Identity Theft Protection
ATTENTION: Consumers who have been contacted by scammers could have had their personal information breached. ScamGuard highly recommends that consumers whose information has been breached obtain identity theft protection service immediately. There are several companies that offer identity theft protection in the US. One of the most inexpensive options we were able to find is the protection offered by LifeLock. You can start your protection here.
Disclaimer: The information and opinions contained on this site are not endorsed by LifeLock. ScamGuard receives compensation from LifeLock. This helps support our scam prevention efforts.
For those who have never experienced identity theft, it may sound exotic or even futuristic. For anyone who has had the bad luck to learn about this criminal activity first-hand, it is a huge headache and may involve significant financial losses. To avoid becoming a victim of this crime, experts recommend that you take certain precautions.
Identity theft occurs when a criminal uses your name (and passwords, account numbers, etc.) to make credit card purchases or incur other debts in your name. The major financial institutions attempt to shield their customers from the financial losses resulting from this sort of criminal impersonation. Nevertheless, the unfortunate victim expends a great deal of time and effort replacing compromised data and repairing the damage to his/her reputation, and their credit record may be affected for a very long time.
Here are seven steps that you can take to protect yourself from identity theft:
1. Review your credit reports at least once per year - and do it more frequently if you suspect there is a problem. You must obtain reports from each of the three nationwide consumer credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Check the reports for any suspicious activity. If you find anything problematic, notify both the reporting bureau and the specific source (store, financial institution, etc.) about the criminal activity.
2. Beware of phishing. This is any illicit activity in which criminals attempt to trick people into providing key personal or financial data. If you receive an inquiry about an account by e-mail, it is probably a phishing attempt - so you can safely disregard (and mark as spam) such messages. A telephone inquiry may also be a phishing scheme. If you have any doubt about a telephone call that is purportedly from your financial institution, it is best to hang up and then call the institution using a number that you have verified as correct.
3. Shred or otherwise securely dispose of any form that contains significant pieces of your personal data, such as a "pre-approved" credit card form or a rental car agreement. In the latter case, be careful not to leave the agreement in the glove compartment when you return the car to the rental company.
4. Make photocopies of your credit cards (back as well as front) and place these copies in a secure location in your home or office. If a credit card is lost or stolen, the photocopies will enable you to contact the relevant financial institution and supply all the information necessary to expedite the freezing of the account.
5. Build strong passwords, using as many digits as permitted and a variety of characters. Choose a different password for every website that requires registration. Also, never allow a browser to "remember" your password.
6. Check out any income tax preparation company before providing the firm with your personal and financial data. One type of financial fraud that involves identity theft is the filing of false income tax returns. If a criminal obtains enough of your personal data along with your financial information, he/she can file an income tax return in your name and then pocket the refund.
7. Do not provide your financial data to a paid caregiver (for the purpose of making bank deposits, etc.) unless it is unavoidable. If you must do so, ensure that the individual is bonded and that their agency is reputable.
Identity theft is a growing problem, and those who commit this crime are always looking for new ways to obtain the personal and financial data of unsuspecting individuals. It is, therefore, prudent to take every necessary precaution in order to protect both your good name and your financial resources.