Identity theft is often in the news, but there are a lot of misconceptions swirling around about how to best protect yourself.
While some identity thieves focus on getting our credit cards and maxing them out before you even realize they’re missing, an increasing number are using one piece of information about you–– often a credit card number––in order to steal your entire identity.
Though many folks worry about keeping their credit card information secure when shopping online, the top methods that identity thieves use to steal personal data are still low-tech, according to Justin Yurek, president of ID Watchdog, an identity theft monitoring firm. “Watch your personal documents, be careful to whom you give out your data over the phone, and be careful of mail theft,” he says.
A recent study by Javelin Strategy & Research found that of the 9.9 million identity-theft cases reported in 2008––resulting in a loss of $48 billion––online theft only accounted for 11 percent of incidents. Stolen wallets, checkbooks, and credit and debit cards made up almost half.
No one is immune to identity theft, but armed with a little knowledge about how identity thieves operate, you can stay one step ahead of them.
1. Thieves don’t need your credit card number in order to steal it.Conversely, they don’t need your credit card in order to steal your identity. Sometimes all they need is one piece of information about you and they can easily gain access to the rest. As a result, says Heather Wells, recovery manager at ID Experts, today it’s crucial to lock up important documents at home. “Secure birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports, in a safe deposit box or in a safe hidden at home,” she says.“And that includes credit cards when not in use.”2. The nonfinancial personal information you reveal online is often enough for a thief. Beware of seemingly innocent personal facts a thief could use to steal your identity. For example, never list your full birthdate on Facebook or any other social-networking websites. Don’t list your home address or telephone number on any website you use for personal or business reasons, including jobsearch sites.
3. Be careful with your snail mail. “Follow your billing cycles closely,” says Lucy Duni, vice president of consumer education at TrueCredit.com. “If a credit card or other bill hasn’t arrived, it may mean that an identity thief has gotten hold of your account and changed your billing address.”
“Stolen checks can be altered and cashed by fraudsters,” says Duni. And never place outgoing mail in your post office box or door slot for a carrier to pick up. Anyone can grab it and get your credit card numbers and other…….
Read the full article on The Village Financial Resource Center’s “Help With Money” website.