Identity Theft Damages Life
It can be quite unnerving to read reports about identity theft. Experts have estimated that as many as one in ten people are victims of identity theft. You can be next and you may not even know it until you discover that your bank account has been cleaned out and you owe several banks money for purchases you haven't even made.
Don't think that this cannot happen to you. Identity theft is real and it can happen to anyone so your best chances of protecting yourself against these unscrupulous fraudsters is to learn ways you can fight identity theft before your name gets dragged into the mud.
Probably the worst effect of identity theft is the destructive effect it will have on your credit rating. You may not be able to apply for a loan or even open a savings account. It will take years for you to entirely repair your credit rating. Therefore, it is better that you take preventative measures to prevent identity theft. Below are ten simple ways for you to fight identity theft.
1. Old documents
Fraudsters get information about you from documents like bills, bank statements and receipts. With old documents like these, you must decide whether you want to get rid of them or keep them. If you decide to throw them away, make sure they are disposed of properly. You'd probably should shred them or burn them so nobody can have access to them. If you decide to keep them, make sure they are stored in a safe place away from prying eyes.
2. Personal documents
Transient documents like electricity bills or credit cards bills can be stored or destroyed but personal documents like birth certificates, marriages certificates, passports and others are to be kept for life and therefore should be kept in a place that is safe and out of sight of people who might visit you at home.
3. Change of address
In the event that you move house and change adress, make sure that you notify your bank, utility companies and any companies that frequently send mail to your home. If your mail is sent to your old address and not collected, fraudsters can use your mail to steal your identity.
4. Account cessation
When you decide to cease using a bank account, credit card or debit card, do not leave the account dormant. Make sure that you officially close the account. Dormant accounts have a way of being used by fraudsters and you would not even realize that your identity has been hijacked until creditors come knocking at your door.
5. Beware of your plastic
You must at all times know where all your cards are especially your credit, debit and ATM cards. In the event that you've discovered that one of your cards is lost, misplaced or stolen, immediately inform your bank so your account can be blocked and the lost, misplaced or stolen card is rendered useless.
6. PIN numbers
Once you've been issued a card by your bank, immediately change the PIN number. But don't use something that can be easily guessed like your birthdate or your house number. Use something that cannot be found in your purse or wallet. And don't ever jot down the PIN on paper and keep the paper in your purse or wallet. That is really inviting trouble.
Your bank will never send emails asking for your personal details. Fraudsters who send these emails posing as someone from your bank is phishing. Ignore such emails and inform your bank about it. Don't ever click on any of the links in such emails as this would bring you to a bogus website. Always write the full address of your bank's website on your browser. Never go to your bank's website via an email.
8. Anti-virus software
Using anti-virus software may protect you from identity theft if you frequently use the internet to conduct your banking. Make sure the software is updated because fraudsters have ways to get around this software so by being up to date you'll be a step ahead of these fraudsters. If your computer isn't protected by an anti-virus software, fraudsters will find ways to acquire your personal information by infecting your computer with a virus that will collect such information.
9. Regular checks of bank account
You should regularly check your banking account as well as your credit card statements. Don't just scan your statements. Do a careful check to see that they are in order. If you find anything out of the ordinary, inform your bank. You may have curtailed a fraud in progress and therefore reducing the damage significantly.
10. Credit reports
Besides conducting regular checks on your banking accounts, you should also conduct frequent checks on your credit reports. If you see any irregularities like an application for a loan you didn't make or a failure to keep up with credit card payments which you don't own. These would tell you that someone may have stolen your identity. There are services available online that will inform you of any changes in your credit file.
Nobody can be one hundred percent certain that our identity will not be stolen, but we can take steps to fight identity theft and by protecting ourselves with the above methods, we won't make ourselves easy targets.