Believe it or not, there are people out there who want to be you.....at least on a credit card application. Identity thieves are individuals who acquire loans or lines of credit using the name, or identity, of someone else. They can accomplish this by acquiring your personal information (name, social security number, address, etc.). They might also try to steal physical items from you (credit/debit card, checkbook, etc.). For more information about Identity Theft check out Cash Course.
Why would someone want to steal my identity?
There are many reasons the identity thieves are trying to steal your identity. Some of these criminals are seeking ways to evade the law. Desperate criminals will do anything to stay out of jail. They will use the "cloned" identity to gain employment, so they can live under your name. The other reason is they just want to use your money to buy things for themselves.
The most common form of identity theft is stolen credit card information. There are a few ways that a criminal can get hold of your credit card information. When you shop online it is important to do it on a trusted website. Otherwise you may be giving your information directly to an identity thief. One of the most common identity thieves is the always dependable pizza delivery driver. It is important to always be careful when giving out your card information.
How do identity thieves steal my identity and how can I prevent them?
- Calling and asking
- Never give personal information to someone who calls you.
- Stealing your purse or wallet
- Keep PIN numbers and your Social Security Number in your head, not in your purse or wallet.
- Know the number to call if your cards are lost or stolen.
- Going through your trash
- Shred documents that contain harmful information.
- Using a "Skimmer" – A device that will record card information when swiped
- Just be cautious when using cards
- "Phishing" – Mass e-mails that are falsely representing that they are from big name companies. (e.g., Claim your $1000 Wal-Mart Gift Card)
- When reading your e-mail remember, if it seems too good to be true, it is not true.
- "Hacking" – Electronically breaking into the information on a computer
- Install trustworthy anti-spyware and firewalls on your computer.
- Make passwords strong by having all sorts of characters and avoid pet names and consecutive numbers.
What are the signs that suggest my identity may have been stolen?
- Your regular bills stop showing up at your home.
- You notice unusual activity on your financial statements.
- You Receive credit notices from credit you did not apply for.
- If creditors call you on lines of credit you know nothing about.
What do I do if I am a victim of identity theft?
It is important to act fast to prevent more damage. You need to contact all your creditors and notify them of the theft. You next step is to file a police report. This will get the ball rolling for you to be able to get your life back. You will also want to go online and change all of your passwords, especially those that are on accounts that contain personal information. While online, go to the Federal Trade Commission website which will guide you through the steps how to get these fraudulent activities off your credit report.