Identity theft is a serious crime which happens when someone uses your personal information without your consent to commit fraud or other crimes. Personal information includes things like your name and Social Security, or credit card numbers. ID theft can happen anywhere, at any time. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to lower your risk of becoming a victim.
1. Always verify who you are speaking to over the phone: Remember, banks or creditors will never call you randomly and ask you to verify your credit card numbers or social security numbers. This only happens when you are the person calling trying to get information about your account. Always search online directly through your bank or creditor’s website to obtain their official contact numbers. Never dial a number from a third-party. To be even safer, go directly to the branch to solve any issues you may have.
2. Handle financial documents with care: If you need to throw away documents with your personal information, including credit card offers which are mailed to your home, be sure to shred them first. Certain documents need to be retained for tax purposes. In this case, you should store them in a locked or secure compartment.
3. Beware of unsecured Wi-Fi: Online banking may be convenient, but also very dangerous when connected to a public internet source such as a coffee shop or mall. To be secure, always have a security password connected to your home Wi-Fi network to be sure there is no one fishing around.
4. Monitor credit and bank accounts closely: By checking your credit and bank accounts on a day to day basis, you can limit the damage to your accounts. If you let days or even weeks go by before you notice suspicious activity on your account, it can be more stressful and harder to reverse. Don’t forget thieves could be making small purchases for long periods of time, hoping to remain undetected. Be sure to take a look through your monthly statements and call your bank right away if you notice something unfamiliar.
Protect yourself from identity theft this holiday season and you will have more time for celebration, and less time spent on the phone with bankers and creditors.
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