Scams - Identity Theft
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Identity theft is happening on a large scale in America. Almost ten million people fall victim to scamsters resulting in loss of money worth billions of dollars. Identity theft happens when someone misuses one’s personal information without one’s knowledge for fraud or theft. There is ample scope for this both online and offline. One can only be careful and take steps to avoid being a victim of identity theft.
One must protect important information like social security card number and credit card numbers by listing them separately so that they can be canceled immediately in case of a theft. One must put only the basic information on one’s checks. Sensitive information like old utility bills, expired credit cards and checkbooks must be totally destroyed in a shredder when no longer required. It is not desirable to give important personal information over the phone unless one has verified the caller’s identity. In case of any doubts, one must ask for a call back number and check out the veracity of the caller. One must use a combination of letters and numbers for one’s sensitive accounts and change online passwords frequently for security reasons. One should keep an eye on one’s mail so that there is a minimum possibility of it being stolen. If there is any delay in one’s credit card bill, one must immediately question the company for the delay. Very often identity thieves request a change of address for one’s credit card billing and use it freely before one realizes the fraud. These steps give a first line of protection against identity theft.
In case of online scams one must be vary of sites, which give low prices. Any emails from Nigeria, or lottery or prize notifications must be deleted. One must use only a designated credit card for online transactions. It is advisable to not share personal details in chat rooms since it can fall into wrong hands. One must have different passwords for different sites and install a good anti virus software and personal firewall to prevent access to data stored on one’s computer. One must destroy back up disks and format one’s hard disk before replacing it.
In the unfortunate circumstance of being a victim of identity theft, one must undertake the following steps to minimize the damage. Immediately the identity theft should be reported to the police. With a police report number one must cancel all credit cards and notify all the utility companies of the same so that further fraud is prevented. One of the three credit reporting agencies should be informed so that a fraud alert can be placed on one’s file and the other two agencies are also informed. One can adopt a wait and watch approach or get an extended alert issued if one is certain of the identity theft. All passwords and Pins must be changed. The government's consumer site gives details on how to deal with the issue, at http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/. Another helpful ebook is available on the topic entitled, When Bad Things Happen to your Good Name from www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/idtheft.pdf
One can avoid being hit by signing up for a credit monitoring system. Equifax offers access to one’s personal credit file, and notifies one within 24 hours of any change to that file. The details are available at econsumer.equifax.com. One must opt out of mailing lists and register with the do not call registry to avoid unsolicited callers. Victims of identity theft feel betrayed and exploited since it hampers access to home loans and educational loans as well as employment opportunities. Besides the monetary damage is immense and the effort required for damage control is tremendous. Thus being proactive is the best way to avoid falling prey to the scamsters of identity thefts.
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