ID Theft

Debunking the myths of identity theft

Authored by a Symantec employee


There is a wealth of information about identity theft and how to help protect yourself from it. Still, the crime is constantly evolving as identity thieves look for new and varied ways to find and target victims.

Here are seven truths to expose the most common identity theft myths.

Myth #1: If I am careful, I will not fall victim to identity theft.

Fact: No one can prevent all identity theft, and cybercriminals are getting more sophisticated in their attempts to steal your identity.

While taking precautions to protect your personally identifiable information (PII) may help protect against identity theft, there is no guarantee that will be sufficient.

Criminals have found innovative ways to gain access to your personal information — such as your Social Security number, driver’s license details, and more — and execute various crimes. They use malware and viruses, and they attack companies and organizations to mine data from vulnerable servers and computers. In July 2017, the Equifax data breach alone impacted the personal information of 145 million U.S. consumers.

Myth #2: Freezing my credit keeps me safe. 

Fact: Freezing credit may help protect you against future identity theft, but it can’t protect you from certain types of identity theft. 

Even if you freeze your credit, if thieves already have your personal information, they can use it to file fake tax returns and perpetrate other types of fraud, like Social Security or employment fraud. They can even use your information to commit medical identity theft. Criminals don’t need your credit report to file fake medical insurance claims with your personal details.

Myth #3: All banks and credit card companies protect you with zero liability policies.

Fact: Some financial institutions will reimburse you for fraudulent charges on your credit card but not your debit card.

It is always better to know the details of your financial institution’s zero liability policies. Some institutions have a limit of how much you can be reimbursed without first requiring an investigation. Check your bank and credit card accounts regularly for fraudulent activities as well as review and become familiar with your financial institution’s liability policies.

Myth #4: I have the best security suite installed on all my devices. My information is safe.

Fact: Identity theft can happen offline, too. 

You should consider installing a best-in-class security software, like Norton Security, on your devices. This will help protect personal information from malicious software and fake login sites, where cybercriminals can digitally grab your information and credentials. However, you need to secure your offline identity as well. Stealing Social Security cards or driver’s licenses, skimming debit cards, committing credit card fraud, and dumpster diving are just some of the many ways thieves steal identity information offline.

Myth #5: Shredding documents will keep me safe. 

Fact: Identity theft can happen before you shred documents.

While shredding documents that contain personal information is a good practice, sometimes identity theft is committed by family members, friends, roommates, and others who have access to your documents before you shred them. It is best to place your mail on hold with your local post office while you are out of town. While at home, keep your mail out of sight and keep important documents locked up. If you think your mail is at risk of getting stolen, invest in a secure mailbox.

Myth #6: Identity theft affects only adults. 

Fact: Children can also be victims of identity theft.

It is unlikely that children have an active credit history. Their clean Social Security numbers are a gold mine for identity thieves. Criminals could open new credit card accounts, get a loan, or apply for a job using stolen Social Security numbers. It may take a long time for the child to realize that they have been a victim of identity theft, such as when they apply for a credit card or loan or try to rent an apartment. Only then do they learn someone has been misusing their identity for years.

Myth #7: Cybercriminals won’t target senior citizens because of their age.

Fact: Identity thieves may target seniors.

The elderly may be socially isolated or lonely, which may make them vulnerable. ID thieves may target a senior citizen’s mail for bank and credit card statements, checks, tax information, and more. Identity thieves are also known to send fake letters or emails that appear to come from trusted sources, such as the victim’s bank, charitable organizations, or well-known companies. This scam can trick recipients into providing personal information that could be used to steal their identities.

Identity theft could happen to anyone. There are ways to help protect your information. Investing in an identity theft protection service, such as Norton with LifeLock, is one way to keep what’s yours, yours.

Disclaimers and references:

No one can prevent all identity theft.
LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

Symantec Corporation, the world’s leading cyber security company, allows organizations, governments, and people to secure their most important data wherever it lives. More than 50 million people and families rely on Symantec’s Norton and LifeLock comprehensive digital safety platform to help protect their personal information, devices, home networks, and identities.

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