Ten million people are victims of identity theft each year. You could spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to recover your financial identity. Criminals can run up your credit cards, empty your bank accounts, and use your name to take out loans and write bad checks, as well as receive utility services, medical services, and driver's licenses. Losses total between $ 10 and $ 20 billion annually.
Protect yourself on the Internet
Fraud via the Internet includes "phishing." This is when fake emails pose as a company you have an account with-for example eBay, PayPal, or your bank-and threaten to close your account unless you immediately email them your user name and password on your account. The website or email may appear to be legitimate and secure. They may claim that they need to "verify a statement" or that you have won a prize or a gift certificate. Legitimate institutions will never ask for this private information, so do not supply it. Do not click on any links, open the document, or even reply to the email. Delete it immediately.
When purchasing online, always log on directly to the website. Shop only on secure websites. Use website addresses that begin with "https." This indicates that your credit card information will be encrypted when it's transmitted over the Internet. Look for the little padlock security icon in the lower right corner. This may indicate that the website is possibly more secure. When you finish making an online purchase, log off that website immediately. If you assign only one credit card for your online shopping, it will be easier to detect if someone else is making charges on that account.
Avoid making online purchases or revealing personal information on your desktop computer or laptop when it is on a wireless connection. This is because nearby computer hackers can tap into your wireless Internet service and steal your information.
Keep all of your passwords top-secret and change them regularly. Use a combination of letters, characters and numbers in the format required by the website. Install anti-virus software and keep it updated daily.
Do not release information
Here are some ways to guard your personal information:
· Do not give your debit card number, credit card number, bank account number, Social Security number, or ATM pass code to anyone who requests it via an email.
· Do not post your private information on online forums.
· Do not use your Social Security number, address, birth date or ZIP code as a username or password for any pass codes.
· Do not download Internet programs or online links from unknown sources. They may contain hidden fraud programs or viruses embedded in the program.
Also be careful of phone calls from a person or a business you do not know. No one should require you to make a purchase over the phone or confirm your personal identification. If they say that they are from the security and fraud department of a credit card company, hang up and call the number on the back of your credit card to verify.
Guard your personal information
Keep your contact information "under the radar" as much as possible. For example, when a store clerk requests for your email address so they can email discount coupons to you, refuse the offer. Do not sign up for raffles to win cars, timeshares, or other prizes at shopping malls. Your contact information could have been sold to spammers and telemarketers.
Your contact and credit card information may possibly be downloaded off of hotel digital "swipe" keycards, so destroy those, too.
Following these tips will help you to avoid the wasted time and emotional trauma that can be caused by identity theft.