One of the greatest fears that many people have is that they'll become a victim of identity theft. Most people just have the "oh, well, it won't happen to me" attitude. For 1 out of every 5 people, that's the wrong attitude to take. Which one of those five are you? The most common type of identity theft is credit card fraud, usually through account takeover. In this type of crime, the thief gains access to a credit card and then, quite simply, starts making purchases with it.
What makes this type of fraud an identity theft is that often the perpetrator will call the credit card company, bank, etc. and attempt to gain more information about the account's owners using a technique called "fishing."
With this technique, which is old hat among private investigators, the thief poses as the account's owner and attempts to change the account information, upgrade the account for more credit, make a cash withdrawal, or otherwise manipulate the account. With enough information, many thieves can use one account to get into several more. A debit card could lend access to checking, savings, and even mortgage accounts through the bank.
Most banks and institutions have safeguards in place to prevent this total takeover of one of their customer's accounts, but the best prevention is to stop the thief before he can attack to begin with. To do that, you need to follow these 10 ways to prevent identity theft by credit card. Most of them are easy, no-nonsense security measures that you likely already take everyday as a part of your lifestyle. Others are just small habits you need to practice to ensure your credit's safety.
#1: Carry Fewer Cards
Sounds pretty simple, but it's amazing how many people walk around with five, ten, or more credit and debit cards in their wallets. This is excessive and is tantamount to wearing five pounds of gold and diamond jewelry. Eventually, someone will decide to mug you. The more cards you're carrying, the easier it will be for a thief to take over your identity and fleece you for all the money they can. Reduce the number of cards that you carry to two. If at all possible, do not use a debit card at all as they're the easiest to use by thieves to get cash quickly and easily.
#2: Watch Your Card
When you use your card at a store or restaurant where it's handed to an employee or waiter to process for you, keep your eye on the card at all times. Never let the employee walk away with your card and then come back later. It's not as uncommon as people might think for people like this to take advantage of their situation to copy card information or do a "false swipe" into a reader to record the information for later retrieval.
#3: Never Use a Debit Card Online
When you shop online, never use a debit card attached to your bank account. No matter where your shopping is taking place, debit cards are the primary target of thieves. Instead, use a closed account like a pre-paid card, a credit card (they're better protected), etc. Companies like PayPal and others that offer cards that are separate from your checking account are popular choices.
#4: Keep A List of Cards
Keep a detailed list or photocopy of all of your cards (front and back). Know the account numbers, expirations, phone numbers for reporting, etc. Keep this list is a very safe and secure place in your home or bank. If your wallet is stolen, your house robbed, or you otherwise have one or more cards stolen, this list could mean the difference between a few minutes to report the theft and a few hours while you find the information and the thief goes on a shopping spree... on you.
#5: Keep Your Social Security Number To Yourself
Don't ever give out your Social Security or account numbers on the phone or through the mail if you aren't 100% sure that the person you're talking to and the business they represent is legitimate. When in doubt, don't give it out! If a business calls you, say the utility company, and asks for personal information for identification, tell them you'll call them back. Use the phone number in the phone book or printed on one of your bills to call them-not a number the person on the phone gave you. This verifies that the person is who they say they are and eliminates "fishing."
#6: Keep Your Receipts
When you make purchases by credit or debit card, keep your receipt. Do not throw it away in a public trash container or even in your home garbage can without first marking out the account number or shredding the receipt. Most stores now print only the last four or five digits of your account to protect the information, but you only know if they did when you look to see that they did!
#7: Do Not Write Numbers on Checks
When paying bills, DO NOT write your credit card (account number) on a check when paying the bill. If the check falls into the wrong hands, a thief now has two ways to take advantage of you (check plus card). Checks preprinted with your driver's license number are also a bad idea.
#8: Watch the Mail
When a new card or fresh checks are coming, make sure you know when they're expected and are there to receive them. Better yet, have them sent to a secure box like a PO box or similar.
#9: Read Your Account Statements
Read your account statements thoroughly and every time they come to you. Some thieves (especially online) will steal a card number, use it once, and then forget it. This results in the much lower likelihood of them being caught. Many of the frauds never even get noticed as account holders often look only at the "total owed" line on the account and don't read through line items.
#10: Order a Credit Report
Order a credit report from the three bureaus yearly (at least). They are required by law to give you one free report per year, so take advantage of it. Read through it and make sure that there are no credit accounts you are unaware of, no claims on your file that you didn't authorize, etc.
Hopefully, these ten ways to prevent identity theft will help you keep yourself and your credit safe. They are simple things that require little effort on your part, but can greatly impact your chances of being targeted for identity theft
For more information on protecting yourself in the real world as well as online just click this link - Avoid Identity Theft
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