Identity Protection, Your Defense Against Fraud

By: Jeff Cooper

Identity theft happens when someone retrieves identifying information without consent to commit fraud or other crimes. Personal information aimed by identity thieves include Social Security number or credit card number.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Identity theft is so permeating in society these days that anyone may have experienced some form of identity theft.

The crime of identity theft can takes many forms. Identity thieves may use your personal information to rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you did not make or until you are contacted by a debt collector.

The problem of identity theft should be taken seriously. While some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to their good name and credit record.

Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In unusual cases, they may even be apprehended for crimes they did not do.

Identity theft is a very lucrative business for thieves. Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information. Their mode of stealing information may range from old-fashioned breaking in your home to get your personal information to high tech ways such as hacking into your or the government's computers. More common ways to steal personal information include rummaging through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information; stealing credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card; pretending to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information; deviating your billing statements to a different location by completing a change of address form; old fashioned stealing of wallets, purses and mail; and using false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.

Once they have acquired your personal information, identity thieves use it in several ways, to include credit card fraud, phone or utilities fraud, bank/finance fraud, and government documents fraud. In order to protect against identity theft, we must deter identity thieves by safeguarding personal information. We should also be wary of suspicious activity by routinely monitoring financial accounts and billing statements. There is no fool-proof way to avoid identity theft. However, there are steps you can take to minimize your chance of becoming a victimArticle Submission, and steps to take to minimize the damage should a theft occur.

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