The Daily Herald of Provo, Utah has a Q & A column. This week, it's about identity theft:
Learning the ABCs of identity theft :: The Daily Herald, Provo Utah Learning the ABCs of identity theft
"Q: Do all of the recent data thefts mean everyone affected will be a victim of identity theft? How can one protect oneself against identity theft if our data isn't safe? -- MT, Palo Alto, Calif.
A: The theft of data is in the news almost every day. It would seem that, based on the recent rash of data thefts, almost the entire country is now exposed to identity theft.
The root cause of the recent data thefts are companies and organizations -- banks, credit card processors, universities, motor vehicle departments and Web sites -- that maintain a great deal of sensitive personal information in their databases. Their databases are constantly hacked, and these companies lack the appropriate level of standards with respect to protecting data.
Your question is certainly timely and provides an opportunity to review the basics of identity theft.
As explained before, identity theft is a crime that occurs when a thief steals your personal information and then uses it to impersonate you or to commit fraud and theft in your name. Typically, the thief will need your Social Security number, your name, address and driver's license in order to "become" you. In certain cases, the thief may also need your credit card account numbers and other information contained in your credit report.
In this context, you need to understand the difference between identity theft and credit card fraud. When, for example, a security breach at CardSystems Solutions compromised 40 million credit cards, you likely became exposed to credit card fraud, not identity theft.
Credit card fraud, while annoying and troubling, does not expose you to the same effects as identity theft. Federal law limits your financial risk to $50...."