Tuesday, May 26, 2009, AM | 2 Comments
Perhaps you can. Maybe not completely though. The anacondas of the world are swimming in the swamps of consumers misery and anxiety and they are getting smarter and smarter almost on a daily basis. They always have. Our God-given characteristics of being so gullible and so thirsty for money and comfort will always be with us. It’s a part of human life. And as long as these qualities belong to us, we will always be vulnerable to identity theft. It seems that a new discipline of deception has been born recently but come to think of it, it always existed as far back as history can tell us.
With the advent of micro-technology for every aspect in our lives – the cell phone, the blackberry, the iPhone, online banking and so many others – it is no wonder that identity theft is on the rise. The irony is each one of us thinks it happens to others. Can you believe that your cell phone can be cloned?.
Having said that, there are still some things you can do to at least try to protect your identity. Wall Street Journal did an article on this subject and stated that identity theft only touches a sliver of the U.S. population each year (about 3%). One-quarter of those cases are credit-card fraud and not full-blown identity theft, according to FTC figures. The problem is if you are one of the 3%, don’t you think that’s one too many?
The credit-card fraud occurs when a thief uses your credit card to make purchases. More serious is when someone uses your information to open accounts or take loans in your name. That’s when you’ll have to fight to get your credit restored and your name cleared, an arduous process that can take months or years to complete.
Guard your information online
These days, many of us do most of our shopping and banking on the web. With all those account numbers and passwords floating around, it’s easy for someone to nab your information and go on a spree.
- Clear your logins and passwords. This is especially important if you’ve been working on a public computer. Change logins and passwords monthly.
- Pay for online purchases with your credit card, which has better guarantees under federal law than your online payment services or your debit card.
- Be alert for phishing, a trick in which spam or pop-ups mimic legitimate banks or businesses to obtain your personal information, which they use to access your accounts. Your bank will not send you email for any of your personal information. If they do, always call to verify. If possible, go inside your bank and verify.
Monitor your bank and credit card statements
Check your accounts regularly so you know when something is out of the ordinary. Purchases you didn’t make should be obvious.
Verify your mailing address with the post office and financial institutions
Identity bandits may fill out change of address forms so that delinquent credit notices remain off your paper billing radar.
Monitor your credit report
By law, you are entitled to a free report every year from each of the three bureaus. Get your free annual credit report now. There are hordes of knockoff sites that will try to charge you for your report and other needless services. Scan it for abnormal activity, such as accounts or credit cards you didn’t open.
Shred sensitive documents
Invest in a small shredder and regularly shred outdated bank statements, credit card applications, bills, and anything with your personal information before tossing it into the trash or recycling. Junk mail often includes some of your personal details.
In a Nutshell
In response to concerns over identity theft, numerous companies and financial institutions have stepped in with products that monitor your credit, reimburse you for lost wages or funds and guard your identity. Some employers also now offer ID theft insurance to help you reduce the amount of time and money spent resolving the crime, so check with your company’s benefits specialist about your eligibility.
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