What Is Identity Theft? How Can I Prevent Identity Theft?

Identity theft is when someone uses some of your personal information (such as a name, date-of-birth or social security number) to commit fraud. The most common form of identity theft is credit card fraud. This identity thief will open a line of credit with a credit card company under your name, then maxes out this credit card. A less common tactic is to pretend to be you, call the credit card company and changing your mailing address. You won’t get bills from your existing credit card, so you don’t know that the identity thief is running up new bills on your old card. In either case, you don’t realise that identity theft has occurred until it is too late.

Another common form of identity theft is when someone uses your identity to set up a cell phone account, long distance account or home utilities account under you name. Once again, this fraud allows the person to have their bills charged to your credit card or bank account.

Yet another category of identity theft is when a person open up a bank account under your names. This allows the identity thief to make electronic fund transfers or write hot check under your name. Besides “check fraud”, identity thieves can commit “loan fraud” when new loans are taken out under your name.

Finally, there are a whole host of other identity fraud examples, though these happen less often. Fraud examples include employment fraud, where they get a job under you name, medical fraud, bankruptcy fraud, illegal immigration fraud and tax return fraud.

Check For Identity Theft

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As you see, the list of ways you can be harmed through identity theft just goes on-and-on. You can be working hard to provide for your family and scraping by, while someone else can steal your name & birth date or your social security number and be charging up huge bills at your expense. Here in the “information age”, it’s easier than ever to steal your identity. So you need to learn how to prevent identity theft. Here are several methods you can use to help avoid identity theft.

One good way to check for identity theft is to request your personal credit report at least once a year. You can go over your credit report and check the various applications you’ve made for credit. If you don’t remember applying for a credit card, store card or personal loan, then someone is trying to steal your identity. Also, if someone has stolen your identity, you’ll notice that you have new accounts or that bills are being sent to a different address than your own. Here are ways prevent identity theft through the mail, through your credit card information and through the internet.

Prevent Mail Identity Theft

Heare are some tips to help you prevent mail identity theft.

  • Collect your mail every day. Credit card thieves have been known to steal mail to get credit card bills (and information).
  • Inform your local postal carrier to hold your mail when you’re going to be out of town.
  • Refuse to take pre-approved credit card offers. You can opt-out from receiving these kinds of solicitations. Identity theft fraud artists have been known to open pre-approved credit accounts under your name.
  • Never write your credit card number on an envelope or other piece of paper.
  • Never write your social security number on an envelope or other piece of paper.

Preventing Credit Card Identity Theft

While there’s no foolproof method for preventing credit card identity theft there are steps you can take to minimize your risk which we’ve listed below.

  • If you lose your credit card, immediately inform your credit card company.
  • If you notice that your credit card bill is incorrect, immediately inform your credit card company.
  • Never give your credit card information to someone who called you. People call under all kinds of pretenses to get your credit card information. Unless you made the call, refuse to give out your credit card number.
  • Before throwing away credit card bills and other documents that show your credit card number, shred these bills and documents.
  • Check your credit card bill carefully every month. Go over it to see any discrepancies or suspicious inclusions.
  • Carry only the credit cards you intend on using. Don’t carry every credit card you have in your billfold. If you misplace your wallet or it’s stolen, someone will take every credit card you have in one swipe.
  • Hide credit cards that you don’t take with you. Home thieves will search for your plastic when they break in.
  • When you receive a new credit card, sign it immediately. This way, someone can’t steal your card and sign it themselves.
  • Anytime you make a purchase, make certain you get your credit card and the receipt from credit card purchases. Don’t trust that the cashier handed you the right receipt, either. Check the receipt before you leave.

Online Identity Theft

Online identity theft is a growing problem. Online fraud artists use all kinds of schemes and technologies to get your credit card information, so you have to be careful about giving out your information over the internet.

  • Don’t email your credit card information – ever.
  • Never email your social security information.
  • Before giving out your credit card numbers, make certain you are on the page you intended to be on. Some web pages have links or spyware that route you to their webpage instead of legitimate internet merchants. You can land on that page without noticing, and you’ll end up giving your credit card information to the scam artist.
  • Use “web secure” internet pages when ordering online. Web-secure pages have a “padlock” icon in the toolbar at the top of the page. This means that the page uses security software to prevent online identity fraud. If you don’t see the padlock, do not give out your credit card information.
  • When filling out an online credit card application and it asks you for your social security number, check to see that page has the secure web-page padlock on it, too.
  • Use personal firewall software and make certain this software is constantly updated. This means pop-ups and landing pages can be blocked.
  • Use anti-virus software and make certain this software is constantly updated. PCs without anti-virus protection will soon fill up with spyware and other computer viruses. Spyware lets someone track your internet activity and sometimes gives them access to the information you give out online, if you give out information on pages that aren’t web-secure.
  • Don’t respond to emails from people you do not recognize. Most of these are spam, but some of these are scam artists. In either case, unsolicited emails are not worth your time – and some can steal your identity.
  • If an email asks you for money in any fashion, by all means do not give out your credit information. One infamous scam is the “Nigerian prince” scam, where a person is asked to give money to help out a Nigerian prince. I know this sounds like I’m being funny, but if you receive an email from a Nigerian prince or if you’re informed via email that you just won the lottery or some other large prize, this is an online scam and an attempt to steal your identity. Do not fall for it.