Identity theft is still on the increase and continues to be the fastest growing crime in the USA. There are steps that you can take to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft and this article will reveal the five key ways to reduce that risk.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge or consent to commit a crime, such as fraud or theft.
Why should you be concerned about identity theft?
Identity thieves steal key pieces of personal information and use it to impersonate you and commit crimes in your name or steal your money. In addition to names, addresses and phone numbers, thieves look for social insurance numbers, drivers license numbers, credit card and banking information, bank cards, birth certificates and passports.
Once they have retrieved this information they can then manipulate it and invade your personal and financial life. With this information they will purchase items, open accounts, redirect mail, apply for loans, credit cards and rent apartments.
What are some of the signs your identity might have been stolen?
• You notice missing bills and statements.
• Collection agencies and/or creditors begin to call
• You notice withdrawals and/or transfers from financial account statements.
• You receive credit card statements for accounts you don't have.
• You apply for credit and are surprisingly turned down.
• Your credit score takes a nose dive.
Identity thieves access your personal information by:
• Buying the information from a dishonest employee working where personal and/or financial information is stored.
• Stealing your mail or fraudulently redirecting your mail.
• Stealing personal and private information from wallets, purses, mail, your home, vehicle, computer, and Web sites you've visited or e-mails you've sent.
• Retrieving personal information from "dumpster diving".
• Posing as a creditor, landlord or employer to get a copy of your credit report or access to your personal information from other confidential sources.
• Tampering with banking machines and debit terminals to copy debit or credit card numbers as well as personal identification number.
• Malware and hacking of computers and databases
Five key ways to reduce your risk
While it is impossible to entirely prevent identity theft, there are steps to take that will greatly minimize your risk of becoming a victim.
1. Guard your personal information and documents
If any of your key documents, such as your birth certificate, driver's license, passport, bank card or credit cards are lost or stolen, it is important to notify the issuer immediately. Shred or destroy personal documents before tossing them into the garbage or recycling. This will defeat dumpster divers looking for transaction records, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, cheques, financial statements and old income tax returns.
Cut up expired and unused credit and debit cards. The card may have expired but the number may still be valid. If you are going to be away go to your local post office and ask for the hold mail service. Always shield the entry of your bank card password, and never give your access code to anyone. Choose a number that can't be figured out easily. It is important to remember that no one from a financial institution or the police will ask you for your password number.
Don't leave personal information lying around at home, in your vehicle or at the office. Keep your birth certificate, passport and social insurance card in a safe locked place.
Don't give personal information to anyone who phones or e-mails you unless you know who they are or can confirm that the person is from a legitimate company. Identity thieves may pose as representatives of financial institutions, Internet service providers and even government agencies to get you to reveal identifying information.
2. Keep your computer and its contents safe
Computer technology makes it easier for criminals to find personal and financial information. If you keep credit card numbers, account numbers, and tax information in your system or use e-mail to do financial business, take steps to make sure that this information is safe from hackers and thieves. Protect your computer, including laptops, with a startup password.
Use a personal firewall, especially if your computer is always connected to the internet even if your computer is turned off. The firewall stops uninvited visitors from getting access to your information in the computer. Install virus protection software and be sure to update it regularly.
3. Be vigilant
Know when your credit card and financial statements and utility bills are due. If they don't arrive when they are supposed to, call the company. This is a good indication that a thief may have changed the billing address. Pay attention to credit card expiry dates. If your replacement card hasn't arrived before your card should expire, call the credit company. Someone may have taken it from the mail or changed the mailing address. Keep all credit card and automatic banking machine transaction records so you can match them to your monthly statements when they come in. Review your bank and credit card statements promptly and report any discrepancies to your financial institution right away.
Be aware of phishing emails and phone solicitors who may pretend to be a business you already deal with. Your best bet is to always call them back. Never provide personal information by email or phone unless you have initiated the contact and know who you are dealing with.
4. Order and review your credit report
Paying attention to details can make a difference. Once a year, get a copy of your credit report from the major credit reporting agencies. The report tells you what information the bureau has about your credit history, financial information, any judgments, collection activity and who has asked for your information. By checking, you can spot debts that aren't yours and see who has been asking about you. You need to follow up if a lender or credit card issuer has asked for a report and you don't have an account with them and haven't applied for credit or a card from them. Someone else may have been using your name.
The only free and government sanctioned source for free credit reports is www.annualcreditreport.com
5. Purchase identity theft protection
From monitoring databases for signs of identity theft to scouring illegal websites where our personal information is routinely sold by criminals, identity theft protections services can simply due things we can't to help protect our identities. See www.identitytheftlabs.com for unbiased and accurate reviews of these services.
Please don't let another day pass without considering how you are going to protect your personal and private information and that of your families from the potentially devastating effects of identity theft.
Tom Fitzgerald writes about identity theft to educate consumers about this growing crime which devastates the lives of far too many Americans. To learn more about identity theft protection please visit http://www.identitytheftlabs.com
Tom Fitzgerald writes about identity theft to educate consumers about this growing crime which devastates the lives of far to many Americans. To learn more about identity theft protection please visit http://www.identitytheftlabs.com
Article Source: http://www.abcarticledirectory.com
Tom Fitzgerald writes about identity theft to educate consumers about this growing crime which devastates the lives of far too many Americans. To learn more about identity theft protection please visit www.identitytheftlabs.com
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