Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®
Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
A century ago, when criminals wanted to steal money, they robbed banks. While some bank robbers achieved fame and notoriety, robbing banks was a very hazardous “occupation.” Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow, and John Dillinger were all shot to death by police at relatively young ages as shown in the movies Bonnie and Clyde and Public Enemies. Willie Sutton lived to age 79 but spent more than half of his adult life in prison.
Today, identity theft is a leading cause of financial theft. There is no need for thieves to use physical violence to obtain money. Rather, a victim’s personal information and is used to commit a fraud that results in financial gain. Identity theft can affect credit card accounts, cell phone service, and bank and brokerage accounts (e.g., withdrawal of account funds). Some thieves even take out loans in a victim’s name, often for expensive items such as a car. Some identity theft is “low tech” (e.g., stealing wallets and “dumpster diving” for papers with sensitive data) while many other cases are committed online or by hacking computer data bases.
With identity theft, criminals act as if they were another person (the victim) and use the victim’s data to commit fraud in the victim’s name. Men can “be” women or women can “be” men as shown in a series of humorous television commercials about identity theft (e.g., a woman talking in a man’s voice and a man claiming to be a woman named “Peggy”). Identity thieves often capitalize on a topic or event in the news and use these events to create a sense of urgency to encourage victims to divulge personal data.
Unfortunately, many potential sources of identity theft are beyond an individual’s control such as personal data at workplaces, government agencies, medical service providers, and companies we do business with. While we can’t control every possible source of identity theft, it is important to control what we can. Following are suggested steps to reduce the risk of becoming a victim:
Search This Site: