Many sources for Identity Theft are out of your control. Even if you carefully choose the companies with which you do business, because of the increased reliance on technology, even reputable companies are experiencing privacy breaches. But you can control some potential sources of ID theft and reduce your chances of becoming a victim. Here are some ways:
If you get phone calls or emails asking for any type of personal information, politely decline. Instead, look up the company or charitable organization's telephone number or website and contact them directly to make sure the inquiry is legitimate.
Military personnel are often the targets of thieves because their deployment is often publically announced and they cannot closely monitor their credit. Contact the three credit rating agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) to place an alert that prevents credit activity in your absence.
Divorce can be a contentious time, so take precautions by quickly separating accounts, closing lines of credit, changing passwords and closely monitoring your credit score for any unexpected changes.
As sad as it is, a surprising percentage of ID theft comes from people the victim knows-sometimes even his or her family members. Be sure to keep your personal and account information under lock and key, consider a locking mailbox and use a shredder when discarding old financial papers and bills.
When filling out your online profile, avoid providing critical personal info, such as your marital status, your maiden name, your birth date or address. Also, don't accept "friend" invitations from people you don't know-they could be a "bot" designed to access your personal information and your friends' information. Be skeptical of online polls and quizzes, which often collect data to provide to an undisclosed third party.
Generally, a credit report is not started on a person until they become old enough to need credit. But, fraudsters take advantage of this: using birth announcements to open up fraudulent accounts that can go undetected for years. If you get a credit card solicitation in your child's name, call the credit reporting bureaus to see if a credit report has been opened up in his or her name. If it has, clear up the fraud and ask for a freeze to be put in place until your child is old enough to need it.
If you don't already, start paying attention to your accounts. Look at them weekly to make sure all charges are legitimate and be sure to order the free credit report that the three major credit reporting bureaus-Experian, Equifax and TransUnion-are legally obligated to provide to you. Most financial institutions will forgive charges if you can demonstrate that they were fraudulent, but there is usually a time limit when you can ask for this.
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