Protecting Against Identity Theft

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Protecting yourself against financial loss by identity theft is not a task that takes a lot of time and resources.  In fact for the most part you have the information handed to you, it¿s just a matter of reading it instead of immediately throwing it in the trash.  For instance, you credit card balance sheet is a big indicator as to whether someone else is illegally using your credit card number for purchases.  That is why it is important to actually thoroughly read through your balance sheet when you receive it in the mail each month.

If you notice that your credit card statement has stopped coming in the mail, immediately notify your credit card company, as someone else may have ordered a change in address so that you will not notice all those little discrepancies that are starting to pop up on your statement.

Another way to protect against identity theft is to have a tight guard on any of your personal information that enters and leaves the house.  This means keep an eye on your mail and make sure it is not being stolen.  Put a hold on delivery of your mail while you are on vacation.  When sending outgoing mail, do not just put it in your mailbox but rather take it over to the post office and put it in a contained outgoing mail bin.

Other things you can do to control what information leaves the house is to shred up any documents containing personal financial information before tossing it out.  This is not limited to merely bank and credit card statements, but can include various medical forms and even credit card applications.  Also, do not give any financial information to people who solicit it through phone calls. 

In terms of your social security number, use it only when it is absolutely necessary.  This means not keeping your SSI card in your wallet or purse if you are one of the only people who knows the number.  Do not put your SSN on your checks, and when asked to give it out be sure to ask if it is absolutely necessary.

What Should I Do if I Have Been the Victim of Identity Theft?

First, if the theft is hurting your credit rating, or has the potential to, report the theft to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  These are the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.  Also, be sure to report the theft to the local police.  If your theft involves your social security number, be sure to call or visit the Social Security Administration website.

You may also want to consult an attorney who has experience with white collar crime and fraud cases.  Your attorney can advise you of your rights and let you know what the best course of action is, including the possibility of suing the perpetrator (if his identity is known) for compensation of any stolen money or credit.

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Last Modified: 02-03-2014 01:22 PM PST

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