Identity Theft: Minimize Your Risk
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. According to the Federal
Trade Commission, the number of identity theft incidents reached 9.9 million
in 2003. These crimes are estimated to have taken the average victim $500 and
30 hours to resolve.
From stolen Credit Cards to total identity kidnapping, these ugly and prevalent
crimes are hard to prevent and often difficult to correct. Although it is hard
to truly avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, there are a few ways you
can guard against this damaging crime.
1. Types of identity theft
Identity theft crimes range from purse snatchings to kingpin-style fraud rings.
The definition of identity theft is a crime in which an imposter obtains key
pieces of personal information, such as a Social Security number, in order to
impersonate someone else. Identity theft can occur when someone takes your mail,
steals your wallet or swipes your records from an institution. Most cases can
be resolved fairly easily if they are caught early. Creditors and banks usually
hold you responsible for only the first $50 of fraudulent charges. The most serious
cases of fraud can take several years and many resources to resolve.
2. Preventative measures
In this world of smiling strangers, it can be tough to keep your identity
safe. The best security policy is to be aware of fraud and cautious about where
you share personal information. Check your account statements carefully each
month and keep an eye out for suspicious activity on your credit report. A paper
shredder can also be a powerful tool for making sure personal information and
pre-approved credit offers don't end up in the wrong hands.
3. If your identity is stolen
If you suspect that your identity has been stolen, the first step is to get
all the facts about the damage. Become your own detective-search your credit
report and bank accounts for clues. Ask your creditors to immediately cancel
any fraudulent charges and consider putting a security alert on your credit report.
If the theft is serious, file a police report. If fraudulent records start to
show up on your credit report, send letters of dispute to the reporting agencies
with copies of documentation supporting your claim. Signing up with a credit
monitoring service will inform you of changes to your credit. It may take a while
to fully recover the security of your accounts, but it's crucial that you don't
let the fraud escalate.
Copyright Steven Presar
Here is a list of actions that you can take to avoid becoming a victim of identity
Criminals tend to pick ATMs without security cameras. Whenever possible, seek out ATMs with security cameras.(including ATMs located inside businesses, and at branch banks during business-hours), and try to plan your ATM visits to limit your after-hours ATM use. Be aware of your surroundings and use common sense, particularly at night. If you observe or sense suspicious persons or circumstances, don't use the ATM at that time. Have your ATM card ready and in your hand as you approach the ATM. Don't wait to get to the ATM to take your card out of your pocket, wallet or purse.