From hackers to obituary-readers, identity theives have many personae

To aid in the education effort – and to honor this week’s Data Privacy Day – Cintas Corp. has categorized the most common identity thief personas. “As the digital environment continues to grow and information transmitted through the Internet increases, so does the risk for identity theft,” said Karen Carnahan, president and COO, Cintas Document Management, in a statement. “It is important to recognize the many types of identity thieves to reduce your risk of becoming a victim.”

First, and perhaps most well-known, is the dumpster diver. Thieves can easily sift through garbage bags to identify documents with personal information. For example, a thief can simply fill out a pre-approved credit card application requesting a change of address, and receive a credit card in that person’s name just days later.

“Protect yourself from the dumpster diver by shredding all important documents before disposal, including old credit cards and anything with your Social Security, driver's license or bank account number,” Cintas advises. “If you have to question whether information is confidential or not, then it probably is and you should destroy it properly and completely.”

The irreverent wanderer is another type of perpetrator, preying on grief. These criminals find potential targets by perusing obituary notices or cemeteries. ID Analytics estimates that personal details of nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans are used every year to illegally apply for credit products and services.

“To keep thieves out of the family tree, provide only limited personal information in the deceased's obituary and avoid printing the individual's complete date of birth or address,” Cintas noted. “Also, notify the Social Security Administration, the state's motor vehicles department, financial entities and all three credit reporting bureaus of a loved one's death.”

Meanwhile, children are easy targets for identity thieves because the crime can go undetected for years – and it’s reaching crisis level, researchers say. According to a report by AllClear ID, children are 35 times more likely to have their identities stolen than adults. Keep all documents that show a child’s personal information safely locked up, and share their Social Security number only with trusted parties. Additionally, find out who has access to your child’s personal information, and read the notices that schools are required to send explaining your rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Pickpockets are another – and very real – threat. They simply steal wallets, purses, mail and mobile phones. Filing a police report, notifying creditors and disputing any unauthorized transactions are some of the steps a person must take immediately to prevent identity theft.

A hacker can of course become a specific type of criminal mastermind. In pursuit of theft, a hacker can develop new viruses, malware and scams to obtain personal information. Security updates and patches and internet/email safety awareness are two foundational strategies for staving off the remote threat.

The last type identified by Cintas is the “Bored Billy,” or perhaps more appropriately, the body snatcher. Generally, the motive behind identity theft is to steal money or credit, but some thieves are looking to assume someone’s identity. “This type of thief is often bored with their life and seeking the thrill of taking on someone else’s persona by gathering information from social media accounts or eavesdropping on a confidential phone conversation,” Cintas said. “Protect yourself from the terror of Bored Billy by securing your personal information online and offline.”

Consumers should never give out personal information on the phone or through the mail, and should be vigilant about sharing information when opening new accounts online.

“Just as victims can vary, so can identity thieves,” added Carnahan. “Data Privacy Day is an opportunity for consumers to empower themselves with the knowledge they need to protect their privacy and prevent identity theft.”

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