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How to Prevent Identity Theft

By Janet Lacey
Published: Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Before we get into what methods one can employ to prevent identity theft, let’s first analyze what identity theft actually is. Identity theft is defined as a crime committed by someone who steals someone else’s identity in order to procure goods, services or other benefits out of it.

It’s actually impossible for you to keep all your information private. Anywhere you go; your credit card number, your name, your driver’s license etc are easily seen by a number of people. You go to restaurant and you give away your credit card and it comes back after say 3-5 minutes. Any number of people could have had access to it in this interim period. You go to the doctor and your driver’s license and insurance card are photocopied. It’s nearly impossible to remain completely private. But there are a few steps that one can take.

Here are a few tips and measures to take,

First, put a password on all your credit card accounts. And don’t use something like your mother’s maiden name. This can easily be found by different means. The credit report is one such source.

Second, whenever you hand out information, always make sure that the person demanding the same is within the limits of his obligations or authority to do so. Never blindly hand out or fill out forms. Make sure that all the blanks are reasonable enough. And the cardinal rule is that no company, government, or service provider is supposed to ask you for your password. The password is yours and yours alone. Never ever give it out!

Thirdly, never leave documents lying around. Certain credit card applications, bank communications must and should be shredded or disposed by other discrete means. Any number of people can misuse your personal information if you discard it in a hard copy. Every simple thing has to be incinerated. And then there are social networking sites. These are a feast for identity thieves in the modern age. All they have to do is log on to the net and they get every piece of information from birthdays to mother’s maiden name to even your sexual orientation!

Fourthly, check your statements regularly. And make sure you report a fraudulent transaction to the authorities without fail. And if you do not receive your statements, it could mean that someone has changed your billing address. Again, call your service provider at once.

Lastly, always ask for a credit report from the authorized agencies. There are three of them. You can file for your report online and it will reach you within a couple of working days. This report will show whether your address has been changed or whether any fraudulent transactions have taken place on your accounts. There is not much need of getting registered or subscribing to a credit monitoring service, unless you have been a victim within the last two years. But it’s not a bad idea to try out once in a while either.

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