Fighting Id Theft
As if — with the market taking a turn for the worse today, and the healthcare debate raging on — you didn’t have enough to worry about, there’s this little nugget of news: The largest hacking and identity theft case ever prosecuted. Some 130 million credit and debit card numbers gone. Poof.
So here’s the underlying question. Clearly, it’s becoming tougher and tougher to prevent your credit card and debit numbers and other information from being stolen. What CAN you do to protect yourself?
- Monitor what’s happening in your accounts. Unfortunately, you may not be able to prevent your information from being hijacked. But, by carefully monitoring what is happening in your credit files, you can shut down thieves before they get too far. How do you do this? There’s a low-cost way and a higher cost way. The low cost way is to get — for free — your credit report once a year from each of the major credit bureaus. Do this at annualcreditreport.com. You can also, for free, put fraud alerts on your accounts at the credit bureaus. That way, if someone wants to take out credit in your name you’ll be notified. (The hitch is that if YOU want to take out credit, you’ll have to lift the alerts first.) The higher cost way is to sign up for a credit monitoring service which will let you know of any action in your credit accounts.
- Remember who placed the call (or started the interaction.) Scam artists come out in a bad economy and they do business by calling unsuspecting folks and getting them to give out personal information over the phone, and also by phishing — sending you an email that looks like it’s from one of your financial institutions and then requesting personal information. Unless YOU placed the call or YOU initiated the transaction with the website, do not give out any of your details.
- Leave no breadcrumbs. A huge number of id thefts are perpetrated each year by “dumpster divers” and other people who get their hands on your trash and use the information that you throw out to steal your identity and establish credit in your name. Be vigilant about NOT leaving a papertrail. Shred all credit solicitations and other documentations and old cards, don’t just throw them away. Be careful with your deposit slips as well as with your checks.