Identity theft isn’t simply limited to account fraud, where someone steals your credit card information and uses it to make purchases. If your identity is stolen, criminals can use your social security number to do various things such as get a job, rent a property, or take out a loan. These would all be done in your name. It’s even possible for criminals to file tax returns in your name and collect any tax rebates that you are owed.
It’s easy to not realize that your identity has been stolen for several months, as many people don’t review their finances with a fine-toothed comb, so to speak. Victims of identity theft usually receive a tip-off at some point, such as a call from a collection agency who the victim has no association with whatsoever. People receiving such tip-offs should act immediately and take the necessary steps to eradicate identity theft.
However, this blog is more concerned with fraud prevention in the first place. So, what can you do to decrease your chances of having your identity stolen at all?
The best method of prevention is ultimately surveillance. Be sure to thoroughly comb through your bills and bank statements every month, and investigate any payments or transactions that appear suspicious or unfamiliar to you. You should also frequently review your credit reports, looking for data about spending that you don’t recognize. Some bureaus offer a service known as a “credit monitoring service” that notifies you of any drastic and unexpected changes in your credit report. It’s also worth checking your personal details on your credit reports from the 3 main credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) as a fraudster may have created an account in your name at one of these bureaus, but may have listed a different address, for example.
When it comes to prevention in your everyday life, there are many steps you can take to decrease the likelihood that a fraudster will get their hands on your personal and financial information. Consider leaving surplus credit cards, social security cards and PIN numbers at home, especially if you don’t need them. Accidentally dropping one of these (or exposing them for too long) could lead to fraud.
You should also consider getting a locking mailbox at home, as this makes it harder for criminals to access letters with your personal and financial information on them. Shredding documents with sensitive information on them is also a brilliant idea, so long as they are not necessary for anything.
When it comes to the internet, you should only enter sensitive personal data and credit card numbers into trusted, secure websites. On most modern internet browsers, secure websites have a green padlock (or a similar variation of this) displayed next to their URL address if they are safe to use. If you’re a social media user, it is also highly advisable to not display too much sensitive personal information on your profile, and you should really consider making your profile “private” rather than “public”.