One of the fastest growing crimes in this country is identity theft. Over 55 billion dollars a year are spent by businesses and consumers to counter its effects. Your credit and personal information can be accessed in many ways. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to lesson your exposure and avoid the trials of having your identity stolen.
The problem is starting to be taken more seriously by federal and state law enforcement agencies. Budget cuts however are hampering the ability to catch and prosecute these ever more sophisticated and clever thieves. It is more important than ever to vigilantly guard your own credit and personal information.
Watch out for these common strategies used by criminals to get a hold of your private information:
Stealing credit offers from your mail. Rerouting your mail with a change of address. Requesting a copy of your credit report while posing as a creditor. Robbing your purse or wallet. Dumpster diving. Infiltrating a computer that contains your credit data. Bogus telemarketing schemes and websites. Misuse by relatives, colleagues, or salespeople. Internet clearing houses who buy and sell data.
If your personal data has been compromised, your liability is usually capped at fifty dollars by the credit card companies. However, this may be the least of your worries. The breach of security can haunt you for a very long time and affect your ability to get a loan, rent an apartment, make purchases, and even get a job. In addition, untangling the web and restoring your good name is a huge hassle.
Victims of identity theft often encounter disbelief and unresponsiveness from government agencies, creditors, credit bureaus, and collection agencies. The resulting stress and aggravation can have negative effects on your physical and emotional well-being. The time involved in recovering from such an event can impact both your family and your job.
It pays to be proactive in keeping your private information from falling into the hands of strangers. You must always be alert to signs that your identity has been compromised while vigilantly guarding your private and credit information. Always seek to understand how your information will be used and maintained before you give it out.
Here's some concrete steps you can take. Whenever possible, opt out of sharing your private information or receiving credit card offers. When making purchases, reveal the least amount of information possible and when on the internet, only buy from verified secure sites. Install a locking mailbox and shred any sensitive trash before you put it out. Carry only one credit card at a time and keep your receipts to verify your purchases. Do an annual credit check to review your credit report for red flags such as unauthorized accounts.
You can minimize the potential damage if you take quick action once becoming a victim of identity theft. In today's world, consumers must be constantly guard their personal data and respond quickly and decisively if they find their information has been compromised. You can protect your finances and financial reputation by avoiding the nightmare of identity theft.