The very mention of identity theft strikes fear into the hearts of many. But what exactly is identity theft? How can identity theft happen, and what can you do to prevent it? Read on for the answers to these questions.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information to acquire something in your name, be it a loan, a credit card or even a driver’s license. Most commonly, identity thieves use your information to take out a line of credit that they do not intend to pay back. Even though you are not responsible for paying back the credit, this can be disastrous for your credit rating if not handled properly.
A common misconception is that most identity theft occurs online. While “Phishing” scams and hijacking unsecured, unencrypted data can result in identity theft, the majority of stolen identity problems occur through more conventional means. Identity theft scams can catch you when you least expect it. Someone may memorize your debit or credit card numbers when you leave the card in public view for too long, call you pretending to be a government official or credit agent to get your information over the phone or steal your passport. Identity occurs in many ways, and the worst thing about identity theft is that you often do not know it has happened until a great deal of damage has been done.
Be very careful with your personal information. Identity theft protection should always be on your mind. Don’t give out passwords, account numbers or other private data over the phone, particularly if someone has called you asking for such data. Similarly, only provide such sensitive data online if you have initiated the transaction, if you have verified you are transmitting over a secure link, and if you are responding directly to a website that you have arrived at by typing the website URL into the browser, not through a link in an e-mail or instant message.
Another way to thwart identity thieves is enroll in a credit monitoring service. This service allows you to access monthly copy of your credit report and alerts you as soon as there is any activity on your credit report. Upon receiving the alert, you can report the infraction instantly and ensure that the loan is declined. You may even catch the thief. Regular credit reports are a good way to make sure there is no inaccurate information in your credit history, such as reports of open lines of credit that you never took out, or late payments that you know you paid on time. If you are concerned about identity thieves, you owe it to yourself to protect your financial information with regular credit reports and alerts.