Awareness : Security Awareness Tips

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft (or ID theft) is a crime where personally identifiable information such as name, Social Security number, date of birth, credit card number, health insurance number, etc. is acquired — usually stolen — and used without authorization, to commit fraud or other crimes. These crimes may include using the stolen information to purchase items on credit, obtain a mortgage, gain access to restricted data, file fraudulent health claims, or to establish services such as credit cards.

Identity theft is an ever-increasing problem. While some identity theft victims can quickly resolve their problems, others may need to spend substantial amounts and significant time repairing damage to their good name and credit record. Victims of identity theft may lose out on job opportunities or be denied loans for education, housing, or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. Some may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.

How can I protect myself against ID theft?

For an identity thief to be successful, he or she must first have access to your personal information. An important step in protecting yourself from identity theft is to limit that access.

For information on protecting yourself against identity theft, refer to the following tips:

  • Never simply throw away bills or correspondence containing your Social Security number, driver’s license number, credit card numbers, health insurance numbers, or any other financial or personal information. Many identity thieves are simply dumpster divers where they rummage through trash looking for personally identifiable data. Use of a shredder is highly recommended. Of course, exercise the same caution when disposing of university-owned personally identifiable data.
  • Remember to shred the return envelope as well.
  • Never provide your personal information over the phone to telemarketers or other unverifiable callers.
  • Be wary of phishing schemes (fraudulent emails asking for your information).
  • Don’t carry your Social Security card with you, and only carry those credit and debit cards that you use frequently.
  • Check your credit report at least once a year, and inspect it for inaccuracies.
  • Protect your computer and online credentials.
  • Exercise caution posting your personally identifiable data online, particularly on social networking sites.

NOTE: While there are no guarantees, following these tips will help reduce your exposure to potential Identity theft. For more tips on preventing identity theft and what to do if you believe you have become a victim, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Website.

Posted: October 17, 2007