David L. Goetsch
Preventing Identity Theft: What You and Your Church Can Do
The Eighth Commandment clearly states, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). Unfortunately, stealing has become a common practice in today’s society. The most recent and all-pervasive form of stealing is known as identity theft. Identity theft involves stealing a person’s identification data and using it for unauthorized and even criminal purposes. The information stolen might be a driver’s license number, employee identification number, credit-card number, or some other form of identification unique to a given individual.
The big prize for identity thieves is a victim’s social security number. An identity thief can use a victim’s social security number for a wide range of nefarious activities. The more Christians use computers and smart phones the more often they find themselves victims of identity theft. Thus, this blog is dedicated to helping Christians and their churches play a positive role in preventing identity theft.
The most common use of stolen identities is financial fraud—typically applying for loans or credit cards in the victim’s name—but there are also several other ways to illegally use someone’s identity for personal gain. For example, an individual’s identity might be used to obtain a false identification card, passport, or even a college transcript. Identity thieves even use stolen identification data to divert income-tax refunds from the legal recipients to themselves. A growing form of this insidious form of stealing is medical identity theft. Medical identity theft involves stealing a person’s insurance information and using it to secure medical care or to charge insurance companies for medical care that has not been provided.
Identity theft costs Americans more than $15 billion a year, which exceeds the cost of all other forms of stealing combining. More than 15 million people become victims of identity theft in a typical year. It is now commonplace for businesses and other kinds of organizations to be forced to announce that identity thieves have defeated their security measures and gained access to thousands of customer records. This phenomenon is known as a data breach.
How common are data breaches? In just one year, data breaches occurred almost 800 times giving hackers access to approximately 170 million personal records. Hackers who steal the data of large organizations use the information gained for their own purposes and then sell it to other identity thieves on the black market. This is why protecting people from identity theft has become a growth industry in America.
There are a number of things Christians and churches can do to help prevent identity theft:
If you notice suspicious charges on credit or debit cards, notify your credit-card company immediately to cancel the cards and they will provide you with replacements.
Never respond to emails, telephone calls, or letters in the mail that ask for personal information. Also, never click on links that appear in unsolicited emails and never reveal your username or password to anyone.
Change your usernames and passwords periodically.
Request a security freeze with the three major credit bureaus. This will help prevent identity thieves from opening bank accounts or securing credit cards in your name for their use.
Sign up for on-line access to your bank accounts so you can monitor them daily rather than waiting for a monthly statement.
Sign up with the three major credit bureaus for free credit reports.
Report fraud immediately to your bank and to the police.
Install identity-theft protection software including a firewall on your computer.
Encourage your church to be especially attentive to providing seminars covering the recommendations contained herein for elderly members of the congregation and community. Elderly people are often the targets of home invaders, car thieves, scammers, hackers, and identity thieves.
There is no place for stealing in any of its manifestations in a Christ-centered culture. As you interact with people inside and outside of your church, set an example of honesty and integrity that is the antithesis of stealing and be wise when it comes to your use of electronical technologies.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com