A recent scam that has been spreading around the country involves someone getting access to your home equity credit line and opening joint accounts with the money they take from the account, after which the scammer then empties the account and you are stuck with a higher loan balance to your bank. In one recent instance of this scam, an identity thief victimized thirty-five people, stealing a total of of 1.4 million dollars. In this particular instance it appears that the identity thief conspired with a bank employee who had access to personal information about the victims and their accounts. He passed this information to his accomplice who, in turn, accessed the equity credit lines and set up the phony joint accounts.
Unfortunately, no matter how good you are at maintaining the security of your personal information, you are only as safe as the security of the weakest company that holds your information. So if a bank has criminal employees who have access to your account information, you are in jeopardy. It is a good practice to ask your bank or any company or institution with which you do business about what steps they take to protect your personal information and who has access to it. It is also important to do your part in protecting your security. Keep your personal information including financial information encrypted on your computer and other portable devices and make sure that all of your electronic devices are protected with Firewalls and the latest security software updates. Identity theft can be high tech, but it can also be low tech or no tech. When you dispose of financial records or any records with personal information on them, make sure that you put them through a cross shredder first. A conventional vertical shredder does not provide you with enough protection from an identity thief with time on his hands to piece together your shredded materials that have only been vertically cross shred.