group that verified a submitted credit application.)  By monitoring your credit report and being stingy with your personal information, you are not only protecting yourself, you are participating in the social contract.

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 ID Watch.com


This year alone, 10 million people will become victims of ID theft.  Of those 10 million victims, 60% will never report their case to the authorities.  It is estimated that by 2007, 20% of American adults will be victims.  Only 1 out of 700 of these cases will be prosecuted, and those who get away with it will steal over $90,000 from each victim.  The average victim will pay around $16,000, with the rest being paid by businesses.

ID Watch offers consumers information that helps protect their identity.  It alerts users of any large scale ID thefts from financial institutions, provides software recommendations for safeguarding your computer, describes best practices policies for handling your physical documents, outlines prevention and detection safeguards, sends financial dossiers (both scheduled and event driven), and, in the case you become a victim, offers $25,000 insurance against liability, legal costs and lost productivity.  ID Watch also offers customer support and an individual Recovery Advocate.

You know what you do with your financial entity, but in the case of Identity Theft, the thief will hide his/her activity from you for as long as possible: most cases of ID theft go unknown to the victim for 6 to 18 months.  By monitoring your credit reports and public records, ID Watch gives you the chance to stop any financial damage before it becomes unmanageable.

With ID Watch, you are instantly alerted of any new information in your credit reports and public records, allowing you to quickly detect any unauthorized use of your identity.  If a new address shows up in your public records, it may be the case that a thief has rerouted your credit card bills or opened a new bank account in your name.  This information will pop up in your public records.  Other information found in public records includes drivers license profiles, Social Security number activity, civil court records (bankruptcy, judgments, tax liens, lawsuits, etc.), employment records, etc.  Your credit report contains information about bank accounts, loans, credit card accounts, automobile purchases, financing, etc.  This not only prevents the thief from using your information for long stretches of time, thus limiting the amount of damage they can do, it also gives authorities a chance to catch the thief. 

ID Watch, and 24/7 peace of mind, costs as little as $4.95 a month.  Just as you buckle your seatbelt and buy health insurance, you should also protect your identity, because it is the only one you have.

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 Some Statistics:


There are approximately 206 million adults in the US:

  • 144 million credit card users in US (70% of US adult population)
  • 1.3 billion credit cards in circulation (end of 2003, growing)
  • 154.5 million US adults are eligible for credit (75% of US adult population)
  • 82 million full time workers in US (40% of US adult population)

70% of US adults use credit cards.  That means they have a credit history which can be exploited by identity thieves.  Anyone with decent credit can apply for more credit and easily obtain it—you don’t even have to be fully employed; or, in the case of identity theft, you don’t even have to be who you claim to be.

At least 48,606,000 identifying records have been stolen or lost since last year.  Some of the bigger heists include:

  • 40 million credit card numbers (Cardsystems—stolen from database)
  • 3.9 million financial records (CitiFinancial—lost in transit)
  • 150,000 individuals’ records (ChoicePoint—sold to a suspected criminal company)
  • 310,000 individuals’ records (LexisNexis—stolen from database)
  • 1.4 million credit card numbers (DSW Shoe Warehouse—stolen from database)
  • 100,000 individuals’ records (UC Berkeley—stolen computer)
  • 676,000 individuals’ financial records (Wachovia/Bank of America/Commerce—stolen by employees)
  • 1.2 million government worker records (BofA—lost backup tapes)
  • 600,000 employee records (Time Warner—lost)
  • 270,000 applicant records (USC—stolen from database)

This only represents the records stolen in bulk last year.  This does not include any “dumpster diving,” “phishing,” “pharming,” or “pretexting” done on an individual level.  Because the victim most often has no clue he or she has become a victim, these crimes often go unreported.

There will be approximately 10,000,000 victims of identity theft this year:

  • 27,400 every day
  • 1,140 every hour
  • 19 every minute
  • 1 new victim every 3 seconds

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 Top Ten Best Practices to Avoid Identity Theft


  1. Shred all financial documents before throwing them out.
  2. Purchase a locking mailbox or route mail to a post office box.
  3. Distrust e-mail links - instead, type addresses directly into the address box.
  4. Protect your computer with a firewall and anti-virus software.
  5. Don't disclose social security numbers or other confidential information.
  6. Download software with caution - avoid downloads from questionable web sites.
  7. Create unique passwords, commit them to memory.
  8. Don't open e-mail attachments from unknown sources.
  9. Don't put personal information such as your SSN on checks.
  10. Purchase identity theft protection.

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