One of the fastest-growing crimes today is identity theft. Thousands of people the world over are becoming victims of this crime that barely leaves a paper trail. Because the systems are not yet sophisticated enough to expediently prevent it, credit card account owners who become victims of id theft can spend a lot of time and money just to regain their lives and credit scores. Thus, the rampant and hard-to-detect nature of the crime has left victims clamoring for a more effective method of identity theft protection.
What is identity theft?
Microsoft’s Safety and Security center defines “Identity Theft” as:
“Identity theft is any kind of fraud that results in the loss of personal data, such as passwords, user names, banking information, or credit card numbers.”
Now that you know what identity theft is, how do you effectively protect yourself from being a victim of a stolen identity?
1. Enroll your credit report under credit monitoring. Effective credit monitoring services will be able to report any instance of new accounts being opened using your identity details, as well as fraudulent transactions on your existing credit accounts. For the moment, there is no other fool-proof method of identity theft protection other than this.
2. Check your credit accounts daily, if you have the time to do so. Checking your accounts will not take more than a minute at the very least and five to 15 minutes at most. Former identity thief Dan DeFilippi advocates daily checking of one’s credit accounts as the best way to nip identity theft in the bud. With constant monitoring, a credit consumer will be able to report fraud as soon as it happens.
3. Be very vigilant with how your credit card gets used. One of the ways that identity theft or credit card fraud can be committed is when someone is able to “skim” the credit card account holder’s card. “Skimming” is when a credit card’s information gets lifted off of it via an electronic tool called a “skimmer.” Anyone with the tool can commit this type of identity theft. Some skimmers are fitted onto ATM machines, while other skimmers are more elaborate: criminals can actually station their own “ATM” machines that skim users’ information instead. Other skimmers are far more handy: these can fit into the palm of one’s hand and can easily be concealed in pockets. Waitstaff in Washington DC have been known to use these handheld skimmers. Because of that, Washington DC is now notorious as a hub of credit card theft via skimming.
4. Never give out your SSN. Neither should you keep your SS Card in a place where your relatives can see it. One of the most chilling demographics of ID theft perpetrators are actually the victims’ own family members. It may be a bitter pill to swallow, but you have to protect yourself from even your own family. Be even more wary of romantic partners, especially if the dating relationship is still in its earlier stages. A good number of ID theft victims had been victimized by their very own loved ones.
5. Keep the paper trail away from intruders. If you are a constant recipient of credit card offers, especially pre-approved credit cards, make it a point to be able to regularly collect your mail. Mail theft ranks high among the methods through which ID theft could be committed. If you can relocate your mailbox somewhere closer to your home, the better. There are mailboxes that are fitted directly on a house’s door. This is one option that could help you keep your mail safe. Another option would be to mount a CCTV camera near your mailbox, so you could see whether you’ve been a victim of mail theft. A CCTV camera will also be able to help you identify the thief if there ever was one.
6. Always be wary about phishing. Phishing is defined by Webopedia as “The act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft.”
Always check the URL of the financial site you are visiting or transacting with. Never click links to online banking or online financial tools like PayPal, Xoom.com and other similar websites, from your email. Always prefer to just type the web address on your browser. If you must use bookmarks, make sure you have the right URL. These measures will ensure that you are not actually visiting a phishing site.
7. Is it worth considering identity theft insurance? While it would definitely be a good idea to be compensated for all your costs and trouble if the need arises, learn the pros and cons of using identity theft insurance, which may help you decide whether it’s an insurance policy worth getting or not.
Note: If you can actually afford the payment, identity theft insurance may be worth looking into, since receiving ANY form of compensation is better than receiving nothing at all, in the event that you fall victim to identity theft.
Truth be told, there is no foolproof identity theft insurance at the moment. The best identity theft protection for now is constant vigilance, wisdom and good, old-fashioned prudence.