Identity Theft – What can you do to protect yourself?

Identity Theft occurs so frequently that the Federal Bureau of Investigation cites it as "America’s fastest growing crime problem". According to the Federal Trade Commission, thieves steal and fraudulently use the names, addresses, Social Security Numbers, bank account information, credit card numbers and other personal information of some 12.6 million Americans each year. Learning about how thieves get your personal information is the first step toward protecting yourself from this devastating attack on your financial well-being.

The simplest method of Identity Theft involves stealing or finding your wallet, or digging through your trash to find receipts with you personal information. Identity Theft can also be as simple and easy as peering over someone’s shoulder as they use the ATM at the local bank.

What can you do? For one thing invest a few dollars in a shredder. You can get them for under $100. Any documents containing personal information, including old credit card receipts should go in the shredder after you are finished with them. When you are using your computer for a financial transaction make sure you are on a secure connection NOT a public network. If you are using your home WiFi network make sure the home network is password protected and don’t use the common passwords like 0123456789 or 9876543210. When you are at an ATM cover the keypad with your free hand when you type in your pin.

Phishing is one of the most widely publicized methods of Identity Theft. Phishers create a websites that look very similar to the site of a legitimate enterprise often coping it almost exactly, sending emails out to lure unsuspecting consumers to enter their personal data, which is then used by the thieves. No company will send you and email that asks you to reveal personal information or a link to their web site to enter personal information. These emails are often designed to scare you by saying there is a problem with your account so you need to respond immediately. If you are unsure call the company, the number is usually on the back of your credit card.

Also keep close track of your financial activity. Check on your bank account(s) regularly to see if there are any transactions you don’t recognize. Don’t wait for a statement to find the problem. The same is true for your credit cards, check the account regularly and if you see a problem call the card issuer immediately.

None of this is foolproof but it is like locking the door on your car, it will stop most potential thieves. One last thing be careful of small children who practice using your credit card online

#Consumer #ConsumerAdvoacy #IdentityTheft

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