Today my home was broken into, and multiple personal documents were stolen from a lock box. Social security numbers, birth certificates, a house key, and other irreplaceable items are now floating around out there in the big, bad world. The feeling in my stomach is one of I don’t wish on anyone I care for.
It’s scary enough that someone came into the house in broad daylight, while somebody was home even, but the fact that they targeted only our personal identification papers (and some random pieces of jewelry), but left valuables like the nice TV, several laptops, an Xbox, and other assorted items of value, is what freaks me out the most. It made me realize that in this day and age, our identities are sometimes worth more than the things we spend the most money on.
Being a researcher by nature, I immediately went online (after we filed a police report) to see what else I could do to protect myself from Identity Theft. This website has a bunch of helpful tips for those of you who aren’t familiar with the topic, and I have since followed up by taking several precautions. I even went so far as to notify Experian just in case someone tries to use my information to open a new line of credit.
It has come to my attention now that there are more malicious forms of cyber ID fraud than I had ever imagined. Unfortunately, it took having my home broken into for me to realize just how prevalent this type of crime has become all over our country. According to the Seattle Police Department, “Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America.” Now, in addition to vigilantly locking our doors and taking part in the Neighborhood Watch, we have to worry about crazy people stealing passwords to our email accounts, online banking services, and literally anywhere else personal information is stored online. Scary, huh?
Hackers use the stolen information in a myriad of ways, too. They can sell your data to companies for marketing purposes, use your bank accounts for personal purchases – which may put you in a serious financial quandary or ruin your credit, apply for jobs or student financial aid using your identity, or even commit crimes that will be tied to you. These are just a few potential consequences of identity theft.
This type of crime seems so trivial when it isn’t happening to you. Just the name “identity theft” is a little silly (there’s even a movie that makes fun of this situation), but the harsh reality is that this is happening all around us, on a daily basis. There are only so many precautions we can take, and NOBODY is 100% safe. So, change your passwords frequently, don’t give out your personal information unless it’s on secured sites (even then, be cautious), and for the love of Pete Carroll, lock your doors people!