It appears that we are losing the battle against identity theft. Thieves are constantly coming up with new ways to steal your information and to ways to use it for their own gain. It is not as simple as just trying to steal the money in your bank account anymore, they can open lines of credit to steal money that you don’t even have, steal your benefits, your good reputation, medical care, and your tax refund. Why are we failing at identity theft protection and what can you do to minimize your risk?
The most valuable piece of information to an identity thief is social security number. Social security number combined with your name allows thieves to open lines of credit, apply for jobs, steal money from bank accounts and more. Perhaps why this has become so commonplace is that social security numbers were not intended to be used as identifiers, so it is no surprise that they are so easily compromised. Early social security cards even said right on the card “Not for identification,” they were never intended to help protect from identity theft. When the IRS started using social security numbers for identification in the 1960s, banks and other organizations followed their example, and that is how social security numbers became so valuable today.
Once a thief obtains your social security number, it easy to reproduce over and over again. Someday, we may see identifiers that are not so easily compromised through the use of fingerprint or iris scanners. As this technology becomes more reliable and less expensive, we are already seeing it more in our everyday lives. Many mobile devices can be unlocked with a fingerprint or can be set up to require a fingerprint before you can make purchases.
For now, we are still relying on social security number as our main identifiers, so one of the most important ways to protect from identity theft is to monitor your credit report. You can try to do this yourself with your yearly free credit reports, or use a credit monitoring service to do the work for you and give you more complete protection. Once your social security number has been compromised, it can be used over and over again so monitoring your credit report is the fastest way to detect and protect from identity theft.