Identity theft has become a major problem. Identity theft is what happens when a criminal makes use of other people’s personal information so that they can replicate a person’s identity. There are various types of misuse and/or abuse of a victim’s identity; these include the use of someone’s credit card, creating debt in another’s name, mail fraud and various other types of scams, schemes and fraud.
Different countries have different laws to combat identity theft and protect consumers. There can be no guarantee that a person will never become a victim. However, there are various procedures one can use in order to minimize this risk. This article describes 14 procedures to help you prevent or minimize this from happening. These are:
1. Firstly, one needs to be aware that identity theft can happen at any time or place and most probably when you are least expecting it. One should always manage one’s personal information with caution.
2. Find out from entities that normally collect personal information – such as banks, doctor’s office, etc. – about their security procedures when handling one’s personal information. Ask who has access to it, how they dispose of it and if it will be shared or passed on to third parties.
3. Inquire about other means of identification when one is required to give out one’s identity number. Only pass this on when it is completely necessary.
4. If one finds that they have been compromised, they should report it to a law enforcement agency, especially if there is a specialist agency dedicated to this type of work. This also helps such an agency as they can generate further research into the problem. Oftentimes, seeking the services of a lawyer might go a long way in guiding you through the process of recovering from a compromised situation.
5. Keep on your person only the identification and bank cards that one needs to use. Keep all other such items in a safe or secured place, such as a safety deposit box.
6. Refrain from dispersing one’s personal information through e-mail, the internet, post or telephone unless one is absolutely certain that one can trust the person who you are communicating with. With regards to on-line communication, if one feels unsure about sharing information, check the organization’s website (by typing its URL in the address line) as they often post alerts on their sites about scams that misuse their name. Identity thieves most often pose as representatives of official-sounding entities, such as internet-service providers or banks. They are crafty and will try various methods to gain your personal information.
7. When in doubt, telephone an organization’s Customer Service Department using the telephone number provided in the telephone directory or on an account statement to determine whether there is foul play involved.
8. Do not write you passwords for bank cards or telephone and bank account on these things themselves. If you must write these down, keep them apart and in a safe place.
9. When you choose a pin or password, do not use certain obvious choices as criminals try these first. Such choices include: birth date, consecutive numbers, your mother’s maiden name and other types of common combinations.
10. One should watch your billing cycles, i.e. when you bills and accounts arrive. If one goes missing, an identity thief may have stolen it.
11. There are many scams that involve promotions or prizes, often relating to arbitrary things or competitions that one did not enter. These try to obtain your personal information or ask for an administrative fee in order to be released.
12. If one’s job involves changing into different clothes while working, don’t leave your wallet or other personal information in your personal clothes if they are not locked up. Ensure that they are kept in a safe place.
13. Obtain a credit report from a relevant credit bureau.
14. There is no prince or princess in a distant land that needs your help retrieving money from a mystery bank or a stranger professing their endless love for you; these are scams that want your personal information or money.
Other resources you might use to learn more include: