How to Prevent Identity Theft
What is Identity Theft?
Have you ever noticed a strange charge on a credit card, errors on your credit report or an important piece of mail that never shows up? If so, you need to take a closer look to make sure you are not a victim of identity theft.
How is Identity Theft committed?
Identity Theft can be committed in a number of ways ranging from someone stealing your physical mail to hackers using phishing schemes to get into your computer and taking all of your passwords and user names. In a best-case scenario, the identity fraud has no impact on you but in more severe cases your entire credit history and reputation can be impacted taking months or years to repair.
What are the thieves looking for?
Identity thieves seek out as much information as possible about you but they generally look to obtain the following details among others:
- Your name, date of birth and SSN
- Your address
- Driver’s license information
- Credit card details and security codes
- Bank account numbers
- Passport information
How do they use this information?
Identity thieves use your information to carry out these criminal acts:
- Access your existing bank accounts or open new accounts and take new loans
- Transfer money out of your account
- Make large purchases under your name
- Commit government fraud
How do you know if you are a victim of Identity Theft?
Here are a few of the signs that you may be a victim of identity thieves:
- Your credit report contains errors
- Be on the look out for strange charges to your credit cards or bank statements
- Are you being pursued by collection agencies for accounts that don’t belong to you?
- Were you turned down for credit for unknown reasons?
- Are you suddenly receiving bills for purchases that you did not make?
What to do if you think you are a victim of Identity Theft
- Contact your bank and credit card company
- Cancel your cards or change your account if necessary
- Contact credit bureaus and place a fraud alert on your account
- Report the fraud to the police and ask them for recommendation on your next steps
How do you prevent Identity Theft?
- Be wary of phone calls from people claiming to need your personal information for any reason whatsoever – banks and credit card companies will never ask for passwords, your PIN or other personal details
- Don’t provide any personal information to anyone who calls to offer you a free trip or prize. If it sounds too good to be true, assume it’s fraudulent
- Never provide access to your computer to anyone who calls you at home. Thieves will often tell you that your computer has a virus and they need to access it to fix it. Don’t give them access under any circumstances
- Never click on any link in an email that you find suspicious
- Continue to monitor your bank statements and credit reports. Report any suspicious activity to the credit bureaus and banks immediately
- Do not share your PIN with anyone
- Make sure your cards always remain visible when conducting a transaction. Don’t hand your credit or debit card to a store employee and lose site of it
- Don’t write your PN numbers on your cards
- Shred all papers with your personal information