That’s the key takeaway from an interactive message board that invited a host of opinions and stories from people who have experienced such fraud.
In the opinion of one professional adviser who posted in the forum, unlike victims of more traditional crimes, there’s no single group or agency that can address all identity-theft issues.
Matt Davis, the security adviser with the Identity Theft Resource Center, noted the following:
“Identity theft often spans multiple jurisdictions or states making it very difficult for your local police force to effectively charge and convict these types of criminals. A victim of identity theft encounters the relatively unique circumstance of having to PROVE they are themselves…to creditors…to the government…perhaps even to police/members of law enforcement.
Having someone else destroy your good name and reputation is not something to be taken lightly; it can cost you money, time, your very sense of security when you do the basic things like walking down the street. Yes there is risk in everything. But as what is considered private continues to shrink, the ability of someone to use your personal information for nefarious purposes will continue to grow.
Do you need to constantly be fearful/paranoid? Of course not. Should you take steps to minimize your risk (shred old documents, dont carry your Social Security card in your wallet, check your credit periodically, etc)? I would say absolutely.”
Indeed, it’s the last line that is perhaps the most crucial and helpful takeaway lesson: what steps can be taken to minimize risk?
While shredding documents and checking your credit score periodically are important strategic tools, what about the day-to-day safety measures?
One critical safety tool is the personal VPN for use in wireless hotspots. It prevents hackers and nosy busybodies from intercepting sensitive material like passwords, online banking, and shopping login information.
After all, you have no control over those radio waves that are bouncing around Starbucks or the airport lounge; they can be listened to by anyone else in the room and is frighteningly easy to do. But with a personal VPN like PRIVATE WiFi, private communications stay private.
In addition to using a personal VPN, be sure check out the entire post — entitled “What was it like to suffer identity theft?” — to hear more first-person identity-fraud scares and learn other ways to keep identity theft from happening to you.