The internet is a great tool in many ways, but it is also filled with privacy pitfalls. Overexposed information from data breaches are now the third certainty but background check websites are a legal, affordable and easy way for someone to collect a lot of your personal information. With the right pieces of the puzzle, a criminal could even use background check information to steal your identity. One Michigan man used the large amount of information found publicly on these sites to open bank accounts in as many as 51 people’s names to which he collected nearly $200,000 in fraudulent loans.

Background check websites are perfectly legal ways for someone to find out information about you. Usually, there is a reason for an individual to pay for the data. Perhaps they are hiring a summer babysitter and want your criminal history. They might own a small business where you have applied for employment. Maybe the person is trying to serve court documents on you and they need to know key information in order to file the with the court. Again, background check websites serve a valuable purpose, even if they can be used for harm.

It is important to know that one of the safety nets that is supposed to protect the public from people who use background check websites for identity theft is nothing more than a statement on the website that the information is not to be used for identity theft.

The FBI has already uncovered multiple victims in cases where their information was purchased from a background check website then used for identity theft. As noted by Quartz, “Online identity thieves use services that provide personal information for sales leads, real estate transactions, and credit reports to steal millions, gathering details about their victims’ lives from federal, state, and local records sold by brokers like BeenVerified, Instant Checkmate, and TruthFinder.”

Until legislation is enacted that will offer stronger protection for consumers, it is up to you to protect yourself.

Watch what you share and what you sign up for

Remember, your identity is like a puzzle. The more pieces you put out there about yourself, the higher the chance a thief can connect the pieces.

Be on the lookout for phishing attempts

A background check website will not tell a buyer everything, but it can be enough to connect the dots. The rest of the filling in can occur by sifting through your social media accounts or sending you phishing emails. Practice good online safety to prevent this kind of thing.

Put a freeze on your credit report

This free option can stop identity thieves from achieving their goal, namely to open new bank accounts and take out loans in your name. By placing a freeze on your credit report with all three of the major credit reporting agencies, lenders are not supposed to be able to issue new lines of credit under your Social Security number. Remember that it takes time to thaw your credit report if you did need to take out a loan or make a large purchase.

Monitor your accounts carefully

Some of the victims of a background check identity theft had reported small amounts of money being withdrawn from their bank accounts or as fees associated with their accounts. By not ignoring those small transactions, they were able to put a stop to a much bigger crime. Look over all bank statements, credit card bills and your credit report routinely for anything unusual.

If you are a victim of identity theft in need of assistance, you can receive free remediation services from ITRC. Call one of our expert advisors toll-free at 888.400.5530 or LiveChat with us. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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