How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft

Your name and personal information are an asset that belongs to you.


Your financial history report can determine if you get a loan, an apartment, a job, or insurance coverage.


A good track record is valuable and available to anyone who has "legitimate business needs".


Unfortunately criminals also often have easy access to your private details, by opening bank accounts, getting credit cards, loans, state benefits and documents such as passports and driving licenses in your name, they will use your information for their personal gain.


There are two forms of Identity Theft: Basic identity theft – when someone steals your ID to obtain new credit accounts. Credit hijacking – when someone uses your existing credit accounts for personal gain.


Here are some tips on How To avoid being ripped off.

Steps

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    Request your free credit report from TransUnion, Experian or Equifax at least once a year and preferably once every six months. The three big credit reporting firms can give you a history of activity under your credit profile such as telling you when loan or credit card has been applied for and issued.There are services from the reporting agencies that will contact you every time there is a new application for a loan or credit card or a request for information has been made.
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    Place an “Initial Fraud Alert”, that lasts 90 days, on all 3 of your credit reports. This can only be done if you feel your ID and personal information has been compromised. This alert means your information can no longer be sold by the credit bureau to any third party.
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    Obtain a 7 year fraud alert by writing to each of the credit companies showing the initial fraud alert, confirmation number and some additional information that will be requested. This can slow the process of accessing credit easily but will give you added privacy especially when used in conjunction with other precautionary measures.
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    Personally read through your financial report to make sure that all loan and credit card requests are from you and not an unknown entity.
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    If you are missing a financial statement or bill that should have arrived in the mail then contact your financial institution to check with them in case it has been stolen.
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    Actually go to the bank to check your accounts – don’t rely solely on paper statements.
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    Establish a personal security code with banks and credit card institutions. This number could be the name of a childhood pet and your old street address. No one will be granted access to your accounts without having this code so it is truly secure.
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    Pick up new checks from the bank or they could be stolen in the mail
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    Never have your Social Security Number printed on your checks. Name and address is sufficient information.
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    Be sure to promptly notify your credit institutions of any change of address to avoid any possible confusion.
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    As merchants always use the Address Verification Service to ensure that the shipping address agrees with the address given for the credit card holder.
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    Just hit delete. Assume that every solicitous e-mail is a scam and never send your personal information as a response to an e-mail.
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    If you receive an e-mail from your bank, credit card company or government agency and it looks legitimate then close the e-mail and contact the business or organization directly. Us a phone number that you know to be official and not the one provided in the solicitous mail.
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    Never give out your private information over the telephone unless you have initiated the call.
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    Be especially reluctant to give your personal information when an unknown business or individual asks for your social security number, mother’s maiden name and date of birth.
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    It’s important to check your credit report before making major purchases.
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    Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet. One third of identity theft comes from stolen purses, checkbooks or credit cards.
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    Don’t carry your pin number in your wallet and Be creative when choosing a pin number.
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    Immediately cancel your credit cards when you have lost your wallet.
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    Clean out your computer hard drive before throwing or giving it away.
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    Sign your credit cards when you receive them. This will be used as identity verification when purchases are made with the card.
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    As a retailers always ask for some form of ID with credit cards.
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    Do not use more than two credit cards, it is easier to monitor them regularly.
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    Make sure no one is looking over your shoulder or shoulder surfing while you are using an ATM.
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    Look to be sure that there are no additional devices attached to the ATM machine when swiping your card.
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    Always send and receive mail through a secure and locked mailbox.
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    Write “check ID”, with a bold marker pen, on the back of your credit card.
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    Try never to use debit or check cards, it is extremely difficult to recover losses made on these types of card.
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    Put sensitive documents such as ID, Passport and financial accounts in a waterproof envelope and keep them in a safe and secure place for quick evacuation in case of floods, hurricanes or other natural disasters.
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    Keep with your personal documents a list of all your account numbers and contact numbers for each as quick reference if anything is lost or stolen.
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    Shred private receipts, junk mail, CD before throwing them in the rubbish.'
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    Use reliable software to detect and remove Spy-ware or key logging software that could try access your from the web.
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    Always buy from reputable on-line sites – phishing sites can often look like the real thing but only be a front image.
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    If you suspect something then question the people who have access to your personal information. Identity theft is most often committed by someone close such as a family member, co-worker, waiter or waitress or within the financial institution.
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    Do not respond to text messages using the name of your bank (or other businesses) asking for confirmation of your details. Verify the situation in person at your banking institution.
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    Use a separate web browser for your financial transactions and for browsing the web.
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    Be sure to request credit reports for your children as they are ideal victims for identity theft.
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    Remove the names of deceased family members from mailing lists, their details are a good resource for ID thieves.
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    Beware of what you put on MySpace 'surveys.' Never reveal too much about yourself. Facts such as mother's maiden name and last 4 digits of your social security number are not questions to pass time with. If you feel the need to fill out a survey on MySpace and the like, beware of putting anything more personal than what you order from Starbucks. The harder an identity thief has to work for your identity, the less likely you (and family members, for that matter) are to be their victim.
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    Hire a reputable Identity Theft Protection Company, such as LoudSiren, LifeLock or TrustedID to work on your behalf if you do not have the patience, know how or time to take the above listed steps.

Tips

  • Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is a nonprofit consumer information organisation who are proactive in advocating identity-theft legislation and have created a “speak out” platform for citizens whose privacy has been violated. Visit them at www.privacyrights.org

Article Info

Categories: Credit and Debt | Internet Security