International Data Privacy Day was Jan. 28 and the odds that the majority of my readers celebrated that day are in the slim-to-none range. The possibility that the majority of my readers had even heard of International Data Privacy Day is also in that limited range.
But, the experts in identity crime send us a warning that we better become acquainted with what the day is trying to accomplish: keeping our privacy data private because identify theft is today the fastest growing crime in the United States where over eleven million people have been victims.
There are a number of variations of identity crime but generally the meaning of identity theft is when someone steals some of your personal data, such as your social security number or credit card number and uses that information for fraudulent use without your knowledge.
Some definitions of identity theft have to do with money but there are other reasons for theft such as gaining entry into a country, applying for a job or for gaining entrance into an organization among many other reasons.
With enough information the crook becomes you on paper and can do anything that you can do such as buying a house, getting a driver’s license or collecting your pension.
There is a place on line, Identity Theft Resources Center (ITRC) that can also be reached at (1-888) 400-5530. This center has fact sheets that will help you if you think you have been a victim.
A sad part of this crime is that too often it is a member of the family or a close friend who is the thief. There are many definitions or variations of the crime such as financial identity theft, criminal identity theft, identity assumption and others.
One of the obvious reasons identify theft has grown to such a huge problem is that it is relatively easy for the criminal to obtain the necessary information. Most people are careless about how they handle their personal information and now that so much is done over the internet, it is even easier.
Each time we go on the internet to pay a bill or to check on an account, some of our data is flying out there over the airways and there are people watching and waiting to use it.
There are numerous identify theft protection agencies that protect you for a fee. You may or may not want to go this route, according to what you feel you might lose. There are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself.
One of the most effective steps is that you change your ID every other month and it is highly recommended that you work out a complicated and unusual password, one that includes both upper and lower case letters, symbols and numbers.
Do not use birthdays or anniversaries or anything that will connect you personally. Never use your Social Security number. Shred papers that could help the crooks and use it for mulch. Do not make it easy for someone to steal your personal information.
There are warning signs that you should never ignore such as receiving past due notices or telephone calls from collectors when you feel they are not warranted. Check into this immediately.
There is a big black market for identity papers. Criminals comb through newspapers for deaths and then apply for a duplicate birth certificate which tends to lend proof to their claim of an identity.
This is a very serious crime. Be warned that once you are a victim, it may take years to undo the damage and often it becomes a lifetime nightmare that is never undone so it will behoove you to be aware of this danger and protect yourself.
Bita Bullet is the pen name of a local anonymous writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org