Follow these tips to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft

Mar 2013

As many people know, identity theft is a rapidly growing crime. With the explosive use of technology (smart phones, tablets, as well as computers) many people assume that their data and confidential information is more susceptible to being compromised using the internet. And while that is true, an article I read indicated that the internet is not the top cause of identity theft.

A recent study by Travelers Insurance of customers insured against identity fraud found that stolen or misplaced items are the major cause of identity theft or fraud. Approximately two-thirds of the claims filed by Travelers’ customers were the result of stolen wallets and purses. So while many of us are signing up for services that will alert us when our Social Security number or other confidential information is being used by an online thief, we shouldn’t forget that many of these crooks are just as comfortable with the old-fashioned way of obtaining access to your credit cards and account numbers.

Regardless of which method crooks use to steal your info, identity fraud is an increasing problem and the use of technology has provided an entirely new way for them to compromise your information. A key factor contributing to the increase in incidents is a substantial number of data breaches. The most common items exposed during a data breach are credit card numbers, debit card numbers and Social Security numbers.

A recent report I read found that 1.5 million people were defrauded by someone they knew, with lower-income consumers more likely to be victims.

Recent surveys also found a majority of smart phone owners do not use a password, which allows anyone with access to their information if the phone is lost. Considering that smart phone owners were victims at a higher rate than the general public, this not surprising.

Based on all the evidence about the increase in identity theft, here are some tips to help you avoid getting “hacked”:

1. Keep personal information private.
2. When paying bills online make sure you have a secure connection.
3. Before sharing any private information, ask simple questions: who is asking for the information, why do they need it and how is the information being used?
4. Be vigilant. Review statements on a regular basis. If something looks suspicious contact the credit card company, bank, etc., as soon as possible. The law will protect you if you notify the bank or credit card company in a timely fashion. To do so, you must, however, review your statements on a regular basis.
5. Don’t use obvious or simple passwords. Try using a combination of letters and numbers, and symbols wherever possible.

Remember, thieves make their living trying to steal people’s identity. So make sure you are diligent about protecting your purse and wallet wherever you go, and spend a little extra time and effort when you are doing anything online or with your smart phones.


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