Identity theft crime occurs when any individual acquires a piece of personal information without your knowledge and uses it to commit fraud at your expense. Identity theft crimes affected almost 10 million victims in 2008, which is an increase of 22% from the previous year. It has been estimated that 71% of fraud occurs within a week of stealing a victim’s personal information.
We are a society that takes advantage of the high-tech convenience of using the Internet for purchases, banking, loans, and social networking. With this convenience also comes a price for personal security, but there are simple safeguards that you can use everyday.
There are three common types of personal information that identity thieves look for to commit their fraudulent crimes that can ultimately ruin your credit.
- Credit Cards
- Phone or Utilities
- Banking and Depository Account
The most common type of identity theft is credit card fraud that accounts for approximately 26% of all identity theft crimes. The identity thief opens a new credit card account in the victim’s name and uses the credit card for purchases or cash without ever paying the bill. The victim doesn’t realize that there’s a problem because the bills are sent to a new address. It is also common for the identity thief to call the credit card company to change the mailing address on the existing account. Again, the victim doesn’t realize that there’s a problem until it’s too late.
The second most common type of identity theft, which accounts for more than half the number of victims of credit card theft or approximately 18%, is for phones or utilities. The identity thief signs up for cell phone service, telephone long distance service, or new utilities using the victim’s name.
The third most common category of identity theft, which accounts for more than a third of the number of victims of credit card theft or approximately 17%, involves banking and depository accounts. The identity thief opens a new bank account, makes electronic fund transfers, or writes bad checks all on the victim’s accounts. Loan fraud accounts for a small portion of depository accounts or approximately 5%, but is still an important category to list and to be aware of the potential risks.
Here are Emily’s top ten guidelines for keeping your identity safe:
1. Check your credit reports annually. If at all possible, check your credit reports monthly or quarterly.
2. Issue a fraud alert with each major reporting agency: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
3. If you purchase anything online, make certain that the website is encrypted and shows a small padlock icon at the bottom right-hand corner of your computer screen.
4. If you purchase anything online for a gift, make certain that the bill will not be sent along with the gift containing personal identification and credit card numbers.
5. Don’t toss any personal documents into the trash. Buy a shredder at your local office supply store and shred all of your documents, mail, or anything that would have your name, address, or other personal information on it.
6. Cut up all of your expired credit cards before discarding them into the trash.
7. If you expect a bill and it doesn’t arrive, notify the issuing company immediately.
8. If your credit card is lost or stolen, notify the police immediately to file a report and contact your credit card company.
9. Don’t leave your mail in the mailbox for the mail carrier to pick up. Always post your mail directly at the Post Office.
10. Never give out personal information online or to phone solicitors, such as your social security number or passwords.
Crime Watch Blog: www.emilystonecrimewatch.wordpress.com/
Book & Crime Talk: www.blogtalkradio.com/jennifer-chase/
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