No matter where you look, listen or watch today, someone is warning you about Identity Theft. It is one of the fastest growing crimes, made even worse by today’s economic conditions. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that over nine million people have their identities stolen every year.
ID theft can have serious consequences. Possible fall out to victims include denied loans, arrest for crime you did not commit, loss of job opportunities, lost time and money spent repairing the damage.
Here are 5 tips on how to protect yourself from this crime:
1) Know you own Credit Situation – Be sure of your own information so you can spot fraudulent behavior quickly. You can obtain your free credit report from all three (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax) of the major credit agencies buy going to http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ or calling 877-322-8228. You can verify all the information and make any corrections needed. Then stay on top of your situation by reviewing all financial account and billing statements very closely. Report suspicious activity immediately.
2) Protect your "Hard copy" information – Destroy all documents with personal information, including pre-approved offers, before discarding. Put all mail in US Postal collection boxes; do not leave mail in you mailbox overnight.
3) Protect you "Electronic" information – Utilize anti-virus software and firewalls. Do not us personal information for electronic ids or passwords (i.e. birth date, social security numbers, phone numbers, etc). Do not respond to spam or unsolicited emails. Be sure websites are trusted and secure before entering personal and financial data.
4) Subscribe to some type of credit monitoring service - Make sure you are checking your credit situation and receiving updates regularly.
5) Carry Identity-theft insurance. The coverage provides reimbursement for expenses resulting from the crime, such as phone bills, lost wages, notary and certified mailing costs and attorney fees. It is inexpensive and may be endorsed to your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies.
Do not take your identity or credit situation for granted. This is definitely a situation where a little prevention can go a long way.
Have a safe and Happy 4th of July! Please do not forget what this holiday is about and the people fighting for it!