By George Dodge
What was once considered no more than a minor inconvenience, identity theft is now a prominent issue for individuals and law enforcement agencies alike. Practicing pro-active and commonsense routines when conducting financial transactions by any means other than cash can go along way in preventing identity theft.
Identity theft is an insidious crime that has expanded exponentially throughout the globe. Far from being a victimless crime, identity theft can have a serious, detrimental impact on your life and can lead to months, and even years of frustration and humiliation.
When someone uses your personal identification documentation in order impersonate you for any reason, this is known as identity theft. Professional identity thieves are proficient at assuming any given identity and the rapidity with which they can destroy another life is mind boggling, to say the least. Should you fall victim to this criminal element, your life can become a living nightmare. By being vigilant in all your financial dealings, you can protect yourself from these identity kidnappers; however, the onus is on you to make sure you are taking all the steps necessary to protect yourself from identity theft.
Identity thieves are constantly on the lookout for the seemingly innocent transaction that, in reality, offers a goldmine of personal information that can be used to assume another's identity. Protecting yourself from identity theft should be uppermost in your mind at all times and you should always be vigilant in protecting your identity. The following is a list of things you should consider in order to prevent identity theft:
o Always make sure you retain all copies of your credit card receipts when presenting your card for payment. Avoid handing your card over to a server in a restaurant. Ask that the transaction be completed in plain sight so you can keep a careful eye on your credit card information. Adept identity thieves can procure all kinds of personal information about you with little more than one credit card number.
o Don't let mail accumulate in your mailbox. Identity thieves are constantly on the lookout for mailboxes that may contain pre-approved credit card offerings; these offer easy pickings to a skilled thief as the application can be completed (with a change of address), mailed in to the credit card company, and voila, instant access to your credit. You will be oblivious until the bills for purchases you never made start to roll in.
o Always cross-shred any documentation showing your personal information before throwing it in the garbage. Dumpster diving has become an easy and lucrative method of obtaining personal information and, again, you will not even be aware that you have been victimized until the bills catch up with you.
o Never leave documents containing sensitive, personal information (like payroll receipts) lying around in plain sight. Although credit card fraud is the most common method of identity theft, skilled scam artists can capture your identity in a variety of seemingly mundane ways. Once these unscrupulous characters get access to your social security number, look out - the identity thief now has all the information he needs to merrily rack up thousands of dollars of debt in your name.
o Use caution when releasing personal information to third parties. Never give out your banking information or social security number over the phone or on the Internet.
o Never reply to any email, no matter how official looking, that requests banking or financial information. There are teams of criminals in cyberspace who make their living from unsuspecting users who reveal sensitive information obtained through fraudulent emails. This is called pshishing and can sometimes be so elaborately constructed that most people think it's the real McCoy. Reputable, legitimate business will never ask you to disclose sensitive information either over the phone or in an email.
o Never reveal the password of your banking cards to anyone.
o Change the password for your banking information regularly. This includes your Internet banking, as hackers have been known to access this information by "mirroring" keystrokes and reproducing them for their own gain.
o Keep personal information to a minimum when signing up for any online offers.
Protecting yourself from identity theft is one of these things that will probably never cross your mind unless and until it happens to you or someone you know. Don't wait to become a victim. By practicing some commonsense safeguards and remaining vigilant at all times, you will be able to protect yourself from the ever-growing contingent of identity thieves who thrive on taking advantage of others.
George Dodge is author and webmaster of Identity Theft Defense at http://www.Identity-Theft-Defense.com where you can discover more about the various forms and methods of Identity Theft and how to protect yourself from becoming an [http://www.identity-theft-defense.com/How-You-Can-Avoid-Becoming-A-Victim-Of-Identity-Theft.html]Identity Theft Victim.
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