Identity theft is a frightening thing to contemplate. Identity theft has become increasingly widespread with the explosion of the Internet, as well as increasing credit card use. It can negatively affect your credit report and cause huge headaches. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to prevent identity theft.
- Guard your Social Security number! Never give out your Social Security number unless you need to. If someone asks for your Social Security number, always ask why they need it and if you can give any other identifying information instead, or just the first four digits. Sometimes you will have to give out your number, but you can minimize this. Never keep your Social Security card in your purse or wallet, and make sure you shred any information with your Social Security number on it. Social Security numbers make you an easy target for identity theft.
- Never give out your Social Security number to someone who calls you. If someone calls you, they could be who they say they are, or they could be trying to defraud you. It is much better to get a phone number and call them back if you have any doubts, or call back and request a supervisor. Similarly, never give out your account numbers or your Social Security number on email; it just isn't secure enough.
- Invest in a paper shredder. Never throw away copies of credit card bills, loan applications, bank statements, receipts, or any other papers with your personal information without first shredding them. You'd be amazed what sort of personal information can be found in someone's trash, making identity theft easy.
- Change PINs and passwords frequently. Don't use your birth date or a family member's name for passwords, as that is easy for people to guess. In addition, change your passwords frequently to avoid anyone else getting access to your account. Obviously, never write a password or PIN on the credit or debit card!
- Check your credit rating. Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax are the three national credit reporting agencies in the US, and each is required to provide one free credit check and year per person upon request. Get into a habit of checking your credit report for any discrepancies - the sooner you find a mistake, the easier it is to take care of!
- Check your credit card statements carefully. Take the extra few minutes each month to actually read your credit card statement. If you find evidence of fraudulent activity, call customer service immediately and speak with someone in the fraud department. Make sure you get a letter from the credit card company stating that you did not incur these charges.
- Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately. By doing this, your account can be closed, making sure that the thief is not able to charge anything to you.
- File a police report in case of identity theft. If you do suspect that you have been the victim of identity theft, file a police report. You will need this to prove identity theft to creditors.
Identity theft is scary, but many credit card companies are taking measure to ensure more safety for their customers. By using common sense, you can make sure that you are not one of the statistics!