Identity theft is a very real threat for those who aren't making an effort to protect themselves
Baltimore, MD (PRWEB) October 20, 2008 -
While many consumers tend to associate identity theft with things like online shopping, most identity theft actually happens in a low-tech manner (often over the telephone or through mail transactions) according to the 2008 Identity Fraud Survey Report released by Javelin Strategy and Research (the longest-running study of identity fraud in the U.S.). While identity theft is on an overall decline, this low-tech identity theft is actually on the rise. The study reports a total of 8.1 million victims of ID theft in the latest survey, demonstrating that it's a valid concern for U.S. consumers.
"Identity theft is a very real threat for those who aren't making an effort to protect themselves," says CareOne Credit Counseling Services Spokesperson Clarky Davis. "These identity thieves access various forms of personal information, like credit card numbers and social security numbers, and they can run up debt in the victim's name. No one should have to worry about a third party taking over their credit card or causing other financial trouble, which often isn't even discovered until several months after it happens. Our tips are designed to help people be more proactive about stopping identity theft before it has a chance to happen - in this case, awareness really can go a long way."
Agencies providing CareOne Credit Counseling Services have accumulated a "tip jar" full of FreedomPointers, which include tips on preventing identity fraud as well as some information on debt consolidation. Some simple ideas to help consumers protect themselves include:
1. Shred Personal Documents - Any document containing personal information should be shred as soon as it's no longer needed. Never throw out things featuring account numbers, billing statements, credit card details, or even an address without shredding it first (preferably using a cross-cut shredder which cuts things down to confetti-sized pieces - these are much harder to reassemble than simple shredded strips). Even old credit cards should be shredded or cut up into small pieces before discarding.
2. Protect Social Security Numbers - Social security numbers are one of the most valuable pieces of information for an identity thief, so they require special attention when it comes to identity fraud prevention. Consumers should never carry their social security card with them, especially not in the same place as any other identifying information (including bills, a driver's license, or credit cards). Social security numbers also shouldn't be pre-printed on checks, written on any type of card, or given out over the telephone unless absolutely necessary (and only if the consumer made the call personally, as opposed to giving it out to someone calling them).
3. Keep Backup Credit Cards and Account Records - If someone's wallet is stolen, or if they suspect unauthorized activity on any type of account, one of the best things they can do is immediately contact the account or card issuer to put a hold on it. Make photocopies (or keep a computer record) of all account numbers and corresponding customer service contact information in order to close compromised accounts quickly to prevent the use of those cards or accounts if information is ever missing or stolen.
4. Check Credit Reports Regularly - At a bare minimum, all consumers should thoroughly check their credit reports at least once every year. When checking a credit report, they should make note of any information that doesn't match personal records, and get proof of the debt or activity. If rejected for a line of credit they felt they were qualified for, individuals should immediately get a copy of their reports from all three credit bureaus to make sure no unauthorized debts are reflected there.
5. Be Careful About Online Shopping - While most identity theft doesn't actually occur online, it's still a possibility, so shoppers should exercise caution. For example, a safer option is to stick to stores they're very familiar with (such as an online branch of a major retailer). At a bare minimum, always look for a small lock icon in the browser on any order page requesting billing or account information (which shows that the page is secured through encryption). Also carefully review Web addresses / URLs in the browser's address bar before submitting personal details (phishing sites are designed to look like familiar sites to get people to enter information, so it's important they verify they're actually on the site they think they are). One more thing they can do is avoid clicking on a commercial link in an email. Some emails sent by thieves are designed to look like they're coming from trusted companies. When a mouse pointer is placed over a link, the address generally displays near the bottom of the screen before clicking - people should always review that (if it's not directly pointing to the website of a trusted company, they shouldn't click it).
While identity theft can cause financial problems that can take a significant amount of time to clear up, preventing it can be much easier. A little bit of caution and being proactive in monitoring accounts can make the difference between financial security and a debt-ridden disaster.
About CareOne Credit Counseling Services
CareOne Credit Counseling Services is a service mark of 3C Incorporated. CareOne agencies are industry leaders committed to providing consumers with education and debt management services related to improving and maintaining their financial health. CareOne agencies have helped over 4.5 million people pay down debts through their solid relationships with over 220,000 creditors.
For more information about CareOne Credit Counseling Services, please visit http://www.CareOneCredit.com, or contact Clarky Davis at (410) 925-9769.
CareOne Credit Counseling Services
8930 Stanford Blvd.
Columbia, MD 21045
Phone: (410) 925-9769