Identity theft: How to protect yourself from falling a victim
The situation of identity theft can be very distressing for the victim. Your identity has been stolen and used by a scammer and you're now left with the job of clearing off the mess after him; your credit is shattered, you start receiving bills and often harassing calls from creditors.
Studies have shown that identity theft crimes are on rise. According to a recent survey,
- Around 10 million Americans were victim of identity theft in 2008.
- 1 in every 10 American consumers becomes a victim of identity theft of some form or the other.
- People at higher income bracket are twice more likely to fall prey to identity thieves.
- Most damages are done within the first week of stealing information.
- Identity theft crimes have cost the economy $45 billion in 2007.
However, identity theft can be prevented by adopting few simple techniques.
Guard your information: It is of utmost importance to protect your personal and sensitive information from others. Always assert the risk of disclosing sensitive information before giving it out. A bank employee might not ask you information like, your account details, PIN, social security number (SSN) and mother's maiden name as he may already have this information on file. Be apprehensive of anyone who would request such information on phone.
Monitor your credit reports: Many Americans are now using credit monitoring services to keep watch on their personal information. The credit monitoring company would keep sending you daily/ weekly alerts on your credit report. This way you can immediately come to know about activities which you haven't authorized and take steps accordingly.
You must also personally check all your financial reports periodically. You can receive your credit reports from Annualcreditreport.com.
Preserve your financial documents: You must maintain a file for your financial documents. It would help you in comparing past data with the present one. It'd also help you in identifying any wrong or false information in the report.
Carrying identity theft insurance: Carrying identity theft insurance can be another way to prevent losses arising from identity theft. Many may consider this as redundant but with the increase in the number of identity theft incidents, carrying identity theft insurance can be worthwhile.
Most of the victims of identity theft don't come to know about it till it's too late. Some of these crimes can go undetected for years. Though most of the banks and credit card companies now have adopted the 'zero liability policy', which frees the victim of identity theft from financial liabilities when his identity was used fraudulently if the incident is reported on time but you may become responsible for the entire amount if you fail to report it in a timely fashion. Moreover, you can be denied of credit, mortgage or even job till it is fixed.
It is time to take your identity seriously. Awareness is very important in fighting off these scammers. Hence, stay alert and stay protected!