The common expression, ‘mind your own business’ seems to be losing its popularity in these tough times as some people just can’t help but mind someone else’s. Identity theft is a crime committed by using someone’s identity for personal gains, mostly monetary. It’s done in many different ways like using someone else’s credit card details for online purchases or by simple duplication of a person’s IDs.
Identity theft is a rising crime that has affected more than 10 million victims to date according to the Javelin Strategy & Research Center. Among the many different classifications of identity theft, credit card fraud cases remain at the top end of the spectrum with 26% of the reported cases. This may be attributed to the fact that most of our day-to-day transactions involve exposing our credit card details to merchants who can easily create copies for their personal use.
It may be tough to totally eliminate these risks but we can do something to make it hard for crooks to get into our personal business.
1. Be vigilant in dealing with professionals over the phone. Some crooks may try to call you and pretend they are representing your bank and will ask account-related questions for their own gains. Others may try to entice you with promises of a prize after giving them your bank or credit card details. Ask them instead to send something in writing and if they do this, carefully review the paperwork for easily noticeable hints of a scam.
2. On using the telephone to pass your financial account details, make sure that you choose a booth that is private enough and soundproof.
3. Always check your bank or credit card statements to spot suspected fraudulent activities. Immediately report any suspected irregularities to your financial institution before more damage can be done to your account.
4. Credit reports provide comprehensive information regarding all your financial accounts. If you suspect there has been or are ongoing unauthorized maneuvers on your account, immediately report it to either of the three major credit institutions such as:
- Equifax – Call (800) 525-6285 or write to P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374-0250.
- Experian – Call (888) EXPERIAN or (888) 397-3742, fax to (800) 301-7196, or write to P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013.
- Trans Union – Call (800) 680-7289 or write to P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634.
5. If in office premises, make it a habit to shred private documents after use as fraudulent crimes may happen from anywhere including the trash bin. At home, financial documents should also be taken care of by storing them in a safe place. Your mail should also be handled with care, especially if you’re planning to travel. You may ask a trusted friend or neighbor to take care of them for you or you may opt to have them held at your post office.
Victims of identity theft realize that more than the money stolen from them, the amount of valuable time they need to allot to clean their credit and to file all necessary complaints prove to be no less stressful. Taking care of your own identity means having a nose for suspicious transactions and knowing how to deal with it. It also means we should be responsible enough in taking good care of our own personal business.