Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft
Identity theft is when someone uses, without permission, your personal information in order to commit any frauds or crimes. Identity theft is a felony that is becoming more and more common. That is because some of us are not very careful with personal information, making the job easier for those trying to steel our identity. We should always be careful with information like Social Security number, credit card number, birth date, employment information, driver's license number, etc., because if they enter into the wrong hands the consequences can be very serious. People that have experienced identity theft spend months trying to repair what others have damaged, and in the meantime they cannot get a loan or lose a job opportunity or, sometimes, they can get arrested for something they didn't do.
If you have the slightest suspicion that someone has gained access to your personal information, acting quickly is a must. First of all, you should get in touch with the fraud department of the credit bureau where you have your accounts and request them to initiate a credit alert on your accounts. This way the creditors are obligated to contact you before taking any actions regarding your accounts. At the same time you should close the accounts you believe that are corrupted. The second step would be filing a police report and keeping a copy of it so to have a proof of the crime.
It is difficult dealing with an identity theft and most of all is difficult to repair what others have messed up for you. We cannot completely prevent identity theft, but we can take some simple precautions to minimize the risks. The most important thing to do is to pay attention to your bank statements: they should arrive in time and you should check them very carefully. Your bank statement should always arrive almost at the same date every month. If you don't get your statement one month this could mean that someone has changed your billing address to prevent you from discovering any unauthorized activity in your account. Also, you must check every statement as you get it and be sure that you have made all the purchases recorded on it.
Another simple precaution for preventing identity theft is to be careful with your personal papers. Never carry all of them with you as it is not safe. If you don't need your Social Security card, birth certificate, passport, etc., leave them home in a secured place and carry them with you only when you need them for some reason. Also, you should be careful with your mail as it often contains personal information. Either put a lock on your mailbox or have your mail delivered to a post office box.
Nowadays, purchases made over the internet are very common and some thieves have turned their attention to this domain. The way to protect your personal information when shopping online is to never release them unless you are using a secure browser. If you don't have a secured browser or the website you're visiting is not secured, place your order by phone or email. Also, for the websites that require a password or a personal identification number (PIN) don't use common names or dates as anyone can guess them, but create your own password or PIN made of numbers and letters.
These precautions do not really guaranty that you'll not be an identity theft victim but they will surely minimize the chances that you'll become one. Being careful with your personal information should not be a hustle but a routine. This way you can be sure you'll not spend months or years and lots of money to restore your credit record and your name after thieves have messed it up. Precaution is the name of the game.