Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft costs individuals and businesses a combined loss of $52 billion a year. It’s a major issue, claiming an average 10 million victims annually. Don’t become a statistic - reduce your risk for identity theft by learning how to protect yourself from it.

Identity theft happens when someone assumes your name, personal information, credit information, and social security number. They then use your information to obtain items, services, credit, loans, mortagages, rentals, etc.

Identity theft has grown considerably this decade, due in part to the rise in number of people publishing their personal and financial information on the Internet. Hackers grab such information through merchant sites, court files, social networking sites, etc.

Your information can also be stolen from your home, mail, car, or business. Here are some tips for preventing identity theft.

  • Shred all financial documents.Invest in a cross-cut shredder. This will cost you about $60 to $80. Shred every document that contains sensitive information, including credit card statements, pre-approved credit applications, bank statements, deposit receipts, etc.
  • When shopping online, make sure the connection is sure. The browser should display a lock icon. Websites that start with “https” also have protective encryption technology in place.
  • Learn how to spot telephone scams. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming they’re from bank, collection agency, charity organization, credit card company, or other organization, don’t give out any information that might compromise your identity. Tell the person you’ll just visit their bank or office to learn more about their offer or to provide your information.
  • Beware of phishing scams. As with telephone scams, thieves using phishing scam apparently representat a bank, ISP, online financial company, or other organization. They will ask for your credit card or bank information. You may also be asked to click on a link. Some thieves claim they are part of a sweepstakes or lotto organization informing that you’ve won some prize. If you see an email like this, delete it or report/label it immediately as spam.
  • Use the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Malicious programs can steal information from your hardware. Make sure you have up-to-date defense systems against those who want to access your private information in covert and illegal ways.
  • Be smart with your mails. Mail box theft is a common method used by identity thieves to access your financial information. Have your credit information delivered to a secure location or collect it at the post office yourself. Don’t put your bills payment in your mailbox either.
  • Review your credit card history from time to time. This will help you keep a tab on the activities with your credit card. If you find an unusual activity, report immediately to your credit card company.
  • Don’t give out your Social Security Number to anyone. Some institutions (e.g. school, insurance company) ask for your Social Security Number. Ask if you could provide a different identifier instead.

By following the tips above, you can minimize your risk for identity theft. Be vigilant at all times, and you will prevent identity thieves from getting what is not theirs.




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