Apprisen Financial Advocates Offers Tips to Avoid Identity Theft in Today’s High-Tech World

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Even though computers and the Internet have changed our world, consumers need to be reminded that not everyone they come in contact with online is trustworthy.

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It’s much better to protect yourself against ID theft, than to pick up the pieces after being victimized.

Apprisen Financial Advocates is a national nonprofit consumer credit counseling agency that provides personal financial counseling and financial education. Even though computers and the Internet have changed our world, consumers need to be reminded that not everyone they come in contact with online is trustworthy. The growth of social networking sites is undeniable, with the most popular being Facebook with over 500 million users worldwide. Forty percent of Facebook users are people under the age of 25.

There are many benefits to signing up for sites like Facebook. Social media sites allow you to do the obvious things such as keep in touch with your family and friends, or even find a new job. As much fun as this can be, users need to be aware of the potential risks associated with being too forthcoming on a public site.

“When you innocently mention that you’re going to be out of town, that’s potentially telling the world when your house will be vacant,” said Michael S. Kappas, President and CEO, Apprisen Financial Advocates. “Even listing daily activities can let strangers know your routine and put you at risk. In other words, if you’re too revealing, you’re asking for trouble, as predators often cruise these sites hoping to steal your personal information for their gain. With just a few clicks of the mouse, they can learn a lot about you.”

Consumers unwittingly make it very easy for someone to steal their identity online, as all someone needs is your name, date of birth, and a few other pieces of information that are usually readily available on your social media account, and they’re well on their way. Another reason that the thieves love gaining access to your personal information through social media sites is that it’s perfectly legal. Often doing a simple Internet search using a person’s name pulls up their Facebook account, and that can be Pandora’s Box for the crook.

What happens next? A recent survey by Consumer Reports revealed that fifty-two percent of adult users of social networks such as Facebook and MySpace have posted risky personal information online. If your identity is stolen, it can take 30 hours or more and hundreds of dollars to restore your good name and good credit. Twenty-four percent of the complaints associated with ID theft received by the Federal Trade Commission were from individuals between the ages of 20-29, alarmingly similar to the demographic of those who frequent social media sites.

Apprisen recommends the following precautions to take when utilizing social networks:

Be smart about what you reveal about yourself or your family, less is better.

Make sure everyone in the family understands what is acceptable to share online and what’s off-limits.

Realize that information a youngster innocently provides on a social networking site can compromise the entire family.

Be selective when you allow access to your site. Keeping your circle small, including only those that you personally know can safeguard you.

Look at everything you post through the eyes of the crook. See if you could piece together who you are and where you live. Even clever screen names can often be decoded by a thief.

Consider having anyone in your household who goes online attend a workshop on identity theft protection. The NFCC and Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) are hosting Protect Your Identity Week October 17-23. There will be events across the country dedicated to helping you protect your personal information. To find an event near you, go to http://www.ProtectYourIDNow.org and click on the map. While on the site, take the Identity Theft Risk Check, a self-assessment of how at risk you are for ID theft.

“It’s much better to protect yourself against ID theft, than to pick up the pieces after being victimized,” continued Michael S. Kappas. For more information on protecting your identity or information on what to do if you are a victim, call 800.355.2227

Apprisen Financial Advocates, a national nonprofit credit counseling agency, has been helping consumers manage their finances and get out of debt since 1955. Certified counselors provide money management, debt counseling, HUD-approved housing counseling and financial education. Services are provided in-person in 10 states through local offices and nationally by phone or via the Internet. The oldest nonprofit credit counseling agency in the country, Apprisen Financial Advocates is known in its local communities as Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS). Accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), Apprisen is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and AICCCA. Information is available 24/7. Call 800-355-2227 or visit our website, http://www.apprisen.com.

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Kathy Virgallito
Apprisen
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