Identity Theft Prevention and Protection
Identity theft hits at the core of an individual’s uniqueness. With each crime there is an accompanying effect on the victim. With identity thefts the impact can be enormous. The theft of your identity can compromise your financial future and can have drastic effects on you future and present employment prospects. There are systems in place and actions that you may take if you become the victim of identity theft. It is a cumbersome process that can easily become overwhelming. Therefore, it is better to do all you can to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft than to try to correct the problem. As the old saying goes “an ounce of preventions is worth a pound of cure”.
There may be times when there was nothing you could do to prevent your information from being stolen. These instances usually are the result of a fraud being committed at a financial institute or a major breakdown in security with a large financial institutions or retail business’s computer technology system.
However, there are some basic precautions you can take in order to reduce the risk of becoming a victim. You can make sure that anything that contains vital information such, as bank account numbers, credit account numbers, social security numbers, etc., are shredded prior to throwing them out in the trash. A common practice that is known as “dumpster diving” has become a common way for small time criminals to obtain your vital information. Other common ways are they steal mail, including bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks, or tax information. You can reduce your vulnerability for mail theft by installing a mail box that has a locking door or by subscribing to a P.O. Box. As a result of the ease of access to the internet, these small time criminal can do a significant amount of damage to your financial history by obtaining the above information.
At least once a year you should obtain a free copy of your credit reports from all three of the major consumer credit bureau reporting agencies. If you live in an area that has experienced a large number of identity thefts you may choose to do this more often than once a year. It is important to check all three of the major agencies; they can be contacted with the following information:
If you loose your wallet or purse or if your personal information is stolen you must act quickly to minimize your exposure. Immediately contact the issuing bank or financial service agency and cancel your accounts. It is helpful if in advance you prepare a list of accounts you have, this list should include the institutions name, address and contact number, your account number and password. This list should be kept in a safe and secure place to prevent it’s theft. Having a list like this allows you to act quickly and to prevent you from overlooking an account. Once you open new accounts avoid using easily identifiable passwords, such as your mother maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your social security number, etc. When contacting the above consumer credit agencies request a fraud alert be placed on all three accounts. This will prevent any new accounts from being opened in your name without a verification process. Once you have placed a fraud alert with these agencies you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report. Once you receive the reports check them carefully for any accounts that appear that you have not opened and for any inquiries made on your account that where not authorized by you. When speaking with financial institutions and the credit bureaus make sure you obtain the name and contact number of whom you spoke with. Document this contact by recording this information with the date and time you spoke with the individual.
Your next step is to pay attention. Check your accounts daily if you have electronic access to them. Monitor your credit reports and if it appears your identity has been stolen then contacts your local police department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and report it. You can reach the FTC on their fraud web site at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/
Labels: Identity Theft