It can happen to anyone: your social security number, bank account, or other personal information gets stolen. You have officially become a victim of identity theft. This form of crime is becoming more and more common with the heavy use of on-line shopping, bill payment, and other forms of activity that involves credit cards or bank accounts. In most cases, the criminal obtains your personal information and then proceeds to charge thousands of dollars under your name. Oftentimes, hackers will log into your computer and virtually steal your information. Other ways this theft can occur is through the use of various fraudulent scams and e-mails. In these instances, the victim is unaware that they are voluntarily giving up this information, and willingly opening their bank accounts to these criminals. Unfortunately, because of the nature of these crimes, many times the thieves will go uncaught. The most effective means of stopping identity theft is through vigilance and preventing your information from falling into the wrong hands.
If you find that any of your information has been stolen, there are things that can be done. The first step you should take is contact your bank or your credit card issuer and let them know what has happened. By doing this, your bank knows to turn off your cards, so that the thief can no longer use it. Next, you need to report the incident to the police. In certain extreme cases, you can take it to another level and inform the Federal Trade Commission, your local attorney general, and even the FBI. The most important aspect of all this is that these steps should be taken as soon as possible in order to avoid further damage from being done. You may also want to change your e-mail address, and be sure that your social security number has not been stolen as well. The quicker you act, the better off you will be in terms of staving off the damage. It is also a good idea to keep all spam emails or records of fraudulent activity either by printing them out or storing them in a virtual folder somewhere so you have this activity as evidence to use later when you make your case.
Prevention is the key when it comes to protecting yourself from identity theft. Never give your personal information to anyone over the phone, and only enter credit card or bank information on secure websites. Most secure sites start with “https:// “ and NOT “http://”. The “s” in the web address means that it is a secure site. Be sure to only provide your information to websites and people you trust and are familiar with. Make sure any and all passwords are secure and stored in a spot where there will not be easily found by others. Also, changing passwords is another step which can be taken in keeping your information safe. Make sure all passwords contain some numbers to give them a stronger security rating. Never make your password something obvious such as birthday or name. And avoid the dreaded mistake of making your password “password.” Shred all personal documents you get in the mail such as credit card or bank statements, bills, vehicle registration renewals, medical bills, or anything else that has your information on it. Never put papers in the trash that contain any of your personal information. Also be sure to check your bank account and credit card statements regularly to monitor any unusual or suspicious activity.
For more information about identity theft and fraud, please refer to the following websites;