Afraid that you might be a victim of identity theft? Identity theft and fraud are very common; there are 11 million new victims each year. You can become a victim of identity theft any day of the week and in the most conniving ways. Eating at a fancy restaurant and the waiter comes to the table with a small device to swipe your card and accept your payment right there. Would it surprise you to know that he may be making an extra copy for himself? Getting gas at a local station? When you run your card through the reader, you might be paying for more than just to fill up your tank. Crooks have already figured out how to supplement their income by installing a fake card reader inside the real one. This allows them to steal your credit card information and use it later to purchase new surfboards in Costa Rica or skis in Canada. Worried about the guy behind you at the ATM? Do you know what a credit card skimmer is? That’s a good thing, but you should also be worried about the person in his car a block away from the coffee shop where you regularly have lunch and order things online. Their wi-fi may not be secure enough to protect your computer from computer savvy crooks who have figured out how to steal the information from the air. It might sound a little far-fetched to you, but it isn’t. I.D. theft is as common as water these days and almost as hard to pin down. How do you stop yourself from being a victim of identity theft?
Is there anything I can do to protect myself from being a victim of identity theft?
There is something called Identity Theft Security which can be purchased from providers such as Life Lock. These companies regularly patrol your credit reports and advise and alert you of anything that looks wrong to them. They can also prevent other people from opening credit in your name. Some of these companies are legitimate, and some are just another way for a crook to steal your information. You should investigate any company thoroughly before signing up and giving them your proprietary information. Know that there are crooks everywhere and that they will work overtime to get your information so that they can use it and not have to pay for items that they purchase. EMV chips help protect against identity theft. You can also ask your credit card company to put an alert on your card to call you whenever there is any unusual activity such as a charge from London when you live in Texas. You can also have them alert you when a charge of a certain amount is made to the card, or the card reaches a certain balance.
What to Do if You are a Victim of Identity Theft?
What do you do if your identity is stolen and you are a victim of identity theft? First of all, notify all of your creditors that you have had a breach and to put a unique code on your account that must be used before allowing someone to charge on it. Then notify the police department in your jurisdiction. Also, inform the police department where the fraud took place. If someone charged items to your credit card in Buenos Aires and you live in Maine and have never been there, the police there need to be on the lookout, too. Insist on filing a police report even if they tell you that there is little that they can do. Police departments do not routinely investigate identity theft cases unless there have already been reports of a ring of thefts in a particular area. You may be the first victim of identity theft to file a report. There may be another victim of identity theft filing at a later date. When you submit your report tell the police person who handles your case that you intend to press charges on the person and that you will testify in court against the individual if caught. Refuse to make a deal. Insist on a court case in front of a jury. You may never get the money stolen from your account, but you will be exonerated of the charges, and the companies will have to take the loss (if credit card). It might surprise you to discover that certain levels of identity theft through credit card are not going to easily be forgiven by the credit card company even though you did not make the charge.
Identity theft is considered a “Victimless Crime” and police departments usually do not spend much time trying to solve the crime. Unfortunately, YOU are the victim of identity theft, and it may be up to you to solve your case.
Many times identity theft is committed by a group from the local Post Office who knows when a person is out of town for a period. This group will check the mail of the people in their area; steal credit card information, credit card checks, and other financial items. They then sell this information to individuals in an area nearby… These people also have been known to use the stolen financial data to help fund terrorism. There is a credit thief behind every door. Your credit is likely to be taken by someone with whom you interact every day. It can be a service person in a store, a restaurant, a bar, a hair salon, your grounds keeper, even your landlord. If you are a victim of identity theft, it will affect your credit for months or years. You may never get your good credit back again. All of the work that will need to be done to repair your credit will have to be done by you. No one will be able to help you.
How to Protect Yourself from being a Victim of Identity Theft
- Never put your information into the hands of a “credit repair company” because there isn’t such a thing.
- Give as little information about yourself as possible when signing up for credit cards, financial accounts, providing information to doctor’s offices or hospitals. Even information that you put on your resume or job application can be used for identity theft.
- Check all credit card receipts that you sign to be certain you are not signing more than one.
- Always press the delete button on any credit card machine after your transaction has run. This will lessen the probability that it can be used twice.
- Do not use your computer for financial information such as bank accounts, stock accounts or bill paying in a public venue on a public wi-fi. Public wi-fi is not a secure connection, and someone could be monitoring your computer from a nearby parking lot.
- Shred all financial information before you put it in the trash. If you have a wood burning fireplace, a wood stove, or an outside fire pit, burn your financial mail after you are finished with it.
- Destroy all blank credit card checks immediately upon receipt if you do not intend to use them promptly.
Cut all old credit cards into many different sized pieces when your new card arrives and has been activated.
Identity theft is forever. Do not allow yourself to become a victim of identity theft.