The Common Man’s Guide To Identity Theft Prevention
Wondering why identity theft prevention is so important? Well, what will you do if your banker calls you to inform that the entire money from your savings account has been withdrawn? Or, what if somebody gets his hands on your Social Security Number, opens several financial accounts and obtains heavy loans under your name? These are examples of identity theft. If you don’t take precautionary measures, your personal information such as credit card number, SSN, bank ID and password may get into wrong hands; and criminals will commit fraud or felony at your expense.
Many a times, people don’t even know that they have fallen victims to identity theft until they are caught in trouble. So, it is important to know the tricks used by thieves to steal your identity and how you can avoid falling a victim. Every year, approximately 9 million people fall victims to ID theft, according to Federal Trade Commission.
7 Ways to Identity Theft Prevention
1. Beware of Shoulder Surfers
You go to the ATM, but don’t realize that someone right behind you is standing a little closer than they should be. You are completely unaware of it, but that person might be taking a photo of your debit card, or worse, recording a video when you enter the pin number. That’s shoulder surfing. Ensure that you have blocked others’ view with your body the next time you visit an ATM.
2. Don’t Give Your Password To Anybody
I am talking about social engineering tricks. Sometimes, a criminal calls you and gives false assurance that they are from the technical support, and they need your password to resolve an issue. They may also add that your password will not be shared with anybody.
When somebody talks like that on the phone, you feel glad to share your password with a stranger, thinking that you are helping a co-worker or the organization. Later you realize that the helpful gesture has landed you into a big trouble.
3. Keep a Watch on Important Documents
Many thieves still use the age old technique of stealing your wallet. There may be important documents such as driver’s license, SSN, insurance card, etc. Sometimes, they also attack your mailbox to get your personal information.
It’s good not to carry your Social Security Card in your wallet unless necessary. You should shred all the papers that carry your financial and personal information before dumping them. You think those documents have now become useless, others don’t. Another way is to keep track of your credit report.
4. Synthetic Identity Theft
Here goes the high tech heist. We are well aware that the first three digits of your SSN refer to your birthplace, the next two digits hint on your birthday, and thieves can guess the remaining four digits using statistical tools.
The criminals don’t specifically target your Social Security Number, but the trouble brews when the SSN they randomly decode unfortunately happens to be yours. Now they add a fake name to your SSN and make a new ID. This way, the criminals can borrow money from banks using your Social Security Number with a fake name. You may not be aware of all this while it’s happening.
The issue comes into limelight much later because debt collectors usually search a borrower using their SSN, instead of the name. They will approach you to get their money back that was borrowed using your SSN with a different name. The debt collectors may force you to pay the debt you are not responsible for.
You must be vigilant that your Social Security Number is not associated with any other name. So, try to occasionally check your credit score using your SSN instead of name.
5. Be Smart on the Web
Nowadays, hackers are using several tricks to obtain your personal information without leaving their comfort zone. Sometimes, the hackers put a “mirror” website that looks exactly like a merchant website. Then they send you an e-mail that seems to be from the original merchant website. The e-mail contains a link and it requests you to log in or place an order using the given link. If you do that, they get your credit card number, ID and password. So, you should always visit the original website by manually typing the web address.
Another tip, get a firewall if your computer doesn’t already have one.
6. Don’t Fall Prey to Telephone Scams
You get a telephone call, and your heart starts pounding when the caller congratulates you on winning a big fat sum of money. He further adds that you just need to make a small payment using your credit card as shipping fee. Don’t! You won’t have to pay anybody if you have really won a prize. Or, ask that person to deduct the shipping fee from your prize money and send the remaining sum to you. Well, the latter is just for fun.
Consider registering your phone number to the ‘National Do Not Call Registry‘ (1-888-382-1222).
We don’t even care when handing over our debit/credit cards to the attendants at restaurants or shopping places. Are you sure that your card is in safe hands? The criminal-minded employees take an image of the card or memorize the card number. You then sign on the credit card receipt without even realizing that your credit card number and signature are already into someone else’s hands.
It’s better to give the credit card directly to the cashier when making payments. Many people own a disposable credit card with limited spending amounts. It is useful only until the limit is reached.
Hey, can you add some more tips to this list? What are YOU doing to prevent identity theft?