10 Ways to Stay Away from Identity Theft

Avoid Lawbreakers From Ruining Your Finances

Written by Shelly Verma, contributing blogger

Lawbreakers at their finest

Mrs. Thompson is a widowed neighbour of mine. She is living a peaceful life, while saving moderately and earning a decent revenue. She says that we should always make sure we have sufficient funds to sustain throughout any possible future crisis. Interestingly, she always pays her bills on time and has never defaulted on her payments once. Except, all hell broke loose when she started getting bills four to five times the usual amount on a monthly basis. She was struggling with these huge bills and had to contact her credit card company to review her account statements. What she uncovered was alarming since somebody bought items like a 53 inch LED television from amazon.com using her identity.

After all, what does identify theft mean? It is the unauthorized use of your personal information by lawbreakers. This is theft in the form of illegal use of your name, address, birth date, social security number, access to your bank account or credit card and even getting a job using your identity. Astonishingly, criminals are using tools easily found on the Web that permits them to scout on the surfing habits of hundreds of thousands of innocent consumers.

Also, I heard a similar fraud story from my co-worker named Brady at the office. He told me that early this year, somebody got hold of his bank account information and opened a few new in-store charge accounts and was racking up considerable amounts in fraudulent charges. What is interesting is that Brady is known to be a discreet person who keeps his accounts in good order and is never negligent, yet he was a victim of identity theft.

It is no laughing matter, if you wake up early one morning and realize your bank statement clearly indicates some crooks are trying to eat up the funds you have diligently saved.

This threat is very real and we should all be taking steps to guard our identity and sensitive information. It is really alarming that some people are throwing their personal information away and a huge number of them are sharing sensitive information online.

As a result, I’ve provided some tips on how to better protect ourselves from Identity theft.

1. You should authenticate the identity of anybody enquiring about your personal information.

Do not divulge personal information too easily, especially if you receive any unfamiliar e-mails, strange calls or even if you won a good chunk of money. If you receive phone calls from utility firms or unexpected calls from the bank, then call back their support center to confirm their inquiries. You should avoid verifying accounts or credit cards details, unless you are aware about the company and know why they are contacting you. Always be vigilant of any emails and phone scams asking for your contributions, even if they emphasize to be a charity. Only donate to the charities you know, and visit their website to ensure their legitimacy.
[pullquote] This threat is very real and we should all be taking steps to guard our identity and sensitive information. [/pullquote]2. Burn your mail or shred everything.

It is very risky if you have the habit of throwing out letters, bills, credit card statements, ATM receipts or even medical statements. Always keep these receipts with you and never toss them in a public trash bin. When you are shopping, always place the receipts in your wallet rather than in the shopping bag. If you do not follow these simple rules, then you are basically giving the opportunity to lawbreakers to have access to your sensitive information through ‘’dumpster-diving’’, aka trash-picking. Crooks could use this sensitive information to take control of your identity or accounts and get your correspondences redirected. It is wise to invest in a personal shredder to dispose them off securely.

3. Wipe out all digital data.

If you plan on throwing away your personal computer or components such as the hard drive, make sure the data is entirely deleted and inaccessible. You should reformat the hard drive and delete any sensitive data since some crooks are technologically savvy masterminds and could access them otherwise. Trust me; retrieving the data for them will not be a big deal if you do not go the further mile in properly deleting the data. Also, there are special shredders specifically designed for shredding CD/DVD’s, so make use of them.
4. Look out for phishing scams.

All of us at some point in our lives have received e-mails that claim to be from companies requesting us to revise or update our account information. I strongly recommend that you do not respond to these e-mails unless you are sure of their authenticity. Also, you can always call the company headquarters and talk to a representative to accomplish the request sent by email.

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