Can Criminals obtain your personal information

Many People do not realize how easily criminals can obtain your personal information without breaking into your home. in public places, for example criminals may engage in "shoulder surfing" watching you from a nearby location as you punch in your telephone calling card number or credit card number or listen in on your conversation if you give your credit-card number over the telephone to a hotel or rental car company.

Even the area near your home or office may not be secure. Some criminals engage in "dumpster diving" going through you garbage cans or a communal dumpster or trash bin- to obtain copies of your checks credit card or bank statements, or other records that typically bear your name, address, and even your telephone number. These types of records make it easier for criminals to get control over accounts in y our name and assume your identity.

If you receive applications for "preapproved" credit cards in the mail, but discard them without tearing up the enclosed materials, criminals may retrieve them and try to activate the cards for their use without your knowledge. (Most credit card companies, when sending credit cards, have adopted security measures that allow a car recipient to activate the card only for his or her home telphone number.) Also, if your mail is delivered to a place where others have ready access to it, criminals may simplyintercept and redirect your mail to another location.

In recent years, the internet has become an appealing place for criminals to obtain indentiying data, such as passwords or even banking information. In their haste to explore the exciting features of the internet, many people respond to "spam" unsolicited E-mails that promise them some benefiit but request identifying data, without realizing that in many cases, the requester has no intention of keeping his promise. In some case, criminals reportedly have used computer technology to obtain large amounts of personal data.

With enough identifying information abut an individual, a criminal can take over that individual's identity to conduct a wide range of crimes: for example, false application for loans and credit cards, fraudulent withdrawals from bank accounts, fraudulent use of telephone calling cards, or obtaining other goods or privileges which the criminal might be denied if he/she were to use his/her real name. If the criminal takes steps to ensure that bills for the falsely obtained credit cards, or bank statements showing the unauthorized withdrawals, are sent to an address other than the victim's, the victim may not become aware of what is happening until the criminal has already inflicted substantial damage on the victim's assests, credit, and reputation.


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