Identify theft is a major concern for most people these days. Criminals will quickly drain a person’s bank account and credit cards, often ruining not only the person’s finances, but their credit and sometimes their jobs and lives.
There are a number of ways that your identity can be stolen.
Computer hacking has become a popular method of getting someone’s information. We’re constantly hearing how one major retailer after another has their system hacked. Cyber criminals obtain the bank card information for millions of people and then turn around and sell that information to others. Those other criminals then use the bank card information to steal from the cardholders.
Personal computers also get hacked if not properly protected. Many people pay their bills and do their banking online, providing all of the information a hacker needs to steal their identity and their money.
Another common method of stealing someone’s identity is getting their hands on our mail. I’ve read of numerous accounts of someone driving through neighborhoods looking for mailboxes with the flags up. They stop, open the mailbox and grab your outgoing mail, hoping that you are paying a bill with a check. With your check the bill in hand, they have everything they need to start draining your bank account and ruining your credit.
However, other identity thieves follow the mailman and grabbing your mail before you ever see it. They are looking for the advertisements from banks offering you credit cards, mortgages and other loans. Many of those advertisements have your name and address already printed on the applications.
Every week I receive these kinds of ads from Citi, American Express and several others. However, no one is as prolific as Capital One. Some days I see 4 different pieces of mail from Capitol One.
What do you do with this junk mail from the banks? Do you just throw it away? Do you rip it in two and then throw it away? Or do you take the time to shred it?
Whether an identity thief obtains the bank advertisement addressed to you before you get your mail of from your garbage, it gives them almost everything they need to take out credit cards, loans and mortgages in your name. All they have to do is provide them with another address, bank account number and sometimes even your Social Security Number and suddenly you’re on the hook for a $30,000 bill consolidation loan or $200,000 mortgage. The identity thief gets the money for the loan and you are responsible to pay it all back with interest.
I’ve seen numerous news accounts on identity theft done exactly that way, using bank advertisements that have all of your information already printed on it. I wonder if these large banks realize just how much grief and devastation they have caused unsuspecting Americans who have had their lives destroyed by identity theft of their abundance of junk mail. I contend that they are putting us all in danger of identity theft because of their plethora of junk mail. Unfortunately, we’ve no way of holding them accountable for setting us up to have our finances and lives destroyed by identity thieves.
All I can tell you is to be careful with your mail. Take the time to shred all of the junk mail with your name and address printed on it. Make sure your home computer, tablet or smartphone is properly secured and think twice about blindly using your credit cards everywhere you go or putting your paid bills in your mailbox before you leave for work. Taking the time now to best protect yourself may well save you days of headaches and stress if your identity gets stolen.