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Identity Theft


 

Identity Theft

 

            You probably take precautionary steps in order to make sure that your money and belongings are safe. You keep your money in a bank account, you keep important papers and precious jewels in a safe, and you probably lock the doors to your home at night as well as when you are going to be away. Have you ever thought about protecting your identity though? Unfortunately, in today's world not only do we have to protect our money and our belongings, we also have to protect our identity.

What Is Identity Theft and How Does It Happen?

            Identity theft is when someone steals another person's identity in order to commit fraud or crimes. Someone can steal your personal information, such as your social security number, pretend to be you, and commit the crime or fraud in your name.

Identity Theft Statistics:

            Identity theft is continually increasing. From 2001 to 2003, the incidence of identity theft increased from 11% to 80%. Victims of identity theft now spend about 600 hours recovering from the crime. Identity theft statistics show that about 85% of identity theft victims find out about the crime committed against them when they are denied for credit or are contacted by the police or collection agencies.

Types of Identity Theft:

            There are several different types of identity theft.

-There is identity theft where your social security number is stolen. Thieves can use your social security number for employment, to open credit card accounts or apply for loans.

-There is identity theft where your credit cards or credit card numbers are stolen. Thieves can use the credit cards or credit card numbers to make charges on your existing accounts as well as to open new accounts in your name.

-There is identity theft where your checks or checking account numbers are stolen. The thieves can write your checks to themselves or they can print checks with your bank account information on their computers and use them to debit money from your account.

-There is identity theft where cellular phone service is put in your name, or unauthorized phone calls are billed to you.

Report Identity Theft:

            As soon as you are aware that your identity is in jeopardy, you need to report it. You should report identity theft to the police in the community where the identity theft has taken place. If you have experienced credit card identity theft, then you need to report identity theft to your credit card companies right away. If your checks or checking account has been compromised, make the bank aware of the situation right away. Cellular phone service identity theft should be reported to the cellular phone service right away. You also need to report any type of identity theft to all three credit reporting agencies

Identity Theft Protection:

            Complete identity theft prevention may not be possible, however, there are important steps you can take to greatly minimize your risk of becoming a victim of the crime.

-You can order a copy of your credit report. Under federal law, you can now receive your credit report for free from the three credit reporting agencies. Keep an eye on your credit report for mysterious activity.

-When you order your credit report, ask that only the last four digits of your social security number be shown on your report. If for some reason someone gets a hold of this report, they will not have your full social security number.

-Make sure you have passwords on credit cards, bank accounts and phone accounts. You need to be creative in coming up with passwords, so that others can not easily figure out your passwords. Use something other than your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your social security number, or consecutive numbers (1234 or 9876).

-Secure personal information in your home. This is especially important to do when you are having work done on your home or if you have someone other than family residing in your home.

-Never give out any or your personal information in the mail, on the phone or on the internet. The exception to this would be if you are the one that has initiated the contact or if you are absolutely positive that you know who you are dealing with.

-Put your outgoing mail in the post office box at the post office instead of the mail box outside your house. The mail box outside your house is unsecured, and anyone could gain access to it.

-Pick up your mail each day. If you plan to be away from home for sometime, contact the postal service. The postal service can then put a vacation hold on your mail so that it will not be sitting unattended in your mailbox.

-Shred your personal papers such as, receipts, credit applications, checks and bank statements, expired credit cards, and credit offers. Shredding these papers will keep people from being able to find your personal information in your trash or recycled papers.

-Leave your social security card at home in a secured place. Carrying your social security card around with you gives people more opportunity to steal that number from you.

-Only give people your social security number when it is absolutely necessary. If you live in a state that still uses the social security number as the driver's license number, ask to substitute another number in that place. Also, ask your insurance company to give you a number other than your social security number for the policy number.  The more places that your social security number printed, the easier it is for someone to get a hold of it and use it for the wrong reasons.

-Don't carry more than you need. When you go out take only the identification and credit or debit cards that you know you will need to use.

-Check out promotions thoroughly before giving your identification information out. Identity thieves often make-up phony promotions in order to steal people's information.

-Make sure that your purse or wallet in a safe place while you are at work. 

-Pick up new checks at the bank instead of having them mailed to you.

Identity Theft Protection When It Comes To Your Computer:

If you use the computer, then you may have personal information that users can access. You can take steps to keep that information safe as well.

            -Update your virus protection software on a regular basis.

-Only open files, click on hyperlinks and download programs from people that you know.

           

            -Be sure that you use a firewall program.

            -Only use a secure browser.

-If possible, do not keep financial information on your laptop. If you have to keep this type of information on your laptop, make sure all of it is password protected.

-Do not use the automatic log-in feature that saves your password.

-Log off of all programs when you are finished.

-When you get rid of your computer, delete all personal information that you have stored on it.

-Check website privacy policies before transacting any business.

While complete identity theft prevention is impossible, you can make changes that will help you protect your identity.





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