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Is the Devil the First Identity Thief?

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Consider the qualities commonly associated with thieves: Sneaky. Deceptive. Selfish.

Do those traits sound familiar? They sounded downright devilish to one blogger, who was one of the 70 million Target customers whose information was compromised in the data breach the company suffered during the holiday season. As long as technology has enabled hackers, consumers have had to deal with the problems that stem from identity theft and fraud.

CJ Rapp, a contributor to the Christian Post, expressed her own frustration as a victim of the Target breach, but she looked beyond the digital age. Scams have been around for a long time — Rapp pegs the first phishing scam on Satan, in the form of a serpent, attempting to deceive a woman (Eve) for his personal gain.

No matter your beliefs, you probably know how this one goes: Satan leads Eve to doubt her instincts and, as a result, make a pretty disastrous decision. In this case, it was eating a forbidden fruit. In present day, it could be clicking a link you know you should probably avoid. Actually, bad links aren’t always easy to identify, as fraudsters know people have gotten better at recognizing suspicious content.

Just as trickery has evolved since the time of Genesis, consumer awareness and responsibility has needed to grow.

For instance, with the Target breach, hackers acquired email addresses, to which they can send Target-like emails with the intention of stealing personal information or infecting computers with malware. That’s not as easy to flag as a supposed plea for help from a Nigerian prince, but the idea is the same: You need to regard all emails with caution, even if they appear to come from a harmless source.

In the end, you are your own best protector. You can’t control if hackers come after businesses you patronize, but you have control over your response to such situations. Remain alert to data breaches, consume with caution and monitor your bank accounts and credit profile for unauthorized activity. It doesn’t have to be a burden, either — many banks allow you to place alert settings on transactions that clear your account (granted, a small unauthorized purchase may fly under the radar), and there are free tools, like Credit.com’s Credit Report Card, that can help you monitor your credit scores for unexpected drops, which could be a sign of identity theft.

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