Asset Protection
 Identity theft: ARTICLE

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Stay Alert to Prevent Identity Thieves from Stealing Your Money or Identity
by Shane Flait (2012)

Thieves make money using identity information of other people. They’re out there finding ways to steal whatever ID information they can get from you. Elderly are often easy prey for them. Your best defense is to be aware of when your identity information is vulnerable to be stolen.

What is the identity information that thieves can use

Typical identity information that thieves can turn into money or benefits for themselves include Social Security numbers, credit and debit card numbers, password codes to ATMs and online accounts, your address, telephone number, and aspects about your life – i.e. parents’ full names and more.

Uses of stolen identity information

Thieves use the identity information of a person to access his money for their own use or take on the identity of someone. In the former case thieves actually gain access to a person’s bank accounts holding – such as through his ATM card info - or can make credit card purchases online, or receive your social security benefits. In the latter case, thieves create and access benefits that a person’s identity – and his identity information – gives him. This allows the thief to apply for a new social security card, credit cards, get hired as you and incur income taxes in your name…just to name a few. 

How thieves get your identity information

Thieves acquire identity information from you by a variety of procedures and ploys. They’re there wherever you place, through away, transfer, or simply give your identity-related information. So, they gain your information by stealing your wallet (for more than the money in it), raiding your rubbish cans or forwarding your mail to themselves, making phony telephone calls to you,  skimming your cards at phony ATMs – or just looking over your shoulder collecting information while you’re supplying information to your online social networking site, creating online phishing ploys where you’re enticed – often from deceptive emails to you - to give some of your information to phony websites.

Make use of these tips to avoid giving away your information to identity thieves

Carry only the credit cards you need in your wallet.  And, be sure to photocopy your cards with a record of the customer service phone numbers associated with your financial accounts so you can cancel stolen cards fast. Don’t carry your Social Security number in your wallet or purse. It gives anyone access to some of your personal information. Keep it in a protected place.

Never give any personal information about you or your Social Security number to anyone unless you’ve verified that they are trustworthy. This advice applies to sharing information over the phone, in a store or online. Always be suspicious of any solicitors that approach you – by email, online, at your door or by telephone.

Tear up any mail that contains personal information before your throw it into the rubbish can. Examples are pre-approved credit offers, bank statements or utility bills.

Today, everyone surfs the internet. But thieves use the internet too to steal ID information. They often collect information from unsuspecting “pop-ups”, surf unsecured networks, or hack into retail Web sites. So use a secured network and update your firewall protections on your computer. Severely limit personal information you post on networking web sites.

Check your bank, credit card and other financial account information, along with your credit score, once a year to reduce the risk of unauthorized charges or credit applications. Check your monthly statement carefully. If you see a suspicious charge, immediately contact your financial institution 

If you ever notice unauthorized purchases on your credit card or a new account opened in your name immediately contact one of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian or TransUnion — and ask that a “fraud alert” be placed on your record. They’re very good at tracking down fraudulent charges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shane Flait is a writer and educator