Identity theft occurs when someone obtains your personal information, such as your credit card data, social security number, card’s account number, its expiration date and other security details without your consent to commit fraud or other crimes. This identity theft is also known as a data breach. An independent agency of the United States whose primary mission is the promotion of consumer protection, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that nine million Americans suffer identity theft annually. According to The Federal Trade Commission’s figures, a quarter of these cases are credit-card fraud and not full-blown identity theft.
The credit-card fraud occurs when a thief uses your credit card to make purchases without your consent. To worsen it is when someone uses your information to take loans in your name or open accounts. By then you’ll have to struggle to get your credit restored and your name cleared, a burdensome process that can take months or years to complete.
How to protect your identity: Firstly, make sure you always keep your credit cards in an RFID blocking wallet. These wallets are designed to help protect you from a particular brand of electronic pick-pocketing, called RFID skimming. The issue is that some credit cards, passports, and driver’s licenses now come embedded with radio frequency identification chips. Criminals usually use RFID reader; these chips transmit certain types of information wirelessly so that you can confirm your identity or even make a transaction without swiping your card. You are now at risk because anyone with an RFID reader can activate those chips and pick up whatever information they’re designed to transmit. If they are skillful about it, they can do it without your knowledge. These larceners have made headlines over the years by demonstrating how a handheld RFID reader can nab sensitive information from people’s cards at a distance of several feet. More alarmingly, in some operations, RFID skimmers have collected whole credit card numbers from the pockets of passersby. RFID-blocking wallets are designed to impede your cards’ RFID signals, making them harder to read remotely.
You have to guard your information online jealously. These days, many people do most of their banking, transactions, and shopping on the web. With all those account numbers and passwords jumping around, it’s easy for someone to get their information and go on a shopping spree. Clear your logins and passwords, this is especially important if you’ve been working on a public computer. It is advisable to change logins and passwords on a monthly basis.
Another way is to pay for online purchases with your credit card; this has better guarantees under federal law than your online payment services or through your debit card. Always be alert for spoofing, a trick in which pop-ups or spam mimic legitimate banks or businesses to obtain your personal information, which they use to access your accounts. Make sure you always verify that you’re on a familiar website with security controls before entering personal data.
Make sure you monitor your credit card and bank statements. Check your accounts often so you know when something is askew. Transactions you didn’t make should be apparent. Note that if you've been a victim of identity theft before, you might be entitled to free credit monitoring.
Verify your mailing address with the post office and financial institutions. Identity bandits may fill out a change of address forms so that delinquent credit alerts remain not viewable by you. Beware!!
Do well to shred sensitive documents. Get a shredder and regularly shred outdated bank statements, credit card applications, bills, and anything with your personal information before tossing it into the trash can.
You can also decide to hire an identity theft protection service depending on your spending habits and level of caution. You may want to invest in an identity theft protection service if you do lots of online banking shopping, and you don’t have time to monitor your personal data on your own then coupled with the thought of investing time and money into recovering from an identity theft which irritates you.
Before you spring for identity theft protection, which is likely to set you back at least $150 a year, consider the no-cost measures you can take to protect yourself. Note that identity theft protection is not 100% foolproof, so consider these factors before you buy.
Some identity-theft protectors will place fraud alerts on your files with the three main credit bureaus with immediate effect whether you’ve been victimized or not. The essence of this is to force any bank or credit agency to hesitate before approving credit requests in your name. Bear in mind also that this is not foolproof. The law only requires the creditor to take remarkable precautions before transferring credit. This might only be a maneuverable obstacle for a practiced larcener, so don’t consider it a guarantee that your identity won’t be swiped.
Credit freezes are far better than alerts. Icing your files stops any company from accessing your credit unless you already do transactions with them, effectively blocking your records against any new creditor. Freezes can be strenuous if you’re seeking a mortgage or student loan or any form of credit. You’ll have to call the bureaus to unfreeze your records, which can take up to three days. However, the credit bureaus normally charge a meager fee whenever you freeze and unfreeze your files.
In conclusion, if you’ve detected fraudulent activity, notify the financial institution where the fraudulent activity occurred first so that they can freeze your account. Depending on the situation, you’ll need to file a complaint with the FTC and your local police department, as well as investigate all of your other accounts as fast as possible, and keep a wary eye on that credit report.