As you may know, identity theft has become America’s most favorite crime. Every day hundreds or even thousands of people have their identities stolen. Last year alone, 246,000 people filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission about ID theft. And that’s just the number who filed complaints. It’s estimated that the number of people who actually suffered identity theft was closer to 10 million. Plus, there’s the countless number of people who had data lost, stolen or put at risk by corporations whose financial records were hacked.
Keep you information safe and secure
How can you keep your financial information safe? First, be careful of how you use your debit card. Second, as one information security officer recently pointed out, people who use online banking should check their accounts daily. Identity thieves will first try a small transaction to test the debt card’s number to make sure it works and will then clean out your account.
Don’t let it out of your sight
Another expert on financial information security said that people should never give their credit card information or personal banking information to anyone unless they know for sure that the person is a legitimate resource. Also, never let your credit card out of sight. For example, when a server at a restaurant comes to take your card and bill, it’s not a good idea to let the card go out of your sight.
Keep your contacts current
It’s a good idea to keep your contacts current that are on file at your bank. The bank can then call you immediately on your landline or cell phone if it detects a sign of fraud. You should also be on the lookout for devices attached to automatic gas pumps or ATMs that could steal your card numbers. When you use an ATM, if it looks like it’s dirty or as if something was wrong, walk away. There could be a device attached to it that’s called a “skimmer.” If possible you should try to the same gas station or ATM every time so you could immediately spot any abnormality.
Watch those wireless hotspots
It might be easy and convenient to use your cell phone or laptop computer in one of those wireless hotspots such as a Starbucks, but it pays to be careful. There could be a person with a skimming device sitting across the room from you stealing your information. There are also devices that can pull data from the RFID chips that are embedded in some debit and credit cards. A thief can skim this information and then use it to make purchases.
The first line of defense
Most experts say that the first line of defense against identity theft is to make sure you change your password(s) frequently. This is without question the most effective and easiest way to avoid being victimized by computer-based identity theft.
There are a number of services that will help protect you from identity theft – for a price. Two of the most popular of these are LifeLock and IdentityGuard. However, neither of these can protect you from identity theft. What they can do is monitor your accounts and immediately send you an alert if it appears that someone is trying to steal your information. They both also offer a “service guarantee” but if you read these guarantees carefully, you’ll see that it’s only to pay for lawyers, investigators or other consultants “to help you recover.” In other words, they will help you recover from identity theft but will not reimburse you for any money you lose.
Think like a thief
In the final analysis, the best thing you can do is think like a thief. If you are always aware of what you’re doing, where you are and how you’re handling your financial information, it’s likely that you will never become a victim of identity theft.