December 7th, 2010
How to Avoid Becoming the Victim of Identity Theft
- Identity theft is a crime that occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. According to Larry Flick, CEO of Prudential Fox & Roach, identity theft is on the rise thanks to the increased occurrence of online financial transactions.
“Because a stolen identity enables criminals to default on loans, get driver’s licenses and other documents in your name, and even open new lines of credit, ID theft can ruin your good name, destroy your credit, and cost you dearly in time and money to get your affairs straightened out,” explains Flick.
While there are no fool-proof ways to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself. Flick recommends the following practical tips from The Federal Trade Commission:
- Shred statements and other documents containing personal information before discarding them.
- Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet, and keep it in a secure place at home.
- Never give out personal information or account numbers over the phone, the Internet or through the mail unless you know for certain whom you are dealing with.
- Be sure the anti-spyware/anti-virus software programs on your home computer are up to date – and do not click on links sent to you in unsolicited e-mails.
- Be alert to unexpected bills, bills that do not come in as expected, denials of credit for no apparent reason, and calls or letters about purchases you did not make
- Inspect your credit report annually – and put a “fraud alert” in place on Equifax, Experian and/or TransUnion the moment you suspect a problem.
- Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established in your name without your knowledge.
- File a police report to help with creditors who ask for proof that you may have been a victim.
“Be sure to report wrongdoings and any suspicious activity to the Federal Trade Commission,” advises Flick. “The FTC works with law enforcement to help investigate this type of fraud.”