Identify theft is a type of scam where the criminal steals an individual’s financial and personal data and uses it without permission. Scammers do this to apply for loans and credit cards under the victim’s name, use their credit card, or raid their bank account. They also file fraudulent health insurance claims and tax returns and simply monetize the information by selling it.
The first thing to do to protect yourself against identity theft is to identify the signs. You need to understand how it takes place to limit your exposure. There is no way to avoid identity theft entirely, but you can take precautionary measures to give criminals a harder time.
Ways to Recognize Identity Theft
Identity theft may affect you in various ways, and there are several ways to identify it. Being aware of the warning signs that show fraud is about to happen can help you act quickly to stop it. Here are some indications:
- You don’t receive household bills anymore.
- You don’t get approved for a credit card or loan application.
- You get bills for items you did not buy.
- Your bank account show transactions that are unfamiliar to you.
- Your credit card statement shows small test charges.
- You receive an alert about suspicious activities.
- Your tax return was denied.
If you notice these signs, it will be best to take action right away. Some fraudulent acts may not seem evident at first, but criminals can use your name to make more significant purchases in the future if you keep ignoring them. This could lead to severe problems because financial institutions with fraud detection tools may link your name to fraudulent activities. As a result, you will find it hard to apply for loans for yourself.
Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft
Destroy Records and Statements
If you’re still receiving documents for your credit card statements and finances, it will be best to tear the paper once you get the information you need. If possible, try to go digital and eliminate paper documents permanently.
Always empty your mailbox regularly or get a P.O. box to secure your mails. Criminals typically get information from the mails they steal from mailboxes, so that’s what you need to avoid. It would also be ideal to avoid mailing checks or bill payments directly from your home. Put in a little effort and send them from a post office instead.
Keep Your Social Security Number Safe
As much as possible, it’s wiser if you will not carry your card or any cards that may contain the number when you leave the house. Never write your number on checks because that gives criminals access to your bank accounts and credit report.
Avoid a Paper Trail
Make it a habit to keep your credit card, ATM, and gas stations receipt. Remember, the more you leave yourself exposed, the easier it gets for identity thieves to use your name.
Keep Your Credit Card Secured
You should never let your credit card out of your sight because that’s where credit card skimming begins. Try to pay with cash as much as possible and always keep an eye on it when paying.
Know Who You Are Transacting With
When you get a call from someone asking for your sensitive information, such as bank accounts and personal data, do not answer right away. Find out who you’re dealing with, why they need that information, who they represent, and the purpose of the call. Banks and legitimate financial institutions usually have all the information they need from you, so it’s better to be cautious if the person starts asking about birthdays, addresses, and finances.
Review Your Credit Card Statements
Always check if your credit card statements are accurate. Check if the merchants on it are familiar and if you made a purchase from them. Consider closing accounts you don’t use anymore to reduce the risk of identity theft.
Assess Your Credit Report
Take the time to monitor your credit report at least once a year to see suspicious activities under your name. If you find something unusual, alert your creditor or card company immediately. You can also consult a credit protection service provider to get instant alerts every time there’s a change in your credit report.
Remember that identity thieves usually attack when you’re not suspecting, so it’s vital to secure your personal information appropriately. With just one leak of sensitive data, criminals can already use your name to steal and use your money for fraudulent agenda. Take note of these fraud protection tips to reduce your risk of being one of the victims of identity theft.
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