Identity Theft – Part 1

Identity TheftNews headlines over the past year have been loaded with notifications of data breaches and compromises.  This means increased potential for identity theft so this month seemed like a good time to discuss this topic.   Today we use computing devices for work and pleasure.  By using these devices on a more regular basis, we are increasing our exposure to the potential of identity theft.  Anyone who has gone through the ordeal of identity theft understands the  concern to everyone.   Identity theft is a serious crime and the consequences can be extreme.  Here is an overview of identity theft and the steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim.


What is Identity Theft? – The acquisition of an individual’s personal and identifiable information to commit fraud or theft without the person’s knowledge or permission.


How is an identity stolen?

  • Stealing wallets and purses containing your identification, credit cards, and bank cards
  • Stealing mail, including bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, telephone calling cards and tax information
  • Completing a “change of address form” to divert mail to another location
  • Rummaging through personal, or business trash for personal data in a practice known as “dumpster driving.”
  • Performing pre-text calling
  • Fraudulently obtaining credit reports by posing as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a legitimate need for and a legal right to the information
  • Obtaining personal or business or records at work
  • Finding personal information at home
  • Using personal information shared on the Internet or put on a personal computer
  • Buying personal information from “inside” sources
  • Skimming credit card information when someone makes purchases to create fake cards.


How to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft?

  • Before you reveal any personal identifying information Social Security Number (SSN), Driver’s License number etc. find out how the information will be used and shared. If it will be shared in a way that makes you uncomfortable ask if you have another choice.
  • Pay attention to your billing cycle to be sure your bills arrive on time.
  • Be cautious of the contents of outgoing mail you leave in your mail box. Use mail collection boxes when possible.  Promptly remove your mail.  If you are away, request that the Postal Service hold your mail.
  • Create passwords for your credit cards. Avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SSN, or your phone number.
  • Keep a record of all your credit-card account numbers, expiration dates, and the telephone numbers and addresses of each creditor. Store them in a safe place that is quickly accessible.
  • Minimize the identification information and the number of cards you carry
  • DO NOT give out personal information on the phone, through mail, or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or know who you are dealing with
  • If you give your card to someone for a transaction, keep the card in sight
  • Be cautious about where you leave personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having service work done in your home
  • Limit the amount of personal information you place on the Internet including websites that detail family genealogy
  • Don’t carry your SSN card; leave it in a secure place


Next Month: Part 2 – Types of Identity Thefts

About Michael DeFlorio
I have worked is various positions as a system administrator, support technician, as a help desk support, and as an IT consultant in a corporate environment. I currently run a small business where I provide computer services such as hardware configuration, installation, for residential and for medium and small businesses. You can contact me by email or visit my website at

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