Avoid Identity Theft and Fraud
Identity theft can be debilitating to you financially. It can ruin your credit and cause you to find it nearly impossible to make your monthly payments. Often times, it blindsides you, too. When you are in the midst of dealing with it, you may feel like there is no way out, and really, there are many problems in getting out of it. Therefore, it is best to avoid it if possible. It is not always possible, but there are steps to take to protect yourself in the long term.
Take action on Identity Theft through Life Lock or Equifax.
How to Spot Identity Theft
The first thing you need to do when it comes to avoiding identity theft is to know what it affects and how it can attack you, a seemingly normal person. There are numerous ways that identity theft can affect you without you knowing it, even for years. Here are some examples of what it is and how it can affect you.
- A person can contact you by email and claim they need you to follow a link in the email to visit a website to update your password. They may even imply that your account was hacked and use official company logos to do it. They steal your information when you log in and then wipe out your account.
- Skimming is a growing problem and it can happen in the blink of an eye. The individual uses a small, handheld device you may not even notice that can read and store the data from your credit card so they can use it later to pay for purchases. The key – anyone you give your card to, including waitresses, retailers and others, can easily use this device without you knowing anything about it.
- Someone can call you, pretend to be your financial institution or your credit card company, perhaps even someone from a telephone company, and ask for your information as verification. This is called pretexting. It can occur very quickly and you may not even have a clue. A call from an organization trying to help burned kids or for the fire fighters union could be a thief that is stealing your information.
- Dumpster diving is not as unheard of as you may think. Business and residential trash may be collected and then used to gather your personal information from documents you toss out. That credit card application you threw out may have just enough information on it to help the thief to apply for the card and to use your account.
- Stealing is still seen as one of the biggest causes of identity theft. Your card is stolen. Your wallet or purse is stolen. These are just a few of the things that people can take and use of yours that could end up costing you a lot of money.
How to Avoid Identity Theft
Now that you know how identity theft happens, the next step is to understand how to avoid it. Most people will find that these steps and tips just make good sense in the long term.
- Check your credit report. Be sure to check your credit report at least one time each year from each of the three credit bureaus. Check one every four months so you have more frequency in keeping an eye on it. Look for anything that is not yours on the report. In addition, ensure that any addresses really are yours.
- Keep your cards in your hand. Avoid handing over your credit cards to strangers, even those you think you can trust. It is best to swipe your own card whenever it is possible to do so.
- Use a purse that is hard to steal, such as one that you put over your chest. It is also a good idea to carry your wallet in your front pants pocket rather than your back pockets.
- It is a good idea to be vigilant with all financial documents. Do not just throw them out but also shred them. Avoid providing any financial information to anyone you do not know.
- If someone calls your house or sends you an email asking for money, addresses or passwords, or any other information, avoid clicking on any links. Instead, go to the website on your own or call the company through a customer service number. This is not something any company will complain about if they are legitimate.
You can do many things to protect yourself, but what you should never do is to forget to be vigilant. If possible, move to a cash system of payment further to protect yourself.
Are You a Victim of Identity Theft?
If you feel that you may be a victim of identity theft, take steps now to stop the process. Here is what you need to do.
- Contact your lender as soon as you realize your lost any of your credit cards. This will automatically stop all activity on those cards.
- If you become a victim of identity theft using a credit card, chances are good you will not be responsible for charges, but the same does not apply to debit cards.
- Contact the credit bureaus to dispute any inaccurate information on your credit file. This is critical to protect your credit long term.
- Contact your local police department next. The police department can help you to track down the problem. In nearly all cases, the police force will have a special unit that deals with these types of claims.
- You can also contact the FTC to report the claim. This is particularly important if a company regarding the sale of your personal information has abused you in any way.
The key is to take action. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to get action and to get through the process. In many cases, these thieves can wipe out your financial future in a matter of minutes if you are not careful. Be vigilant about your financial records to be sure you can spot a potential theft sooner rather than later.