Imagine this: you at your favorite store shopping for a new outfit. You approach the cashier to pay for your merchandise, and when she swipes you credit card, she informs you that your card has been declined. You are confused because you usually keep up with credit card payments and never exceed the limit. You call your credit card company to get a rundown of recent purchases. You discover that more than half of the purchases on the card are not your own. You and the credit card company conclude that you are a victim of identity theft. Now, you must spend months to restore your credit over something that you did not cause… or did you?
If you do not want to be the main character in this type of scenario, keep reading for more information on identity theft and ways to avoid it.
Identity Theft and Corporations
It seems difficult to use corporations to obtain information that could lead to identity theft, but it is possible. There have been many new stories related to individuals breaking into consumer databases and stealing names and other information that link to finances. Not only do people break in to retrieve this information, inside jobs are sometimes carried out as well. Individuals can link up with someone who is on the inside to gain access to this information as well by way of bribery or simply going through waste with that information on it. It is important for corporations to keep such information in secured places, take proper care of all waste bearing important personal information, and doing thorough background searches on employees.
Identity Theft and the Individual
These methods of identity theft are rarely made public, but happen so often that most people become terrified for their identity and finances. At an individual level, identity theft can occur in many ways. The most common and easiest way to have your identity stolen is someone recovering or taking your wallet, going through your waste to obtain documents with personal information on them, or stealing your information entered at ATMs, card machines, or computers. More difficult ways of having your identity stolen include accessing the information of a deceased person or taking mail to get account information also known as skimming. Phishing is a way individuals steal identities through the internet. Websites are formed to look like legitimate business sites where individuals are meant to feel comfortable entering important financial information.
What Happens in Identity Theft
If you are a victim of identity theft, the thief becomes you because they now have your financial identity. Some thieves take your line of credit and embark on a spending spree by swiping your card or a newly made card linked to your account or writing checks linked to your account. Some thieves go on to make large purchases, like taking out a car loan, new cell phone, get a new apartment, or house loan. They even decide to open new lines of credit for future uses. Identity thieves do all in their power to convince the world that they are you. They attempt to have identification cards made in your name and take on your identity completely. Identity theft can leave a victim in a world of trouble that is typically difficult to get out.
Avoid Identity Theft
No one wants to be a victim of identity theft. Here are ways to avoid ending up in such turmoil.
- Your social security number is your business.
Your social security number is very critical for you. This number should be safeguarded by all means necessary. Do not disclose your SSN unless there is a reasonable cause for doing so. For example, school, medical facilities, insurance companies, etc. may need your social security number. Never have your number printed on any document that can be handed out, like checks or licenses.
- Destroy your trash.
When you throw away documents with important information, choose to destroy those documents as much as possible. You do not have to go as far as to burn each document, but investing in a good shredder is a good way to get rid of unwanted important documents. Those documents include financial statements, insurance letters, old bank cards, and utility documents.
- Don’t reveal information via telephone.
It is never known if the person on the other end of the phone is who they say they are. Be careful when releasing personal and financial information over the phone. Be aware of telephone scammers.
- Keep your computer on lock.
If you get a request to give personal information through the computer, make sure that the asking party is legitimate. If you are unsure, do not release your information. Most legitimate sites advertise site security. Also, make sure your computer passwords cannot be guessed.
- Keep your wallet/purse close by.
Your wallet or purse is where most people keep personal identification information and bank cards. Make sure that you do not lose it or get it stolen. If you do not have to carry it around with you, leave it in a safe place at home.
- The deceased can be victims too.
Living individuals are not the only victims to identity theft. Your deceased loved ones can be a victim too. You want to make sure your deceased family members’ identity stay protected. Ways to do that is to inform all banks with opened accounts for the deceased person that he or she is no longer living. Keep a safeguard on personal identification information, and on all personal documents of the deceased, including death certificates, credit card and loan documents, and personal identification forms.
- Look over your credit report frequently.
You should look over your credit report often to make sure what is reported on there is in accordance to your purchases and line of credit. If any looks suspicious, you should contact your credit card company or the credit bureau immediately. The earlier the crime is detected, the better the outcome.
In conclusion, identity theft is not a victim-less crime and to be a victim of the crime can leave you in a world of trouble that is difficult to get out. Make sure to adhere to the ways of keeping your identity YOUR IDENTITY. If you suspect that your identity has been stolen, do not hesitate to report findings to your credit bureau.