Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday Thirteen

"But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed."

- Shakespeare, Othello, act iii. Sc. 3.

Today I am writing about identity theft.

1. Identity theft is a crime. It is a federal offense. Identity theft involves the use of someone else's personal data, and can include things like using a credit card number, stealing money from bank accounts, taking mail from the mailbox, or completely taking over someone's identity and pretending to be that person.

2. Your information can be obtained in numerous ways. Criminals can look over your shoulder while you punch in your card numbers on your cell phone. They can eavesdrop on open cell or cordless phone conversations. They can rummage through the trash for all of those "preapproved" credit card offers you receive in the mail. They can find hack accounts on the Internet and obtain your Social Security number, you bank numbers, your passwords - pretty much anything.

3. With a certain amount of identifying information, a criminal can take over your good name, run up charges in your name, obtain medical care in your name, and cause great harm to your reputation. People have had to spend thousands to restore their name.

4. Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act in 1998. Conviction carries a maximum 15 years in prison, a fine, and forfeiture of the ill-gotten gains. Instances of identity theft may also fall under other laws, such as fraud statutes.

5. Protecting your information is incredibly important. To do this, do not give out personal information. The Department of Justice recommends remembering the word SCAM: be STINGY with your information, CHECK your financial information regularly, ASK for a copy of your credit report (the federal government in 2005 made it easy to get a copy for free at, but be aware the site does ask for your Social Security number), and MAINTAIN careful records.

6. If you think you've been a victim of identity theft, don't panic. It's a very upsetting thing to be a victim of a crime but it is important to keep your head. Contact your financial institution immediately if you find a problem with a credit card. Contact your local police and any other appropriate agency. Be prepared to spend many hours dealing with the fallout of the crime.

7. Many homeowners' insurance policies now offer identity theft protection and assistance as an addendum to the policy. While the annual fee might seem high, it is a bargain compared to the damage a thief can do to your finances.

8. The credit reporting companies, as well as some banks and other places, offer credit monitoring services. If you are experiencing problems with your identity or have experienced identity theft, these may be a good investment if only for peace of mind.

9. When online, create passwords that do not use identifying numbers or words, such as your Social Security number, your mother's maiden name, your birthday, your pet's name, or consecutive numbers or letters.

10. Do not give out your Social Security number unless absolutely necessary. Do not use this number on checks, driver's licenses, and even job applications if you can help it. Don't say the number aloud in a public place and do not let others say the number aloud.

11. Install a firewall and update your virus protection frequently. Use encryption where possible.

12. When shopping online, only use secure transaction sites.

13.  Information about identity theft can be found at the Department of Justice website,,, and many other places. Learn all you can and be safe. It's pretty wicked out there.

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here.  I've been playing for a while and this is my 161st time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.


  1. Also, don't throw anything in the waste basket with your name on it. Not even an envelope. We shred everything with our name and mailing address on it, EVERYTHING.

  2. Good information. We all need to be careful and aware. Thanks.

  3. Thank you, this is incredibly important information, and something I think we need to be reminded of often since the criminals never forget.

    Happy TT,

    13 Lessons If You Ever Find Yourself In A Horror Movie

  4. Thank you for this smart reminder.

  5. Pretty scary stuff!

    Have a great Thursday!

  6. Thanks for the information. I surely don't pay enough attention, hoping to change that!

    Happy TT :)

  7. Identity theft scares me. I had my credit card stolen once by a client and I still feel emotionally upset by it. To this day I still take special precautions in handling my credit cards. I can't imagine how having your identity stolen would feel.

    Thanks for the review!

  8. It's a very scary reality in today's world. Thanks for the tips.
    Happy T13!

  9. Investing in a paper shredder is money well-spent. You should also shield your pin numbers at ATMs and store checkouts.

  10. There are so many way in which we are vulnerable.

  11. I hope this never happens to me or anyone I know.

  12. Very good advice, especially at this time of year.

  13. Woo Hoo!

    An useful and comprehensive resource...all rolled up into a great list

    Thanx for the post

  14. What excellent advice. Thanks very much!


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