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Analog Theft Is a Real Threat to Your Identity. Here’s Why.

Digital is not the only culprit for identity theft. Your identity can be compromised in ways you didn’t realize. Know the dangers and protect yourself.

Identity theft is usually associated with digital media – credit card fraud from card skimmers, electronic data breaches, stolen thumb drives, and phishing email scams seem to be the main culprits.  According to a recent analysis, it’s analog files we need to be concerned about, as these are the main drivers in identity-related crimes.

The Center for Identity at The University of Texas found in its report, “2017 Identity Theft Assessment and Prediction Report,” that “50 percent of identity theft incidents analyzed between 2006 and 2016 resulted from criminals exploiting non-digital vulnerabilities.”

What is a non-digital vulnerability, exactly?  It can be any document that contains identifying information, such as old tax returns, junk mail, and even empty prescription bottles.

How Analog Theft Happens

Theft has been happening long before the digital age, so what else should you be monitoring in addition to your digital footprints? Look no further than your trash can. As the old saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and it’s an unfortunate truth when it comes to identity protection.  One of the most notorious cases of identity theft prosecuted was a case of dumpster diving, which is when someone goes looking through other people’s trash for items that can be used or sold.  Beyond just tossed goods, thieves can steal your information from poorly destroyed files, junk mail, and credit card offers.

Dumpster diving itself is actually not a crime at all if the trash is left in a public place.  If you put a bag of trash out on the curb, anyone has the right to pick it up and carry it away.  It only becomes illegal when a person steals trash that is considered to be concealed.

Identity theft can easily happen in your home as well.  If you’re having guests over, don’t leave important personal documents out for viewing.  Have your personal documents locked up or stored in an inaccessible location away from guests.  Don’t forget this includes pill bottles, too.

Analog theft is scary to think about, but there are measures you can take to mitigate your risks.

Monitor Your Bank Accounts

Periodically check on your account between printed statements and make sure everything makes sense.  If an out-of-the-ordinary transaction appears, make sure you call your bank to report it, be sure to cancel any cards attached to the account, or close it entirely and open a new one to be on the safe side.

Be Aware Of What You Carry

Leave extra credit cards, Medicare cards, social security cards, and any financial statements at home in a secure place, unless you’re going somewhere that requires them.  Keeping them on your person at all times, especially when not necessary, runs the risk of your identity being compromised.

Regular Shred Sensitive Information

Hiring a professional shredding company can help you to safely and properly dispose of documents that contain sensitive information, like bank records and even junk mail with credit offers.  This includes pill bottles.  The easiest way to secure your information before destroying an empty pill bottle is to remove the label.  It is recommended to then use a permanent marker on them, or scratch off your name and prescription number.  Identity thieves can use this information in a number of ways if they get the information off a pill bottle in your trash.

Don’t assume that your identity can only be stolen from digital media.  Take the proper precautions to secure and destroy your analog files, too.

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