Realizing there were fraudulent purchases on your credit card is unsettling, but most times, the banks will simply refund your money and give you a new card—end of story.
Identity theft can be more destructive. Crooks use your personal information, such as your social security number, birth date, driver’s license number or credit card numbers for financial gain.
This includes unauthorized purchases, but it can extend further, with them applying for credit cards and other loans in your name. They can wrack up debt, destroy your credit and potentially even result in criminal charges made in your name.
Identity theft is hard to fix once it happened, but it is easy to avoid if you know the right measures to take.
Use These Four Easy Steps to Avoid Identity Theft and Protect Your Finances:
1) Shred Your Documents.
One of the easiest ways for criminals to steal your identity is to look for documents in your trash that contain personal information.
Invest in a basic shredder, and before you toss out documents with your social security number, bank account numbers, credit card numbers and any other sensitive information that someone could use, run them through the shredder.
Make sure to shred or thoroughly destroy all old credit and debit cards, too.
You may also want to shred credit card offers and convenience checks you receive in the mail to prevent someone from stealing them and applying for them in your name.
2) Monitor Your Credit Card Statements and Credit Report.
Banks have systems set up to flag suspicious transactions, but some will always slip through. Make it a habit to check your credit card statements every single month and make sure there are no unauthorized purchases.
If you see a purchase you do not remember making, call your bank. They may be able to help you figure out if it was a purchase you made and did not realize it would display under that name.
If it is indeed fraudulent, they will cancel that card so no further unauthorized charges can be made.
“You should also monitor your credit report
at least once a year to ensure nobody
has applied for any form of credit in your name.”
3) Use Challenging Passwords.
Some criminals steal private information by hacking into online accounts. They not only try to hack into your credit card accounts—some criminals will try to hack into any site where you have private information stored, even social media.
To prevent this from happening, use a challenging password that will be very difficult to guess. Avoid using the actual word “password” or a string of alphabetical letters or numbers, both of which are common mistakes.
Also avoid using your birthday, name, street address, or other words that would be easily guessable if someone were to know your basic information.
Using a mix of capitalizations, letters, numbers and characters is ideal. Consider using a program like LastPass to generate and save hard-to-guess passwords for you.
4) Never Give Out Your Information.
Some criminals use a technique called phishing to try to get confidential information from unsuspecting consumers.
They usually do this by sending out an email pretending to be a company you do business with, and they will ask for your login information or confidential details such as your credit card number. They may use the company’s real logo in an attempt to look authentic.
However, if you look at the email address, you will see that the email is not coming from that company after all. Legitimate companies will never email customers asking them to respond with confidential information.
If you receive an email that looks suspicious, simply delete it. If you are not sure if it is real, go to the website of that company, get their customer support phone number, and call.
Ask if the email came from them so you will know for sure whether it is authentic or a fraudulent email.
By following these four easy tips, you will be able to better guard against identity theft.
Photo Source: www.unspecial.org
Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.