Do you ever worry about having your identity stolen by online cyber-criminals? Maybe you haven’t thought that much about it, or don’t know anyone that has had a problem with it yet. However identity theft and online theft are actually the fastest growing white collar crimes. Here are some of the scary facts about identity theft protection.
Don’t be fooled, there are many ways for a thief to steal your identity. In most cases, theft of your identity is to actually setup a new identity with the same information, only a different address in another city or even another state. This way the person can open up credit cards and lines of credit using your information, and sending the bills to their new phony address. In some cases, online cyber-criminals just want your credit card information so they can rack up some quick purchases. By the time you realize you’ve been had, it’s usually too late. And naturally they don’t pay the bill when it comes due, so it hurts your credit and your financial future.
Don’t see this as the only reason online predators will steal your identity. There is also an underground market for American social security cards in this country, which are then purchased by illegal aliens so they can find work. The numbers are hard to pinpoint exactly, but it’s estimated that many thousands of Americans have their social security numbers used for illegal purposes every year. In many cases, the number will be posted on an online chat room and stolen by many different people, used over and over for cyber-crime. This is most people’s worst nightmare, and it happens more each year.
So what can be done to stop or at least minimize your chances of having your identity stolen by cyber-criminals? Take steps to protect yourself online by changing passwords frequently and making them more secure, especially credit card and banking logins. Be proactive by checking your financial accounts on at least a weekly basis, to see if any charges have been made you aren’t aware of or haven’t authorized. It may sound obvious, but never throw away anything with your bank information, credit card number, or social security number on it unless it is shredded completely by a high-end shredder (ones that make confetti, not just strips of paper).
Protecting yourself online also means never trust any email that asks for personal information. Remember, your bank and credit card companies will never ask you for this information, especially your password. If there is ever a problem with your bank account, they will send it through the mail directly. Phishing scams have become almost a daily occurrence, even a joke to many. The prince of Nigeria wants to send you money? Don’t believe it, and don’t believe anybody that wants to send you a check after you simply forfeit your credit card number for “security purposes”. These scams sound silly and stupid, but every year people fall for them. They get more sophisticated in nature every year too, so just be aware.
Of course for the ultimate in peace of mind, get protection and monitoring of your information by a company that specializes in this service. Many banks have a program that you can sign up for called “identity insurance” which basically bails you out after the fact. That’s better than nothing, but wouldn’t you rather have a company monitoring your information 24/7 to make sure it doesn’t get stolen? There are several companies such as Lifelock that provide this service for a reasonable charge. Perhaps it’s time to secure your information before it’s too late. Don’t let identity theft services ruin your credit history!