Rise of Identity Theft and How to Protect Yourself

Ask the average person to name a crime and most will start with murder, theft or some other popular act depicted in the movies. While these crimes are still prevalent, a different kind of crime is having its day, both in the United States and internationally. The United States Department of Justice separates identity theft into three categories, including unauthorized use of existing credit cards, unauthorized use of other existing accounts and the misuse of sensitive personal information to open new credit accounts or commit other crimes. According to that same source, around seven percent of American households had at least one victim of this modern form of crime.

Though young people are most likely to be victimized by identity theft because of their willingness to use modern forms of technology, this crime does not discriminate according to age. Everyone from teenagers to the elderly can be victimized by those would steal their information to take their money. These crimes produce disturbing consequences for those victims, as it can take years to recover money and it can require a tremendous amount of effort to restore their credit. With that in mind, the best strategy for fighting identity theft is to prevent it in the first place. How can you do that without compromising your ability to operate in the modern world?

A good identity theft protection service may be a good idea
The market has risen to the challenge of protecting people from the dangers of identity crime. Good companies have developed programs that both monitor and alert customers when some sort of illicit activity takes place with their information. Has your credit card information been used in six stores across the country from where you live? Was your Social Security number used to open four new credit cards in a one-week span? These are things that might trigger the monitoring company to put a lock on your information. Under this scenario, the company would contact you to determine whether you authorized the transactions. The idea, of course, is to stop the identity thief before he can do any more damage.

There are many positives to using these resources. The downside is that the monitoring company might put a stop on your credit cards when you have been the one using them. This can be somewhat time-consuming, and it might frustrate those people who don’t like to deal financial issues on a day to day basis. The small financial cost and convenience cost is well worth it for those who are serious about their safety.

Keep some information absolutely private
Some of the best protection methods are what you might describe as “old school.” If you are wondering how to protect yourself from identity theft, you might have to evaluate how you are sharing your information and whom you are sharing it with. Some things, like your credit card numbers and your Social Security information, should remain absolutely private.

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This means that you should not carry around your Social Security card in your wallet on a day-to-day basis. It also means that you should keep that information locked in a safe at your home. That way, it won’t get lost and it’s less likely to be stolen in a home invasion. You should also be careful about disclosing that information over the phone or on the Internet. Be sure that the company asking for the information is legitimate, and if you have any doubts, you should take some time to investigate.

Only shop at encrypted transactions for sales
One of the best rules for online living is only to shop at those websites with proper security features. When you use a credit card on a website without proper encryption, you are sending out sensitive information over an unprotected wire. Even if the website itself is not planning on stealing your information, hackers and identity thieves could steal the information at any point during the transfer. How do you know what a website has proper encryption technology? You can usually look at the bottom of the site’s home page. There, they will display logo to announce their security measures.

Close long-standing financialaccounts that you don’t use
Most people won’t have to worry about those credit and debit accounts that they constantly use. If someone were to steal your debit card number, for instance, you would likely notice the dent in your balance. The bigger threat comes when a person steals the information on an account that you rarely use or check. If you don’t have a legitimate purpose for one of these accounts or cards, then you should take measures to properly close them. This will make it much less likely that some criminal will run up a big balance when you’re not looking.

Stay vigilant and stay skeptical
No one wants to look over their shoulder for 12 hours of the day. Modern identity theft, though, is a problem that requires a vigilant solution. Individuals who want to protect themselves from identity theft should be skeptical of people who want their information on the phone, in person or on the Internet. You should also stay on top of your own financial life, noting balances on a daily basis. If you take this attitude and you heed the suggestions listed above, you have a much better chance of avoiding the identity theft trap that catches so many Americans each year.

For some real help with protecting your identity and preventing identity theft check out Identity Theft Deterrent.

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