Are You at Risk of Identity Theft?

What is your risk of identity theft?

Hacker gloves opening laptop on office desk
Getty Images/John Lund

To determine your risk of identity theft, you need to know what information can cause damage, and how much damage it can cause. This is the information to protect if you want to prevent identity theft, and it is called "critical data."

What Is Critical Data?

When looking at your risk of identity theft, pay close attention to information that can be used directly by an identity thief to compromise your current accounts, create new accounts, or impersonate you to get additional forms of identification or employment.

This information should be kept under a watchful eye, lock, and key if possible. If you have to give this information out, to the extent possible, make sure to get a copy of the privacy policy for the company you give it to.

Harmful Data

Other information to protect can be used by an identity thief to help them get critical data about you. Private investigators can tell you the best way to find out about someone is to look at their habits. Identity thieves can use the same tactics and have in the past. Some of this information can be guarded; some is much harder to control. Some possible harmful data include:

  • Pets RFID Tag (chip)
  • Utility Account Numbers (gas, water, etc.)
  • History of Residence
  • Unsolicited Credit Offers

This information can be safeguarded by using a shredder at home.

Do not put outgoing mail anywhere that is not protected by a lock, including your mailbox. Dropping it off of the post office is your safest bet.

Public Data

This information is available to anybody who cares to look. Identity thieves can use public data to locate harmful and critical information. If an identity thief does use public data, chances are extremely high that they know you personally.

Even if you protect your information, chances are good you would not protect it from this person.

  • Vehicle ID Number
  • License Plate
  • Address
  • Telephone Number
  • Social Media
  • E-mail Address
  • Employer
  • Doctors and Medical Provider

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, but it will help get your mind moving in the right direction. Public records maintained by the government such as property deeds, court filings, and driving records often have far more information about us than we care to admit.

Why You Can't Protect Yourself Completely

The problem with public data is that you cannot control it at all. That’s why it’s called public. And identity thieves are getting more and more creative when it comes to using public information to find victims.

As more people are aware of identity theft, it’s easy to see the time down the road when we will all have some kind of identity protection program, just like we all have anti-virus software on our computers. And just like antivirus software, we will pay for it gladly, rather than risk the headache of becoming an identity theft victim.

We still expect the government to protect us and insist that businesses protect our personal information if they are going to collect it.

Unfortunately, if an identity thief wants to get your information, chances are extremely good they will be successful.