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9.9 million people in the United States lost over $5 billion dollars in 2006 due to identity theft, one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Since identity theft is reported in different ways in different areas, the numbers could be even higher.
Identity theft is a criminal offense. It occurs when a person knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit or to aid or abet any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of federal law or that constitutes a felony under any applicable state or local law."
- Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, 18 USC 1028(a)(7)
Key pieces of personal information are fraudulently obtained and used to steal the assets of the victim or to defraud others. Bank accounts can be drained. Credit cards maxed out and new credit accounts established.
It can start with a computer virus that opens a backdoor to information on your hard drive, deleted emails, even going through your online store's physical trash to find thrown out correspondence. Shred any correspondence.
Install firewalls and virus protection for your online store and your personal computer if you use it for work. Make sure any system you're networked with has Internet privacy and security measures installed. Upgrade when necessary.
Make sure your online shopping cart has security features. A good cyber security system can prevent one of your customers becoming the next identity theft victim.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|