Monday, January 30, 2012

Identity Theft and Fraud

Very recently my better half (Da Boss) was the victim (I hate that term) of credit card theft/fraud. Thankfully I picked up on this rather quickly because I am extremely anal about constantly checking our transaction history on our statements. Thankfully we use mainly one card for most purchases and pay off at the end of each billing cycle. So it makes monitoring this account rather easy and not at all time consuming. That brings us to last week when I noticed a rather large (a few thousand dollars worth) purchase on our joint card. Now while Da Boss doesn't always tell me when he is making a purchase, neither of us spends that type of money without a household conversation happening, if for no other reason than to keep everyone in the loop. So when I saw this unexpected purchase I asked him about it. Thank God I did because turns out he didn't make it. Someone had gotten his credit card information (the police suspect one of the accounts that he does business with frequently had their site hacked and that is how our number was obtained) and was busy going on a shopping spree.

That brings me to this post... ways to prevent identity theft.

1. At least twice per year obtain a copy of your credit report from all 3 of the major reporting agencies.
All of these agencies will provide *free of charge* copies of your most recent credit report 2 times per year. Use it. It's important to check all 3 because different things are reported to each agency.

2. Be mindful of where you shop and how you use your card. Keep a record of what purchases are made. (you can do this through computer programs such as Quicken, Quickbooks, or similar programs, or keep a paper journal etc.) If you see a purchase that is out of the ordinary be sure to question it timely.

3. If you have to give information about yourself out to others, be careful about how much information you put out there. Don't give your social security number out unless absolutely necessary. There are in fact very few reasons to ever provide that piece of information to most people.

4. Be sure to check your bank statements often and reconcile them to ensure that the information presented is accurate (many people simply check their online record and assume that banking institutions don't make errors and/or have people who choose to steal money from others). This happens with banks as well as other companies, so reconcile your accounts monthly.

5. Never provide your social security number online unless you are doing so with a government approved secure site. Again there really isn't many reasons why you would ever have to provide that number.

6. Buy a cross cut paper shredder and shred any unwanted documents, bills, etc. It isn't enough to simply rip them in half and throw them into the trash. People choosing to commit identity theft have no problems going through garbage looking for information.

7. Do not leave important documentation laying around or even loosely kept in your home. Either get a safety deposit box at a reputable bank, or have an in home fire proof box and/or safe.

8. Read articles such as the one at this site 9 ways to prevent identity theft online This article had LOTS of useful information.

I am sure you may know of even other ways to help limit your exposure and risk. Please share any good tips you might have in case others don't have it.

Even with doing all of the above, we are prime examples that identity and credit card theft can still happen. But at least it's important to do all you can to minimize your risks.

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