In today’s financially challenging climate, identity theft and credit card fraud are crimes to be very aware of, especially as the holiday shopping season descends upon us. While many now have a heightened awareness regarding online shopping security, identity theft occurs offline as well. In fact, according to a February 2009 study by Javelin Strategy & Research, of the 9.9 million identity-theft cases reported in 2008, online theft accounted for only 11% of incidents. Stolen wallets, checkbooks, and credit and debit cards made up almost half.
Adhering to the following guidelines can help prevent this devastating type of crime—so important in a day and age when a good credit rating is of the utmost importance.
Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Your Social Security number is the key to unlocking most everything about you. Make sure your Social Security number isn’t apparent on other items you may carry as well, such as your health insurance card.
When you head out shopping, take only the credit and ATM cards you really need with you. Most of us carry around every card we own in our wallets on a daily basis, whereas if you only carried a couple of cards, you’d be in monumentally better shape should your wallet be stolen.
We’ve all heard horror stories about ATM crimes. Try to use ATMs that are within a bank’s foyer, protected by a locked outside door, and/or in busy, well-lighted areas. If you’re using your ATM to buy goods at a store, make sure no one is invading the personal space behind you when entering your PIN.
Be sure to select a non-obvious PIN, one that combines upper and lowercase letters and numbers—and NEVER write your PIN on a card or anywhere else—commit it to memory.
People ask all sorts of questions these days, usually aimed at future marketing efforts. Before you give a store clerk your telephone number or a business caller your address, make sure you know who you are talking to and why they are asking for the information. You are usually under no obligation to provide this information, by the way.
When shopping online, stick to businesses you trust and enter personal information only on secure Web pages with “http” in the address bar and a padlock symbol at the bottom of the browser window. Unless you shop very frequently at a particular vendor, avoid having your credit card and personal information stored in an account.
Choose the credit cards you use online wisely. Try to use cards with smaller limits as opposed to your American Express card or checking account ATM. In the unfortunate event that your card information is stolen, a low credit limit will prevent thieves from doing much damage.
Avoid even remotely suspicious emails and click-through links all together. Only bogus websites will contact you first and ask for account numbers or personal information. If the information is truly important, the sender will find another way to contact you. Unsubscribe to any “junk” email to help keep your inbox free and clear.
Police your bills and checking account information on a regular basis. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, someone who gets your credit card number and expiration date doesn’t need the actual card to charge purchases to your account. As soon as you see unauthorized charges on your statement, contact the credit card company immediately to report them; if you wait too long, you might not have any recourse.
Properly dispose of all receipts, mail, and any papers you no longer need that may carry your personal information. Home office-sized paper shredders are available at reasonable rates.
As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I have a wealth of real estate and homeownership information that may be of help to you. Feel free to contact me any time to learn more about this important information, and be sure to forward this article on to any friends or family that may be interested as well.
Source: Top 5 In Real Estate