Identity Theft is becoming an ever increasing problem in the United States.
As with any other crime, it is difficult to know when one will become a victim. What you can do is to take basic precautions to decrease the chances that your family will become victim.
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The following are 12 Top Strategies that we believe you should already be implementing in your financial life. They are not in any specific order of importance.
- Buy a Shredder machine. Use it regularly to destroy any documents that show your social security number, last name, driver license number, checking/savings account number and any document that shows data you deem to be personal and confidential. Some machines can be inexpensive, and it’s a great way to avoid anyone from having unauthorized access to it.
- When doing transaction online, make sure that the website you are sending information to, is encrypted. Encryption works very well, and it is extremely difficult, almost impossible to break. The way you can be sure that the web site is encrypted is that it will show a “lock” usually on the lower right corner of the browser you are using. Another way is that the address bar on your internet browser will start with https:// which means http “secure”.
- Be reluctant to providing personal information to companies that initiate a call to you. If you initiate the call, most companies will require some type of personal information to identify you or to establish a relationship with you. But if you receive a call from any company requesting information, you should avoid giving it.
- Frequently check the address of any website you are visiting. You can see that address on the browser address bar. For example, now you see in that bar an address that starts with http://www.premierconsumer.org. If that address changes it might be you are being redirected to a different website, and you should check with the original company to see if that is the way they have it set up. Also, if you receive an email that claims to be from a bank, and the address on the browser shows a different company name, it is most likely someone trying to steal your information.
- Be reluctant to providing personal information on emails and instant messenger chat conversations. Emails and chat conversations are not secure. Besides, banks and companies already have your personal information, and there is really no need for them to send you an email requesting things that they already have. Not even if they say they are having a problem with your account. If you receive any email as the one mentioned before, you should contact your bank or the company by phone immediately.
- If you suspect your identity might have been compromised. You can request the 3 major credit bureaus to put a note on your credit report, basically alerting companies that your identity might have been stolen, and making it more difficult for anybody to open accounts under your name.
- You can also request credit bureaus to add a note on your credit profile to let companies know that you should not be approved for any “instant credit” offers at stores. Instead, let them approve you by mail, people might take advantage of how fast “instant credit “is, and use that against you.
- Monitor your credit report frequently. If you have been denied credit, you have the right to write to the credit report bureau that appears on the rejection letter, and have them send you a free credit report. Many companies like Experian offer services that monitor your credit report for changes. Please call us for details at 1.800.296.4950 for more information.
- As much as possible you and your family members should not have joint credit card accounts. Our experience shows that in some instances family members and “friends” will take advantage and use your credit cards fraudulently. Even when serving as a co signer on a credit card, you will be held liable for any expenses the person you co signed for, did not pay. If you really wish or need to help them, just give them the money.
- When downloading software, be careful of viruses and spy ware. Viruses and spy ware are programs that many times you will download even without noticing, they can capture even the passwords you type that look like this *******. Those programs can track your internet usage and steal personal information from you. They can record your chat conversations, emails, and mostly anything you type and view on your computer.
- When sending US mail, do it at the post office itself. It is more secure that leaving it at US mail boxes that can be tampered with.
As with any crime, use common sense, and please call us at 1.800.296.4950 if you have any specific issues we could advise you on.