This year an estimated 10 million people will be victims of identity theft in the United States. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America costing consumers and businesses tens of millions of dollars a year. Though there is no way to totally prevent yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft you can lower your risks of becoming a victim by taking the right precautions and understanding how identity theft occurs.
How Thieves Take Your Identity
– Snatch your wallet or purse.
– Steal your mail.
– Thieves may go through your trash looking for bank and credit card statements or anything containing your personal information.
– Thieves may steal your information from organizations such as merchants, banks, utility companies or even government agencies. They might do this by hacking into their systems or simply breaking into the business and stealing it.
– Thieves will send you fraudulent emails known as “phishing”. These emails look as if they are from financial institutions or businesses and try to con you into providing personal or account information. They may claim that there is a problem with your account and that you need verify your information in order to fix it. Do NOT provide any information to them as these emails are phony.
– Thieves may put viruses or other programs onto your computer that can log your keystrokes thus having the ability to obtain your passwords.
How to Protect Your Identity
– Check your credit reports at least once a year.
– Shred unwanted documents that contain personal information in a cross cut shredder.
– Close any unused credit card or bank accounts.
– Remove your name from mailing lists for pre-approved credit lines and telemarketers.
– Keep your PIN number and any other passwords confidential.
– Contact your financial institution or service provider if you notice odd charges or if expected bills don’t arrive.
– Update your computer virus software, use a spyware removal program, and install a firewall program.
– Consider getting a credit monitoring service. This service will alert you when an entry is made on your credit file.
– DON’T give out personal information via the mail, phone, or Internet unless YOU initiated contact.
– DON’T carry your Social Security Number or any PIN numbers or passwords in your purse or wallet.
These are just a few things that can help prevent you from becoming a victim of identity theft. However if you do become a victim of identity theft be sure to file a police report and contact the three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your file. In addition contact your financial institution and creditors and let them know you have been victimized.