How to Protect yourself from Falling Victim to Identity Theft

Identity theft is becoming more and more prevalent. As more people use credit cards to shop, the chances of having one’s identity stolen increase. Identity theft is a crime in which someone takes your personal information and uses it posing as you. They then use the information to gain access to your credit card accounts, bank accounts, etc. You can then be stuck with possibly huge debts to pay that you never made, not to mention wrecking your credit and giving you a poor credit score.

The number one thing to remember is to always check your statements monthly to be sure that they are accurate. If you run into something that you know you did not make or do, contact the credit card company or bank immediately.

Get a copy of your credit report regularly. Check to be sure that there are no names on it that you do not recognize. Often they will list maiden names or past married names, even variations of your name. Be sure that the names listed are names you have used or do use. Also check to be sure there are no new accounts listed that you did not open.

There are steps and precautions that you can take to help prevent this from happening to you. These are not difficult but they do take commitment to help protect yourself.

Always keep your PIN numbers safe. Never keep them with your credit cards, and never make it obvious which cards they go to. Disguising them as a telephone number is just one way to make it less obvious what they are.

If using your debit card at the store, never let anyone see the number you enter and never give it to anyone. When withdrawing cash from an ATM machine, cover the area or shield it so that no one standing near you can see what you are entering.

While most websites are safe to use your credit card with, be sure the site is a secure encrypted site. Secure sites will have a tiny graphic of what looks like a lock in a corner. Installing a good firewall and anti-virus will help prevent problems online.

If you get a notice in the mail that you have been pre-approved for a credit card or line of credit, shred it or tear it up before disposing of the piece of mail. There are people who will actually dig through your trash in search of your personal information. Shred any mail you get that has any type of personal info on it.

Be wary of phone calls claiming to be from a credit card company, even if it is from one that you use. Often scammers will call pretending to be from a credit card company, claiming they need to update their files and they will ask you for your personal information. Legitimate companies already have your information and they have no need to call you to verify it or ask to update their files. Do not give out your information to anyone who calls you on the phone. They are most likely out to steal your information and use it for illegal purposes.

Also be wary of emails claiming you have won this or that. You cannot win something you never entered. Most of the time, the scammer is asking for money and/or wanting you to click on a link to give your information to have the imaginary prize sent to you. When you click on the link and go to their web page and enter your details, they have a program that captures all of it to use for their illegal purposes.

Keep a check on your mail. If you normally get mail everyday or most everyday and you see a sudden stop in service, contact your local post office immediately. Scammers are known to change the mailing address of someone and receive the mail themselves, going through it and obtaining credit card account numbers, etc.

If something sounds to good to be true, chances are it is. Remember to check our credit report on a regular basis, be careful with your PIN numbers, shred mail with personal information on it, be careful with emails and clinking on links in them, and always be sure that there is an encryption lock on any web page where you do shopping.

Using these precautions and safety measures should ensure that you are not a victim of identity theft.