Identity Theft Protection

Avoid Being a Victim

In this time of plastic and digital commerce, identity theft protection is essential for every individual – even if you do most of your business offline. Guarding against would-be crooks who want to takeover your identity to get your money may be a humorous storyline for Hollywood, but if it happens to you, it is no laughing matter. Identity fraud is a serious crime.

Identity theft occurs when a thief steals some key piece of your personal information. The information stolen may be a credit card or other account number, a name, address, Social Security number, mother's maiden name, and/or passwords.

With the appropriate information, a criminal can open accounts or purchase items in your name, rent or purchase homes, or otherwise perform financial activities. The list of ways a thief may use personal information is limited only by the crook's imagination.

Therefore, here are some important tips to help with identity theft protection.

Some ways to do this include:

  • Take the mail to the post office instead of leaving it in your mail box for a carrier
  • Do not recycle paper that has your name or any other identifying information; instead, these items should be shredded
  • Review your credit reports for free at annualcreditreport.com
  • Never provide financial information of any kind to someone who contacts you. Unless you initiate the call, assume that the caller is a villain who wants to do you harm.
protect yourself from identity theft

Online, protect your personal information by:

  • Never clicking on links in suspect emails (if your email provider has placed something in your spam folder, it's likely there for a reason)
  • Ignoring emails that suggest you will be harmed if you do not do something, such as provide or verify information
  • Going straight to your financial institution's website instead of clicking on links in an email.

Criminals often try to obtain information through a process called phishing. These phishing emails are slyly written to tempt you to offer up passwords, important numbers, and other confidential information. The emails looks like they come from a legitimate company or a government agency. Usually the email says there is a problem that you must fix.

Frequently, it seems very urgent, and the phishing email might use words such as "immediate attention" or "contact us right away" in order to get you to click on a fake link. If you click on the link, you will go to a false website that might look legitimate, but it is phony.

Sometimes the link really does take you to the proper website but then you may get a pop-up window asking for your personal information. Usually the phony email or website says that you must update your information and verify your identity. If you provide this information, your identity may be stolen.

Once a crook has your information, he or she can damage your personal reputation and your financial history. Unfortunately, sometimes this is not easy to fix and may take years to set right. Some homeowners' insurance policies offer identity theft protection, as an addition to your policy, for a nominal fee. Check with your insurance agent if you are concerned.

If you think you are a victim of identity theft, you should call your financial institution immediately. Most likely, you will have to close your accounts and set up new ones. Customer service representatives at your financial institutions can help you with this.

You may also want to contact your local police department; some institutions require a police file number to legitimize a claim. You should also place fraud alerts on your credit files, which you can do through Equifax (www.equifax.com), Experian (www.experian.com) or TransUnion (www.transunion.com).

Taking the right steps for identity theft protection is not difficult to do. You just need to be informed and cautious to safeguard your personal and financial information.  For more tips, click here: Prevent Identity Theft and see the additional articles below.

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