Saturday, February 2, 2013

How to Prevent Identity Theft

How to Prevent Identity Theft

In 1996, Mari Frank lost her identity to an internet hacker when a stranger accessed her credit report online. Ten months later, Frank, of Laguna Niguel, California, had a creditor call him about "her" outstanding debt and it was a lot, a huge lot, including payments for a red convertible that she apparently bought. What is more, the culprit found Frank's business cards and even impersonated her.

Frank got weak in the knees and really dizzy when she heard the shocking, almost surreal news. After which she got mad as heel, and decided then and there that she would fight against these kinds of crimes if only to avenge what happened to her.

Most guides on preventing identity theft focus on steps consumers can take, such as shredding their trash and protecting their SSN. But realistically, while these steps reduce the risk of becoming a victim, there is little individuals can do to actually prevent identity theft.

True prevention resides in two arenas – the adoption of more effective application-screening procedures by the credit industry and the implementation of responsible information-handling practices by employers. This article focuses on the latter.

Experts in identity theft report that an increasing number of cases can be attributed to the fact that some employees in companies use their connection and their position to obtain sensitive personal information of other employees, customers and even contacts and use them for illegal means. Some even disclose it to identity thieves for a price.

Phishing is a type of deception designed to steal your identity. In these kinds of scams, scam artists try to get you to disclose valuable personal data-like credit card numbers, passwords, account data, or other information-by convincing you to provide it under false pretenses such as through the internet. Phishing schemes can be carried out in person or over the phone, and are delivered online through spam e-mail or pop-up windows.

One of the keys to preventing identity theft, therefore, is to safeguard personal information within the workplace, whether it's a business, government agency, or nonprofit. Targets for identity thieves include SSNs, driver's license numbers, financial account numbers, PINs, passcodes, and dates of birth.

Some get this information the old fashioned way: They steal your purse or wallet. Others steal official looking mail from your mailbox. Some use change-of-address cards from the Post Office to have your mail forwarded to another address typically a vacant building. They may steal garbage bags or "dumpster dive" for trash with revealing information. Fellow employees may access information from your personnel file. Bank employees have collected data from their computer databases. Others collect data from public records.

You can prevent identity theft by purchasing and using a paper shredder. It may be hard to believe, but so-called “dumpster diving” is still practiced by identity thieves today. This means that the thief steals your garbage and rifles through it in search of old bank statements, bills, voided checks, and other paperwork that includes personal and financial information about your family. By shredding all of your mail and important papers before you throw them in the garbage, you'll make it impossible for identity thieves to get their hands on your discarded correspondence.

When you provide information to businesses or stores, such as hotels or rental car companies, ask them if they shred hardcopies of your information before disposing of it. If they don't, you should request to have all of your paperwork returned to you so you can discard it properly. By not shredding your information, these companies are not doing their part to prevent identity theft.

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