This post is by our guest blogger: Jeff Rupp, President/CEO of Incred-A-Shred
Identity Theft is a rapidly growing crime. Every 3 seconds, someone’s identity is stolen. It is scary, it is real, and it is serious. Identity theft occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can and will cost you time and money. It can destroy your credit and ruin your good name. It is something that can occur to anyone, regardless of income level or social status. So, it is important that you do everything in your power to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft.
Here are some suggestions on ways to protect yourself:
- Don’t give out your personal information on the phone, through the mail, or the internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your computer.
- Protect your social security number. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check.
- Don’t use an obvious password like your birthdate, your mother’s maiden name or the last 4 digits of your Social Security card.
- Keep your personal information in a safe and secure place at home or at work, especially if you have a roommate, employ outside help or are having work done at your house or office.
- Shred financial documents and any paperwork with personal information
Be alert to signs that require your immediate attention:
- Unexpected credit cards of account statements
- Denials of credit for no reason
- Calls or letters about purchases you did not make
- Charges on your financial statements that you do not recognize
- Bills that do not arrive as expected
Defend against Identity theft as soon as you suspect it:
- Place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports, and review the reports carefully. This alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to existing accounts.
- Contact the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or charged without your okay.
- File a police report. This will help you correct your credit report and deal with creditors who may want proof of the crime.
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission.
Common Ways identity theft happens:
- Dumpster Diving. They rummage through trash looking for bills and other paper with your personal information on it.
- Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
- Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions, companies, or the government, and send email or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
- Hacking. They hack into your email or other online accounts to access your personal information, or into your company’s database to access its records.
- Old-Fashioned Stealing. They steal wallets, purses, mail, new checks, tax information, pre-approved credit offers. They steal personnel records from their employers, or bribe employees who have access.