The nightmare of identity theft begins!
Have you been pursued by your lenders to pay for past-due bills that you never made? Or even worse, recieved a letter in the mail from a finance company threatening legal action if you don’t pay a debt? Odds are, you have become a victim of identity theft.
By 2006, there were over 8.8 MILLION reported cases of Identity Theft
According to a survey conducted by the Better Business Bureau, in 2006, there were about 8.9 million reported cases of ID theft which amounts to a staggering $56.6 billion. With the advancement of technology, these identity thieves are also advancing in skills and expertise. Always remember that any of your personal information can be used against you. Your social security number, drivers license, credit card, bank account numbers, telephone number, address, date of birth and full name can be used to commit a crime or a fraud using your identity. In the past, identity thieves steal wallets or search trash bins to obtain all these valuable information. Today, they have come up with more sophisticated ways on stealing personal information through the internet. What can you do to protect yourself?
8 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
- Check Your Credit Report. Obtaining a copy of your credit report at least once a year will help you monitor the accuracy of your accounts. Carefully examine if all transactions reflected on your credit report is correct. Check the record of your payments. Check that all your personal details are correct as well. If there is any misinformation on your credit report, contact the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) right away and request that the errors you found be immediately corrected.
- Do not carry all your credit cards and your important IDs in your wallet. If your wallet gets stolen, thieves can easily get a lot of personal information about you. Carrying one credit card should be enough to get through your purchases. In case, you do lose your wallet, do not waste a minute and notify your credit card issuers instantly.
- Never provide your personal information through telephone, e-mail or the internet. Identity thieves often use phone calls to get a persons Social Security Number or credit card numbers. They often reason that the information is needed for verification purposes. However, be aware that legitimate lending companies and banks do not make verifications over the phone. You may also receive e-mails asking you to provide confidential information. Bear in mind that legitimate companies never solicit such private information over unsecured channels.
- Do not throw ATM receipts or shopping receipts in the trash. When you are using the ATM or shopping, always take the receipts with you. You can throw these receipts when you get home. Just make sure you shred them into small pieces before putting them in the trash.
- Keep a close watch on your credit card. When using credit card or debit card to pay for your bills, make sure that your card never gets out of your sight. This is especially true in restaurants. Some waiters use skimmers or small devices that are used to get information from your credit card. If it is not possible to keep your credit card in sight, it is best to pay in cash.
- Be aware about credit card bills or statement of accounts sent by post mail. If you have not received your state of account or bills for the month, call your lenders and inform them that you have not received anything in your mail. This is a common scheme where thieves call the bank and ask for a change of address so that the true owner of the account will not be informed about his charges.
- Do not write confidential information anywhere. For reference, you can list down all your personal information in a separate notebook kept in a secured place in your home.
These are just some of the ways on how you can protect yourself from falling victim of identity theft. Some of these are simple steps that are often forgotten or neglected by many people. However, keep in mind that identity thieves are more cunning and are always on the alert, ready to victimize people who do not take these precautions.