Protecting Against Identity Theft

Posted on: May 5th, 2010 by

Financial Planning - Rockville, MDIdentity theft occurs on such a regular basis that the FBI has cited it as “America’s fastest growing crime problem”.  Con-artists steal and fraudulently use the names, addresses, social security numbers, bank account information, credit card numbers, and other personal information from an estimated ten million Americans every year.  Learning how these thieves get your personal information is the first step you can take toward protecting yourself from this financially devastating crime.

The simplest way that these thieves can get their hands on your information is to steal or find your wallet, or even just digging through your trash.  It can also be as simple as them peering over your shoulder when you use the ATM.

More sophisticated methods include targeting information of the deceased through use of obituaries, stealing or diverting your mail or obtaining credit card and bank account information via a method known as skimming.  Skimming is a high tech theft that uses an electronic device to steal your credit card or bank account information.  It generally occurs when your credit card is used to make a purchase, and the person processing your card uses a skimmer to capture personalized access information.  Skimmers have also been found on ATMs.

Phishing is probably the most widely publicized methods of personal identity theft.  Phishers create a website that looks very similar to the site of a legitimate enterprise, sending emails out to lure unsuspecting individuals to enter their personal data which can then be used by the thieves.

When an identity thief steals your personal data, he/she is essentially becoming you by assuming your financial identity.  You need to call all of your credit cards and banks and make them aware of the situation by closing all accounts.  You should also contact the credit bureaus, as new accounts or loans may have been taken out in your name and will be reflected on your credit report.  Review your credit report at least once a year.  Confirm with your financial adviser and accountant that all of your information is secured in their office and documents are appropriately disposed of.  And, finally, review your credit card and bank statements carefully each month.



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