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Identity Theft- How to Protect Yourself with Suitable Measures

Updated : February 4th, 2021

Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. Unlike fingerprints, which are unique and cannot be given to someone else for their use, personal data­ especially Social Security number, bank account or credit card number, telephone calling card number, and other valuable identifying data ­ can be used, if they fall into the wrong hands.

In the United States and Canada, for example, many people have reported that unauthorized persons have taken funds out of their bank or financial accounts, or, in the worst cases, taken over their identities altogether, incurring huge debts and committing crimes while using the victim’s names.

In many cases, a victim’s losses may include not only out-of-pocket financial losses but substantial additional financial costs associated with trying to restore his reputation in the community and correcting the erroneous information for which the criminal is responsible.

Rise and impact of identity theft on businesses and individuals

According to the reports of the US Department of Justice released in 2010, an average of 193 federal cases of cyber crimes was prosecuted by the Department of Justice. The US Sentencing Commission is in the process of bringing out its annual report of 2016 which will reflect the number of victims of Cyber Crimes between 2015 and 2016.

Americans have been victims and suffered harm as a result of the theft of their identity in the last twelve months. Furthermore, the agency also released a commission report detailing its identity theft program since its inception. The survey found that within a period of one year, 2.28 million consumers discovered that new accounts had been opened and other fraudulent activities such as renting an apartment or home, obtaining medical care or employment, had been committed in their name.

In those cases, the victims were categorized as follows: 2.28% Existing Credit Card Account Fraud, 1.15% Existing Non-Credit Cards Accounts Fraud, and 0.83% new accounts and other Fraud, with a mean fraud loss of $ 5,803 per victim. Existing Credit Card Accounts fraud is the least costly classification, while New Accounts and other Frauds with a mean loss of $ 12,646 is the most serious category. Existing Non-Credit Card Accounts fraud, which includes existing credit and saving accounts, is the mid-range classification with a mean loss of $ 9.912.

Nature of Information under threat in identity theft cases

In the cyberspace, identity thieves are looking for sensitive personal information, and there are many pieces of information that could be utilized. Some of the most common are:

  • Social Security Numbers (SSN): This number was created to keep an accurate record of earnings and pay retirement benefits on those earnings.
  • Date of Birth (DOB): Date of birth, in conjunction with other pieces of information, can be used in many ways to compromise a person’s identity.
  • Current and Previous Addresses and Phone Numbers: Both can be used in cybercrime and identity theft to enable an offender to assume the identity of the victim or to obtain more information thereabout.
  • Current and Previous Employment Information: Such information can be used to jeopardize the victim’s identity.
  • Financial Account Information: This includes checking and savings accounts, credit cards, debit cards, and financial planning information. Such information is a rich source for an identity thief to commit financial cybercrimes.
  • Mother’s Maiden Name: In many instances, the maiden name of the victim’s mother may be used as the password for financial accounts and is easily available through public record information.
  • Other Personal Information: This includes passwords, passcodes, email addresses as well as photos. Such information could be utilized to obtain access to other sensitive information or to facilitate total or partial identity theft.

Tackling the Menace of Identity Theft: Technological Perspectives

Anyone who is concerned with the possibility of identity theft should adopt techniques designed to stop these kinds of crimes before they happen. A great deal of information about identity theft prevention is available from trustworthy sources, such as state attorneys general offices, the United States Department of Justice, and local consumer protection agencies.

Among the most effective strategies to avoid becoming a victim include conducting regularly scheduled credit report reviews, using online passwords that are unique and difficult to guess, shredding financial documents before throwing them away, and sending and receiving mail using a secure mailbox.

Taking the recommended precautions is no guarantee against identity theft, however. One of the best ways for people to minimize the loss in the event they are victimized is to learn to recognize the signs that a crime has occurred. Unfamiliar entries on credit reports are a strong indication of identity theft. Other signs include bills arriving in the mail addressed to someone else, a sudden increase in pre-approved credit offers, and unexpected telephone calls from debt collectors. It is important to quickly follow up on such occurrences to determine their cause. Those who suspect an identity crime is being committed should immediately report the incident to the appropriate credit agencies and law enforcement officials.

Prevention and Regulation of Identity Theft: Legal Perspectives

Identity theft is generally tackled and regulated in the US through the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, 1988. It has been able to achieve four main objectives:

  1. It made identity theft a separate crime against the individual whose identity was stolen and credit destroyed. Previously, victims had been defined solely by financial loss and often the emphasis was on banks and other financial institutions, rather than on individuals.
  2. It established the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as the Federal Government’s one central point of contact for reporting instances of identity theft by creating the Identity Theft Data Clearing House.
  3. It increased criminal penalties for identity theft and fraud. Specifically, the crime now carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment and substantial fines.
  4. It closed legal loopholes, which previously had made it a crime to produce or possess false identity documents but not to steal another person’s personal information.

Identity theft, therefore, remains a big threat for individuals and businesses in the 21st century which can be prevented effectively by taking the precautionary measures mentioned above. However, the perspective of law enforcement to prevent identity theft still remains a grey area as the US Department of Justice has struggled in the last 15 years to adopt counter-measures to tackle this issue. All measures adopted so far have been reactive rather than proactive. Thus, it remains to be seen what measures are adopted in the next 20 years to deal with this menace both from the technological and legal perspectives.

 

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  1. I had trouble getting my proof of self-employment to upload in secure file exchange and finally got it submitted by 12:06 am , 6 minutes late. What are the possibilities that they will deny it? I have received unemployment from March 2020 to some of Jan and some in Feb 2021. Most of Dec, Jan, Feb, March, & april were stopped for this proof of employment.
    Also, I see proof of Income as a 2nd issue but it is always on there. That was not on my TO DO list.
    I feel for u all on ID.ME…

    Anyone trying to reach UI, call their number, press 2 or 3 (questions abt filing a claim?) and then wait thru the message. At the end of it, u will be connected to a live person! I promise.. don’t push another button.. I’ve done it 4 times and it never failed.

    We lost our home, my ex took my child…. (kept her after a visit and called cps facilitating drama while the cops wouldn’t give her back without paperwork locked up in the court house..shut down for covid) I raised her by myself for 12 years & now she is with a violent alcoholic and parental alienating parent .. ….my dog, my 9-year sweet little best friend, was attacked, passing away 3 days later.. all in this time frame.
    But! It will all be ok. I have faith.

    Be grateful for your life and all that is in it today. What u dwell on daily will be your strength or weakness.
    Good luck to all of u.
    And thank you, Jeff, for responding out here. It is appreciated!
    Davulia S.

  2. I filed over two months ago. I have not received any information. My status says “pending resolution”. I have no way of contacting anyone. My position was eliminated at my job and I submitted the documentations online. I dont know what else I can do.

  3. I have been apply Ohio Pua unemployment since July 5th still pending issues. Upload what they ask for when ever I call says your case is in Adjudication. Very very frustrated, financially I am broke. Health issues. Waiting a long period.Don’t know what I will do ?

    1. Nafisa,

      I can understand your situation. There will be a delay considering the number of applications that are being processed. Please continue chasing the office/check your status online at regular intervals until payments normalize.

    2. Same here since Feb 2021 turned in all the documents still pending issues 3 months now. When you call they tell you to be patient. Pulling my hair out it’s so frustrating.

  4. I was receiving PUA unemployment. they made me file for a new claim in February. Now I am in adjudication even though I gave all the same information from my previous claim. Have been adjudication since February and I call and they say they will put in a ticket to have an Adjudicator call me. Nothing. I am wondering If I can go down to to Maryland Unemployment Office and demand that someone talk with me to release my claim for payment. It’s been 56 days. I read that they have a maximum of 45 days.

    1. Luis,

      Your adjudicator may be inundated with pending cases. Please continue to follow up (if you have the contact details) or consider the option of visiting an office in the vicinity if safe and feasible.

    2. t sounds just like mine only im disqualified yet actie every till sept 4th . they haven’t asked me for anything! i file then its disqualified yet im told im ok and have nothing to do bit wait for an answer? answer to what? they switched my program and all and asked me to provide proof for a claim that wa denied al eady back in 2018! deny me once and then again perhaps? lol idk

  5. My mom had unemployment in Florida. She just recently moved temporally to California with a sister since she needs assistance, and now the website is telling her she cannot do anything because she is register in another state. Can she keep filing unemployment in Florida, even if she is living and register now in another state? how is the process to change the unemployment? I tried calling and there is no answer. Thank you!

    1. Stephanie,

      Please ask your mother to consider transferring the UI benefits from FL to CA (details will be available on either of the websites). If there are benefits weeks left in the account, she will be able to claim them.

    1. Leatha,

      UI benefits are offered to claimants who lose employment involuntarily and be able to and available for work.

  6. I lived in ga in 2019 and move to florida in 2020 and work for the xmas months in nov-dec. I was told to do a combine wage claim. my question is which state do i file the claim in?

  7. I filed for pua in Ohio back in October 2020.My claim has been in ajudacatuon since 11/1/20.So 2 to 6 weeks is a total understatement! When I call.i am told to basically hurry up and wait some more.I have recently been redetermined and my claim is allowed.but I have one pending issue.How long is too long?

    1. Nicole,

      Unfortunately, nobody has an answer. There are perhaps thousands of pending applications. Please consider the option of visiting an office in the vicinity if safe and feasible.

  8. If you claim your weeks for unemployment and for the next 2 months you still have not received your money. Where can you go in volusia county to talk with a live person

      1. HI Jeff,
        I applied back in Dec 5th, 2020 and I haven’t received any correspondence, is there a local office that I can make an appt to make certain my claim is right.

        1. Adam,

          You can consider visiting an office in the vicinity if safe and feasible (details will be available on the Unemployment Office’s website).

  9. On NYS DOL website, my claim is saying current yet the information is for my old claim with 0 days remaining despite receiving 2 weeks of payments on the new claim and I was able to certify last night. I haven’t received anything; no letters or emails.

  10. I was disqualified for UI benefits for not providing an ID and other forms of identification. How do I fix this?

        1. Gary,

          You may not be eligible since unemployment insurance is only extended to those who become unemployed due to involuntary reasons.

    1. Hi Mike, I’m in NYS and was at the end of my BYE on 3/14, I was still certifying but wasn’t getting paid. I found out I had to file a new claim because my other was exhausted. I’m still waiting on approval. Maybe you have to file a new claim. I hope this helps.

  11. They say 2-6 weeks it’s more accurate to say 2-6 months; and when you call many of them are rude and unwilling to assist!

  12. someone needs to look into Sharon L. Anton gillette, wyo. or dickinson, nd she is a fraud and has done so many fraudulent things and please look into her

    1. Annette,

      Please report it to the Fraud Division of the Unemployment Office in your state. You can report on the website.

  13. I worked part time for thee years here in florida. I’m currently not working. I’m also retired and collects social security.
    My question is
    Am I qualified to file for unemployment ?

    1. Ruby,

      To be eligible, you’re required to have sufficient hours and earnings. Please use the “Benefits Calculator” available on this website.

  14. So adjudication takes 8 to 12 weeks. Oh okay, that explains why I havent received payment since July. That surely helps just like the rest of the information that you give. And by the way. What’s the NEW reason you can’t get through to the Call Center.

    1. Maria,
      I have gotten through to the call center (live agent) every time i’ve tried calling within the last 2 weeks. The number to a live agent (follow the prompts carefully) is (667)-207-6520. i have gotten through within 10 to 15 mins with each call i had made!

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