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article imageIdentity theft: Why you need to worry beyond data breaches

By Leigh Goessl     Oct 23, 2014 in Business
Data breaches are an obvious problem these days, however, these massive exploits aren't all people need to worry about. While all eyes are on the big exploits, often the small-time criminals are also quietly raking in the cash.
Over the past couple of years, perhaps even more so in the last year, the media has been full of stories reporting major data breaches. There has been Target, Home Depot, Michael's, JPMorgan Chase, Kmart and most recently, Staples, to name a few. Some of the breaches are straight forward while in other instances, the thieves are more creative, targeting third party vendors.
However, these massive data breaches aren't all people need to worry about nowadays. While all eyes are on the big exploits, often the small-time criminals are also quietly raking in the cash. According to a recent ABC Nightline report, Doug Shadel, the Senior State Director for AARP in Washington, figured the best way to find out how identities are stolen is to ask an identity thief. And Shadel says doing so was an education.
The convicted ID thief, who did not want to share her real name, enlightened Shadel by explaining how she and her partners stole $900,000 in just a few months. Each member of the small group had a specialty. One could make duplicate IDs, another was expert in stealing laptops, putting digital information on the cloud and others apparently knew which people to target.
So how was this accomplished?
• Targeting cars with out-of-state license plates
• Breaking into work vans-"They usually had like full on credit cards to bill companies,”
•Cars with backpacks. “It’s just full of goodies. It always is," the thief said, reported Nightline.
• Unlocked mailboxes
These are only a handful of ways the less prominent forms of identity theft occur. These days you not only have to monitor your accounts, you need to be very mindful of many aspects of life that perhaps normally you may not have given a second thought. For instance, ATMs at banks, airports, malls and other public spaces. Even your trash can make you vulnerable if you aren't careful.
In today's digital world, identity and financial theft has clearly become a huge problem. Just last week, the White House launched new initiatives to allow people to protect themselves against credit card and ID theft. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2012, 16.6 million people in the U.S. (age 16 and older) fell victim to identity (and the subsequent financial) theft, losing millions of dollars[PDF]. It is likely future reports of statistics will see an increase. These statistics do not even include the number of children whose IDs are stolen.
When it comes down to it, as Digital Journalist Karen Graham said in July 2014, "It's simple: Your credit information is not safe, period."
More about Identity theft, data breaches, Finance, stolen identity
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