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The Key To Identity Theft Prevention Is Preparation

In Business, Economy, Education, Opinion, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Technology, Uncategorized on June 19, 2012 at 7:35 am

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

Apart from locks and security systems, one of the most basic things we can do to keep our homes and families secure is to take steps to prevent identity theft. When the bad guys get hold of critical private information it is not hard for them to start using your information to their benefit.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Identity theft is the act of using personally identifying information, like name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.

The crime of identity theft may be perpetrated in various ways, from renting an apartment to opening a credit card. The thefts may actually go unnoticed for some time, often until the victim notes some kind of anomaly in his or her bank statement or credit report. Sometimes the victims do not find out until they are contacted by a debt collecting service.

So what can you do to prevent identity theft? Probably the single most effective weapon against this type of crime is knowledge. Knowledge of the methods used by these criminals to steal your information as well as a better awareness of your own records and personal financial information can help you beat many forms of this crime.

One thing you can do is to closely monitor your personal information, such as credit reports and monthly bills, to uncover any problems as soon as possible. Identity thieves depend on the inaction of their victims. Unless the total on a bill is outrageously high, often people just pay it, without scrutinizing the contents.

Another preventative measure against this kind of crime is to be mindful of where your old paperwork goes when it is thrown away. When disposing of any paperwork containing personal information, be sure to shred the documents completely – especially medical files, checks, and credit card statements.

Most people get credit card offers in the mail on a regular basis and just toss them into the trash. This is also something that could lead to an identity theft problem. Criminals will often scour trash for these papers and open credit cards in your name using those documents.

Also, be sure when buying online to use only secured websites and ask them about their security before buying anything if it seems questionable. If you notice anything suspicious on any credit reports, bank statements, or other critical documents, contact the creditor or company as soon as possible.

For those who enjoy making online purchases on a regular basis, create a ‘dummy’ email address at Yahoo or Gmail specifically to be used for these transactions. Retailers often sell email and other contact information to marketing companies which then flood inboxes with junk mail. Some of the incoming messages may come from illegitimate sellers using personal information to obtain passwords and credit card information. Using a different email address allows better control over incoming junk mail and limits the chances of clicking on a link that might inadvertently open the door to an identity thief.

If you have already been plagued by this kind of criminal action, you are not alone. First, contact the authorities. Most police departments now have an identity theft division or someone designated to help with this kind of crime.

Be ready! Keep, readily available, a complete list of all credit cards, online accounts, checking accounts, and so on, including any PIN numbers, passwords and customer service contact information. If something should happen, you can shut down these accounts quickly before more damage is done.

Stay diligent and continue to monitor your private information closely for several months. There is no way to really say how long the effects of identity theft can last.For more information on how to prevent identity theft or what to do if you think you may have been a victim, visit the Federal Trade Commission website at http://www.ftc.gov.

 

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