07 October 2008

Identity Fraud Prevention Week

This week (October 6th-12th) has been declared National Identity Fraud Prevention Week in Ireland. (As if we had not enough other problems already...)

The week, organised by a well-meaning campaign group, aims to educate the general public and businesses on the Emerald Isle about the ways in which they can protect themselves from becoming victims of identity fraud, which is now one of the fastest growing crime categories.

Similar campaigns are also taking place in Belgium, Britain, France and the Netherlands to help Europeans keep their identities safe.

Identity theft occurs when an individual's or company's confidential information is obtained by another person in order to assume their identity. It is the first step to perpetrating a criminal activity and criminals may use personal information to obtain credit, goods or other services fraudulently. This is known as identity fraud.

Fraudsters get their hands on personal information in a number of ways, including intercepting our mail, 'phishing' email accounts and going through people's rubbish bins.

According to Ciaran Dunne, a spokesman for the campaign, eight out of ten people routinely throw personal information into their bin. "And these are then easy pickings for fraudsters looking to steal their identities."

The awareness campaign coincides with new research, revealing that while nine out of ten people believe they are at risk from identity fraud, less than half know what they should do to protect their identity.
Crime statistics indicate that about 90,000 people in Ireland have fallen victim to identity fraud.

In my humble opinion the best prevention against these crimes is the use of one's own brain and common sense. If one keeps a good level of computer and internet security - including a proper virus protection software and 'firewall' - and makes sure not to give personal data to the wrong people, one should be fairly safe.

I never throw any personal papers into the bin. They all go into the fire place and are burned, so what goes into the bin is nothing but ashes. And I would never give my personal data and bank details to any of these charity street campaigners, whose number seems to rise every years and who are trying with all sorts of sad stories to separate one from one's money.
I would not go as far as to accuse any of these - usually very young and quite clueless - people on the street of any crime or wrong-doing. But once one's data are given away, who knows through what channels they go and who is handling them. There is no way of controlling this, so to be on the safe side - don't do it. If one wants to give money to charities, there are plenty of other ways, without having to give away one's personal data to complete strangers (who often even come from foreign countries).

Of course one should also make sure that no personal documents are left in coats that are given into the care of a cloak room, and never leave any papers behind on trains, in taxis, restaurants and other places. It is really not more than common sense, and I am quite surprised to learn of the high numbers of victims in Ireland. Seems that we have lost more than just our financial and economic senses...

The Emerald Islander

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