Identity theft is a very serious crime. If you’re a victim of this crime it may have serious consequences. It could mean difficulty in clearing your credit records, getting into debt, losing a lot of money and even getting in trouble with the law. You will also have difficulty obtaining new jobs or apartments. This is because employers and landlords usually check the credit records of their applicants.
This crime occurs when a thief gets information about your credit card numbers, name, address, social security number, and other personal information that should be kept confidential. After they obtained your personal information, they will usually make purchases, open bank accounts, apply for loans, apply for new credit cards, get government benefits, and forge checks in your name.
If you’re a victim, there are ways to solve this problem; you can report the crime to concerned authorities and you can apply for identity theft insurance. Many companies are offering insurance for people to protect their personal information. You can apply for this insurance as an option for homeowner’s insurance policy. However, having identity theft insurance does not prevent identity theft; it will only help you recover if in any case you have been a victim of this crime.
People who become victims of identity theft or identity fraud usually do not figure out how their personal information was acquired by the thief. So, it is wise that you should be careful about your personal information.
The best way to prevent this crime is to be careful with your personal information. You first have to know how criminals obtain your personal information.
Thieves obtain personal information in many simple ways. Here are some examples:
- By stealing your wallet containing credit cards, and other personal information.
- By going through your garbage for items containing personal information.
- By providing personal information online through email or registration based websites.
- By pretending to be a new creditor to obtain your credit report.
- By eavesdropping on your phone calls or looking over your shoulder as you use your personal information.
- By promising prizes or awards by contacting you by email that would require you to provide personal and financial information.
Here are some transactions that also create risk:
- Online banking
- Online purchases
- Storing personal information in your computer
- Using your social security information for identification purposes.
However, this does not necessarily mean that you should avoid these transactions. It means that you should be careful when giving away your personal and financial information.
Being conscious on how you use your personal and financial information can prevent completion of identity theft.
Here are some tips for safeguarding your personal and financial information:
• Memorize your social security number
• Memorize your PIN numbers
• Don’t use easy to guess passwords, like your birthday or your mother’s maiden name
• Secure your computer by using firewall software and always update your computer security to safeguard your computer from spywares.
• Confirm if the website URL that is requesting your personal information is authentic or legitimate.
• Beware of emails, especially with attachments, belonging to someone you don’t know. Emails like these contain viruses or spywares that can easily be installed in your computer and can send your personal information stored in your computer to thieves.
• Websites that ask for personal information should be secure. A secured website usually has URL that starts with “https://” with the “s” meaning secured.
• Beware of telephone inquiries asking you to give your personal information, unless you contacted them.
• If you lost your credit card, report it immediately to concerned authorities. It could have been stolen by identity thieves.
• Get your mails as soon as it is delivered.
• Do not discard bank, credit card or any other transaction receipts in public areas. Someone might obtain these information by dumpster diving.
These are some of the ways to safeguard your personal information. It is important that you should be aware of what you do to items containing your personal and financial information. Practicing these methods will surely minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.
Perforate or shred important documents containing personal information such as old credit cards, used checks and identity cards. You’ll never know when they would fall into wrong hands.
If you suspect that something is wrong, report it immediately to authorities. Be sure that you have a proof that you have reported such incident by keeping it in black and white