Without question, the fastest-growing crime in America is identity theft. While I have not been the victim of identity theft per se, I did find a charge on one of my credit cards several moths ago for a service I had never purchased. I was able to get the charge removed but had to go through the hassle of getting a whole new card with a new number to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Do you watch your credit card and bank statements carefully? If not, you should. There are unscrupulous people here in the US and in places like Romania and Bulgaria who are making a great living stealing the identities of people just like you.
How to protect your identity
Identity theft can be one of the worst things to happen to a person. Just imagine. You open your bank statement one day or access it online and find that someone has basically stolen $5000 from you. This person may even have your Social Security Number, which means that he or she could create a whole new identity so that you would no longer be able to get new credit, a drivers license or even rent an apartment.
What to do to protect your identity
There are some things you can do on your own to help protect your identity. First, watch out for those people called “shoulder surfers.” These are people who will try to stand close enough to you at ATMs to see your pin numbers.
Be careful about your credit card receipts, especially because some credit card companies have stopped listing full account numbers and expiration dates. Make sure you put your charge slip copies in a safe place. Then destroy them when your credit card bills arrive.
Third, buy a shredder and shred everything, especially credit card receipts, bank statements, medical statements and offers for pre-approved credit cards. An identity thief can use any of this personal financial information to get a toehold into your life.
Last but not least, limit the number of credit cards you carry. The fewer cards you own, the easier it is to track them.
Credit monitoring services
If you want extra protection and don’t mind paying for it, you could sign up for one of the many credit monitoring services available. While there is no way to stop identity theft, there is a way to make sure that you learn about it very quickly. These credit monitoring services will watch your credit reports daily and alert you immediately if it looks as if someone has stolen your identify.
The sad fact of identity theft is that there is no way to know about it until it’s happened. However, if you follow the advice in this article or buy a credit monitoring service, you’ll at least know immediately if your identity has been stolen and can take action accordingly.