Think about this: a report from the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (FBJ) states that direct and indirect losses from identity theft totaled $24.7 billion in 2012 (https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/vit12.pdf). This type of crime impacts a large amount of people worldwide, and the U.S. is no exception. That’s about 7% of all persons age 16 or older in the United States. Identity theft can range from an unauthorized use or attempted use of personal information to open new financial accounts – such as credit or debit cards, telephone accounts, checking and savings accounts, loans and mortgages – to misuse of personal information for a fraudulent purpose, such as getting a new job, government benefits, providing false information to law enforcement when charged with a crime, and falsifying medical bills. Identity theft can seriously mess your life up. Eva Velasquez, CEO and President of the ITRC (Identity theft Resource Center), recently stated in a 2017 report that:
“Victims who experience identity theft early in their adult lives may find themselves unable to become independent or realize their full potential. Delayed educational opportunities were reported by 12.7 percent of respondents, creating a negative ripple effect that can potentially affect all areas of their lives. Without the ability to realize their educational goals, victims may miss job opportunities that would set them up for financial stability or further success, which can impact housing and quality of life.”
With victims being regularly below the age of 30, this can have profound and devastating effects on individuals trying to start a life for themselves. Events such as these also can negatively influence personal and professional relationships due to a lack of financial security. Identity theft is relatively common and it is very safe to assume that it is not going anywhere. The best thing that you can do is learn how identities are being stolen and to then protect yourself and react accordingly. In this article, we’ll be going over a few different types of identity theft and how to safeguard yourself from these types of crimes. This is no laughing matter, as $16.8 billion dollars were stolen in 2017, resulting in 16.7 million individuals affected (https://www.lifelock.com/education/how-common-is-identity-theft/).
Security, as a word, is often thought of in terms of physical bodies. Celebrities and high profile individuals generally have a security team that travels with them. These individuals in charge of security are known as bodyguards and are often used to protect and secure buildings such as financial institutions, entertainment venues and events, and places with a high concentration of net worth. ‘Phishing’ is an attempt to retrieve private and valuable information from an individual by posing as a reputable source online. Perhaps you’ve gotten an email from one of these slimeballs. Phishing can take on many electronic forms, but the act is generally materialized in the form of fraudulent emails that link to a site that may look exactly like your bank’s website. However, once you enter the information into a false bank site, or send personal details via email, a criminal can wreak havoc on your identity and financial situation. You have to be your own bodyguard when it comes to these matters. Always check that a URL is secure (you can generally see a lock icon next to the left of the URL in your browser) and that you are not sending sensitive information to an email that looks like a customer service email. Often, thieves will use scare tactics, stating that you are overdrawn or in danger of being contacted by the IRS. Don’t cave in to these threats. Thieves have also been recorded stealing hard drives and thumb drives out of recycling units, trash bins, corporate offices and homes. Securing your data should be a priority when it comes to your own financial and emotional security. At Shred With Us, we combat this problem by properly destroying all information on physical hardware such as hard drives and computers. Sensitive financial information (pin numbers, account numbers, card numbers, and social security numbers) can easily be used to open new bank accounts, file tax returns, open false online accounts, and apply for government aid programs.
Data breaches are a nightmare for any business. They’re unwelcome, expensive and unbelievably frustrating. Recent reports from the Poenemon Institute estimate that an average security break costs $7.2 million dollars. As an individual – business owner or not – you want to do everything in your power to avoid such an event. Following all standard security procedures is a must. It is much like having a digital bodyguard: proper software, disposal procedures and destruction of paper is vital to your financial security. According to the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID), there are about 40% of devices and hard drives that have not been wiped clean enough to keep data secure. Furthermore, that information is easy enough for the average high school student to retrieve. Imagine what a professional hacker can do. We are NAID certified and will properly dispose of any paper or hardware that contains sensitive information. We also dispose of the materials in a safe manner, avoiding landfills and methods that would tamper with the environment.
If you are in charge of a business or entity that deals with the private information of many individuals, you must take this threat as seriously as possible; not just for financial reasons, but ethical ones as well. If you do not comply with all privacy laws and regulations regarding documents, especially documents that contain data of a sensitive nature, there can be huge fines. In fact, the Sarbarnes-Oxley Act can carry a one million dollar fine and ten years of imprisonment. Furthermore, every state has its own laws about data and document privacy and subsequent data breaks. This is serious business. It’s serious enough that modern legislation is beginning to tackle this issue. On August 31, 2011, Jerry Brown approved California Senate’s Bill 24, which lists the processes a company must go through after a security breach has occurred. So what can you do to avoid a one million dollar fine?
There are a few things you can do. It’s important to educate yourself about the business of document security and destruction. Learn the rules, both on a federal and state level, to protect yourself and others from any and all liability that could result from negligence. Then, you may consider contracting a professional company such as Shred With Us to help ensure your safe and secure document destruction. You always want to hire a shredding company of the highest quality. If you are in the North Carolina, South Carolina, or Georgia, Shred With Us is your best bet for preventing costly data breaches and promoting digital and paper security. If you live elsewhere, spend your time researching the highest reviewed and reputable shredding companies in your area. Once you have picked a company to do business with, it is best to draft a document destruction plan together. A well-constructed plan can help you get the most out of your document destruction company and deliver peace-of-mind to you and your clients and employees. Don’t even let the possibility of a hefty fine or jail time become a reality. Before destroying documents, it is a good idea to securely store tangible files. Sloppy storage procedure (such as an unsecure holding facility/filing cabinets/storage unit) can cost you a large amount of money due to theft. Federal law requires different storage times for a variety of different documents. Make sure you are abiding by these laws and have a proper timetable in place. Another mistake you can make with your documents or hard drives is trying to shred them yourself. Leave it to the professionals who are well-versed in the procedures and guidelines appropriate to disposal regulations. Protect yourself by regularly changing your passwords. Never have one password for every website. Stay off public computers and guard your sensitive information with your life, because it is. Many financial institutions and agencies warn you about protecting your information. There is good reason for these warnings.
Medical Identity Theft
As if regular identity theft wasn’t a big enough issue, your identity can be stolen and utilized for medical treatments and prescription drugs. Thieves have been known to submit bogus Medicare claims with the use of your personal information. Thieves can use your social security number, address phone number, and even insurance if they can get their hands on a medical file. Protecting yourself from this fraud takes some caution and responsibility on your part. It is incredibly easy for thieves to get their hands on your information, especially if you are leaving a paper trail. Be sure to carefully dispose of any documents with your personal information and keep close watch over your insurance statements and medical billings. If anything looks out of the ordinary with your bank statement or medical statement, contact the hospital and insurance company immediately. Ambulances are not cheap. This is one of the most prevalent forms of identity theft, with an estimated 2.3 million adults or more becoming victims (in 2014, 2018 numbers are projected to be much higher). Report the loss of any medical ID cards or financial cards. Freeze your credit if you have to. Protect yourself.
Closing thoughts regarding security
We have gone over a few types of identity theft in this article. Some other forms include: driver’s license theft, social security identity theft, financial identity theft, criminal identity theft, tax identity theft, and synthetic identity theft. While this can seem daunting and scary, there is some good news: all of these crimes have the same root cause, which is compromised personal information. Reporting lost or stolen ID cards, creating new and complicated passwords for websites that contain private information, and destroying physical hard drives and paper copies of sensitive information are a few of the ways that can help prevent identity theft. For the latter solution, there is no better option than Shred With Us for your sensitive document disposal. Be smart and be safe.