Identity Theft and Credit Card Security
Dumpsters, garbage cans, stolen wallets or purses, and vulnerable computer networks are all playgrounds for the identity thief. The average person does very little to protect their sensitive identity and credit information from criminals, which is why identity theft is one of the fasting growing crimes in America. To avoid becoming a statistic, you need to be proactive and take charge of your identity.
If you’re like most Internet users, you probably have numerous accounts for online banking, e-mail, e-commerce, news sites and more. And like most web users you probably use the same password for all of these sites. This is extremely risky; if a criminal gets hold of that information they have unrestricted access to everything. Protect yourself by using a separate password for your accounts, even if you have to store the information offline in a safe.
The Internet is an easy way for a criminal to find sensitive information about you virtually without a trace of evidence. Protect your personal and credit information by encrypting your computer files with special software. Try not to divulge too much information online by avoiding online surveys, giving fake personal information in unimportant online forms, avoiding automatic logins and credit-card auto saves, and of course always logging out when finishing with the Internet.
Social security numbers are a vital for you to protect because should a criminal get hold of yours, they could apply for credit cards in your name. Keep your social security number protected by not listing it on your driver’s license, not using it as your college ID, and not using it as a log-in id for online banking or similar Web sites.
At work or home you may want to consider investing in a fire safe to protect important files, unused credit cards, data CDs/DVDs and other sensitive materials. Quality fire safes can be purchased at many reputable home-improvement centers or major retails stores and should be stored bolted to the floor or wall in an inconspicuous location. It goes without saying that you should never leave the keys lying around or share the combination with anyone. You might also want to consider other off site storage options such as a safe-deposit box at the bank.
To make sure you are on top of your identity and credit security, you should check your credit report at least once or twice a year to look for fraud, incorrect information or any other errors. All Americans are eligible for one free credit report per year so take advantage of this privilege at http://www.annualcreditreport.com
To protect your credit card information, you could consider signing up with a credit-monitoring service such as Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These services alert you when changes or additions are made to your credit report to reduce your credit damage and help you recover more quickly. Cheaper measures to protect your credit card include: including photo ID on your credit card, taking the time to shred your documents when you are finished with them, and opting out of ‘convenience checks’ and credit card offers being sent to you in the mail. This will prevent your information lurking in trashcans for a thief to collect.
Should you suffer the misfortune of having your credit card information stolen, take these steps to resolve it as quickly as possible in order to put a stop to further damage and speed up the recovery process. You should immediately put a fraud alert on your credit reports by contacting a credit bureau. Afterwards you should call your bank and credit card company to close your accounts then follow this up with a letter. Once you have stopped the damage, you can continue to file a police report. After you have experienced credit-card fraud, there is no doubt that you will understand how upsetting an experience it can be. If you would like to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission you can provide helpful information to enable them to fight future identity theft more effectively. Contact them through http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft.