Can you imagine how paralyzing it would be to open your credit card statement and find charges that you didn't make? Especially if they were made in Paris and you were sitting in Des Moines at the time. Wouldn't you like to know what you had for dessert at that great Parisian restaurant? Or perhaps it was a nice piece of jewelry you purchased and never got to see or wear.
You're stunned. As you look over the rest of the bill, much to your horror and amazement, there are seveal other charges you did not make. What happened?
Your identity was stolen; someone made charges to your account. Typically when someone's identity is stolen it's due to the fact they've mishandled their personal information. Here's some steps to take to protect your identity:
- Never carry your social security card or any of your PIN's in your purse or wallet. If you lose your purse or wallet, the discoverer has access to all your information. These days we have tons of PIN's; if you write down your PIN's, write the PIN's themselves on one piece of paper and then write the corresponding accounts on another sheet of paper (in the same order.) Place both documents in different places in your house. That way you have to match up both pieces of paper to have access to your accounts. For me, I'm lucky if I can remember where those sheets of paper are. Make sure your PIN's are elaborate; 12-digit PIN's are the trend nowadays; make sure they're a combination of caps, small letters and symbols.
- After a natural disaster, unscrupulous people will pretend to be business owners; they'll call you and say all their documents were destroyed and they need to re-create their records. Don't give them your information; be wary of these kinds of calls.
- Shred all documents before discarding them in the trash. There is an activity called dumpster diving and identity thieves will partake to obtain your information. This includes any credit card offers you receive in the mail that you're not interested in.
- If you're inputting information online, make sure the site is secure; you'll know because the address begins with https (the "s" stands for secure). Also, there will be a padlock icon next to the address.
- Many money scammers target the elderly; make sure your loved ones or neighbors that might easily succumb to such con artists are well informed and won't freely give their personal information.
- You can receive one free credit report a year from each of the three credit bureaus. Stagger them so you can get a credit report every four months. The bureaus are: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. If there is a credit inquiry you did not initiate, then someone could have stolen your identity. Checking your credit report regularly is key to making sure your identity hasn't been stolen.
- When your credit card statement arrives in the mail, check it immediately. Make sure there are no charges on it that aren't yours. Better yet, check your credit card charges online twice a week; that way you'll know immediately if unauthorized charges are being made to your account.
- Remove your name from pre-approved lists for credit card offers. Thieves will steal your mail, fill out the credit card offer, and have it sent to their address in your name. The bill shows up on your credit history. To opt out, call 888-5OPTOUT.
- Keep track of the time of the month when your credit card statements arrive. If they are late by more than a couple of days, contact the credit card company. Someone may have changed the address on your account so you won't be aware of fraudulent charges.
- Send mail from the post office. If someone sees you putting an envelope in your mailbox with the red flag that indicates you need a pickup, they may steal it before the carrier arrives. On that same note, make sure to discontinue your mail when you're on vacation. If mail is piling up it's a sign that either you're away from your house or you're pushing daisies.
Loose Personal Information Is The Most Direct Way to Identity Theft
Stolen Credit Is Identity Theft
Identity Theft Can Begin At Your Mailbox
Do you know of someone who has had their identity stolen?