Identity Theft & Credit Card Fraud – How to Protect Yourself

Identity theft and credit card fraud can be a life changing event leaving a victim in financial ruins for years to come. Living in the age of technology where computers have become a part of everyday life we are at a heightened risk and in recent years, even some very large corporations have fallen victim to identity thieves.

While no one can be 100% protected against Identity theft and credit card fraud, it is in many cases a crime of opportunity. The personal information needed by identity thieves is captured with an individual almost randomly being one of the victims. With that said, there are numerous ways in which individuals can protect their information and reduce the chances of succumbing to identify theft and credit card fraud.

Protect Your Information

Small pieces of your identity, like a social security number, are a golden ticket to an identity thief and it is important that this information is secured rather than held in person.
When carrying a wallet or a purse be sure to limit what you carry, as even something as simple as a Medicare card can be used for identity theft. When discarding old checks or credit card offers always use a shredder and do not give a thief the chance to steal your information by simply going through your trash.

Beware of “Phishers”

“Phishing” is a technique used to steal information by pretending to be someone else, and is typically done through mass e-mailing. Do not open files from unknown senders as they may expose your computer to a virus or spyware type software that can monitor your activity and steal passwords and other sensitive information like credit card numbers entered when buying online.

A common tactic is to send e-mails that appear to be from trusted retailers or even a bank asking for you to click on a link and login to the site. The problem is the site isn’t the actual company, rather a front used to gather private information.  When e-mailed from your bank or a retailer instead of clicking on a link go to the company website directly in your browser, often the ‘issue’ you were being asked to address or the promotion offered won’t even exist.  Companies will almost never ask for personal information via e-mail, particularly banking information, so any e-mail received that asks for it will almost certainly be a scam.

Check Your Credit

Many people fall victim to credit card fraud and do not even know until they have been rejected for something as a result of having bad credit. Annually checking your credit rating with one of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) is strongly recommended. By law, you are entitled to a free report from each of these agencies once annually. A good strategy is to time your requests so you can receive a report every four months.

Use Strong Passwords and Security Questions

It is crucial to use strong and unique passwords for each of the online accounts you conduct business on. If you use a single password everywhere, you run the risk that if a thief does happen to get a hold of one of your passwords, all of the rest of your accounts will be at risk. Similarly, security questions should be used where available and you should select more complex questions (as you often have a choice).  Using your child’s name, when anyone could open your Facebook page and see your children’s names, is not a very safe security question.

 

These quick tips should help you reduce your exposure to credit card fraud and identity theft. However, if you have been a victim of identity theft, the first step is to remain calm and issue a fraud alert to one of the major credit reporting agencies. They will notify the other two credit reporting agencies and any creditor will take additional steps to verify your identity if new credit is applied for. Additionally, the local authorities should be notified.
By Jeffrey Glen

Copyrighted 2016. Content published with author's permission.

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