Decades ago, if someone wanted to rob you blind, it was an up-close and intimate task. They’d either have to dare you face to face or perhaps break into your house or car to steal your possessions. Or maybe it would take the form of one of those bank robberies you still see in videos.
However, the modern-day thief is a high tech race and often makes identification theft his approved method for “getting the goods,” which makes this one of the fastest-growing crimes globally.
We all need to wake up and become more aware of this increasingly widespread problem. Now someone can get your personal information rather than robbing you to your face, giving them employment history, access to your credit and bank info, and other raw data that can be utilized for all sorts of crimes.
Every year, millions of victims fall prey to identity thieves. So, to better protect yourself, you must understand what identity theft is and what you can do to guard against it. Let’s explore.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft, the act of lifting someone’s personal information to use for illegal purposes, is a crime that can ruin your personal or business reputation, your credit rating, and, most assuredly, your peace of mind. Identity theft is also a crime that can be stopped. We can do many things to make it, at the very least, more challenging for thieves to steal our personal information.
Here are the ways
- Check your credit reports periodically. Many more trivial charges may never come to your awareness but will land on your credit report. Check your credit report thoroughly and note any accounts that you are sure don’t belong to you. When denied credit because of information in a credit report, you can ask for a complimentary copy of your credit report from the credit agency that issued the negative statement. Once a year, everyone has the right to demand a free copy of their credit report from any or all of the major credit bureaus.
- Watch out for imposters. Many scam experts attempt to pose as companies you do business with. They can contact you via email or over the phone, pretending to need you to verify your data. Your suspicion should be heightened if you are approached by a firm asking you for information they should already have. Before replying to the inquiries, you should reach the company and ask if the request is genuinely coming from them.
- Guard your sensitive information. The protection of your social security number should be extremely important to you. Your social security number is the master key that opens your identity. With it, thieves can access most anything in your name. Many government institutions and medical use your social security number as your account number. Most can give you an alternate number to use if you reveal to them that you don’t want your social security number used. You should only present your credit card or bank account numbers when you are buying something. These numbers could be used to empty your finances without your knowing about it. Also, it is always best to memorize your passwords and PINs. It is far too simple for someone to use these if they find them in your purse or wallet.
- Secure your personal information. Your offline world is filled with lots of paper with your personal information. Whether in your car, at the office, at college, or at home, you should do your best to guard sensitive data behind a lock. It is also best to send bill payments from a public mailbox or the post office itself instead of your home mailbox. Sometimes even incoming junk mail can contain actual personal information. To properly dispose of these, it may be useful to have a paper shredder.
- Get off shady credit marketing lists. Credit bureaus collect marketing lists for pre-approved propositions of credit cards. These mailing lists are a pool for identity thieves and scammers. They can use these to apply for a credit card in your name and change the mailing address, so it is sent to them instead.
- Protect yourself when online as well. The first thing to know is that social media is not a reliable method of communication. Do not send sensitive information like credit card numbers, social security numbers, or financial account numbers on social media. Do not send your intimate photos. When partnering with a website, look for signs that tell if it is a secure website or not. Even when getting a message that states your information is encrypted, you still want to look for data regarding how secure your information is kept by the company that will now have it.
Stay up-to-date on data regarding identity theft and scams. The more knowledge you have, the harder it is for the criminals.