Millions of dollars a year are lost to identity theft. Also, victims spend countless hours and untold frustration to fix their credit reports, which could take years. By following a few simple steps you can learn how to avoid identity theft.
Stealing Your Identity
According to the Federal Trade Commission there are 5 basic ways your identity can get stolen:
- Dumpster Diving- Thieves will look through your trash searching for receipts, bills, banks statements or any other information with your personal information on it.
- Credit Card Skimming- A technologically savvy person using a special recording device will steal your credit or debit number when you card is being processed.
- Phishing- The thief sends an email pretending to be an official company and request personal information.
- Address Change- Criminals actually change the address to your credit cards so they will get the bills and from there can steal the account information.
- Theft- Finally, lifting a wallet or purse snatching is another popular way to steal an identity. Thieves will also steal records from an employer or have an employee steal personal information for them.
Avoid Identity Theft: It is a Living Hell
So why should you follow the steps on how to avoid identity theft? Simply to prevent the nightmare that happens should your identity be stolen. Here is a true case of identity theft. Bill had his social security number and personal information stolen. His first indication someone had stolen his identity was a phone call from a company asking if he had charged thousands of dollars to his credit card while visiting Washington DC and if he had asked for replacement cards to be sent to his new address in New York. Of course, none of this was true.
A couple of months later, a different credit card company called and asked if Bill had charged over $4,000 and asked for new cards to be sent to New York. Bill got a copy of his credit report and found that several different businesses and credit card companies had reviewed his credit history. Bill placed a fraud alert on his credit report and contacted the Social Security Administration to report his ID had been stolen. No one called back to investigate.
A few months later, a credit card company called him because he was late on a $1000 payment. He had never applied for this credit card. Needless to say, despite the fraud alert, credit was still being issued to this criminal. Years later, Bill is still trying to correct his credit file. He has been denied car loans, credit cards and was turned down for a job because of his poor credit history. Of course, just like the rest of us, he thought this would never happen to him.
How to Avoid Identity Theft in Public
The best piece of identification a thief can steal is your social security card. Guard your number well. Do not keep your social security card in your wallet or purse. Instead, keep it in a secure location in your home. Never provide your social security number to someone over a cell phone or an unsecured website. When filling in an application, find out if your social security number is absolutely necessary.
Another item that thieves like to steal is credit cards. By stealing a wallet or purse, thieves have access to credit cards. Therefore, keep your credit cards at home in a secure location unless you plan to use them. Credit card numbers are also easily stolen through receipts, online hackers, billing statements and electronic devices. Try and stick to using only one or two credit cards so if your information gets stolen, it is easier to cancel your cards.
How to Avoid Identity Theft in Your Home
Try and keep all-important papers in a locked safe in your home or a safety deposit box at your local bank. Any time you receive personal information in the mail, shred it before throwing it out. Bank statements, pre-approved credit cards, credit card statements, mortgage statements and any other piece of mail containing personal information should also be shredded. Also, shred any computer print outs that contain personal information as this too could be stolen from a thief going through your garbage.
Identity theft was caused 74% of the time by email and 28.9% of the time from a website. Never respond to any email with personal information. If you wish to make a purchase online, do not provide your credit card information to a retail website unless they have a secured payment page.
By following these few simple steps on how to avoid identity theft, you will significantly cut down the odds that your identity will be stolen. Remember, such a terrible crime can take years to overcome and the cost to you and your family is infinite.