How To Prevent Identity Theft

How To Prevent Identity Theft

How To Prevent Identity Theft - Misconceptions About Identity TheftThe internet is considered a boon in today’s fast paced world. However, it does have its share of flaws which need to be carefully handled. And one of the most common flaws that is sadly misjudged or downright ignored until it is too late to make amends is ‘identity theft’.

Most individuals who log onto the internet are aware of identity theft and feel that it could never happen to them. However, the shocking truth is that anyone and everyone connected to the internet face the potential risk of losing their identity to hackers and internet prowlers.

Millions of identities are stolen online every year and if you don’t want to be in that list, here are a few tips that would help you stay safe from the same.

Common Misconceptions About Identity Theft

Although almost everyone knows what identity theft is and what it can lead to, many individuals have a few misconceptions about the same. Here are a few of the more common ones that need to be carefully considered.

It’s Not Only About Money: Many individuals have the general notion that once their identity is stolen, the thief would most probably go after their finances and credit reports. However, that is not true all the time.

Identity Theft does not always pertain to finances and credit theft. In certain cases, identities are stolen for other more troublesome issues like inappropriate usage of medical insurance and health benefits; and criminal records. The latter is a very serious issue wherein the thief actually gives your personal information to the law enforcement agency, an action that would cause a criminal record to be attached to your name.

Checking out multiple credit reports: This is probably something that most individuals do not do. For example, if an individual’s identity is stolen and he/she starts monitoring only the reports that come from one bureau whereas the company reports to two or more bureaus simultaneously, then you are in trouble.

For an identity thief can use the alternate credit bureau to start a credit with the same company, an action you would not be aware of until you get turned down for credit.

Preventing Identity Theft

Several individuals still feel that they would not be affected by identity theft. However, in order to remain safe, it is advised that you remain cautious And here are a few ways you can do that.

Strong Passwords: Never use passwords that are simple and easy to guess. Avoid using names of people you like, birthdates or other options that can be easily found out. Try to use complicated passwords that would be easy for you to remember but extremely difficult for others to figure out.

Never give your passwords to people you are unfamiliar with. Even if this may include distant friends, relatives, ex-boyfriends/girlfriends and even ex-colleagues! Avoid giving your passwords to technical support representatives or system administrators in your office as well.

How To Prevent Identity Theft - Misconceptions About Identity Theft

Check Credit Reports: Make sure to check all the credit reports from all the bureaus that operate with the company regularly to notice signs of misuse if any. Request for annual or monthly credit reports so that you can maintain a sharp look out for misuse of funds.

Put the Document Shredder to good use: Most of us have the habit of tearing up old bills, credit reports and applications casually and then dumping them in the garbage. While this may sound as a good way to get rid of all those old documents, it is not always safe and can lead to your identity being stolen.

If you have a document shredder at home, run all the unwanted documents through it in order to make sure that no one can get his/her hands on your personal information. If you don’t have a shredder, try using the one you have at office. Alternatively, try cutting up old documents into tiny pieces before getting rid of them.

Next Course of Action After Identity Theft

Alright! Even after being extremely precautious, you seem to have become a victim of identity theft. What will you do next? Here are a few pointers to help you out!

Make your passwords stronger: Make sure to change all your passwords. These include passwords to email accounts, chat pages, bank accounts and even other credit accounts you feel might be safe from the identity thief.

Change cards: Once your identity has been compromised, you need to make sure that the thief does not misuse your card numbers to make unauthorized payments. These include debit cards, credit cards, drivers’ license, social security card, insurance cards, etc. Notify the authorities in each department about the theft so that they don’t process unauthorized transactions.

Notify the police: Lodge an official complaint with the police regarding the theft. Make sure to write down in detail all the information that you think might have been compromised during the theft. These include credit card numbers, credit reports, social security numbers, drivers licenses, PAN card numbers, Voter ID numbers and even bank accounts. Make a copy of the complaint and send one each to your creditors for liability options (not blaming you for unauthorized payments).

Contact the credit bureau: As soon as you realize that your identity has been stolen, you would need to contact your credit bureau and notify the authorities of the same. This would mean letting all the credit bureaus (with which you have accounts) know of the issue. Contact the bureaus by phone (avoid emails) and let them know about the incident.

The option of a Security Flag or Freeze: Many individuals do not know about these options that are available in almost every credit bureau out there. If you feel that your online identity has been compromised, you can quickly call the credit bureau and ask for a security flag or freeze option to be placed on your credit account.

In the case of the Security Flag option, the bureau stops the creation of new accounts or the increase of credit limits in your name until you verify the same. This means that every time an identity thief tries to operate your account, you will get a call from the bureau, asking for confirmation.

In the case of the Freeze option, your credit account details would automatically be restricted from new creditors who have not worked with your account before. However, this option does not apply to current creditors who already have access to your credit records.

Get help from the Central Trade Commission: Every government would have a central trade commission center that would have reports of all identity crimes and the rings that cause the same. As soon as you realize that your identity has been compromised, give the Central Trade Commission a call and lodge a complaint. This would help prevent the issue from blowing out of proportion.

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