In the United States, each year, more than 17 million Americans are victims of identity theft. It is a growing crime that can have massive implications for the victims.As we become more and more depended on technology, it will become easier and easier for the bad guys to perform these types of crimes.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft falls into two basic categories. These are account take over and identity take over. Account take over makes up the vast majority of the those that are affected. Currently,amounting to 86% of the victims of identity theft. Account take over is where someone would access an account of yours and then use it for fraudulent purposes. Examples include stealing your credit card information to make purchases or taking over your bank account for making transfers. The second type is identity take over. This is where someone assumes your persona and uses your details to open their own accounts in your name. This could be home mortgages, credit cards, car purchases etc. In the end, they would not make the payments and leave you stuck with all the debt on your credit profile.
Either of these can pose serious threats to your credit profile and financial security.
How can you protect yourself from identity theft?
There are different ways to protect yourself from the two types of identity theft. The best ways are always proactive in nature. Its far easier to prevent than to clean up a mess after the fact.
For account take over, there are several things you can do protect yourself. First, make sure you have antivirus or anti-malware software installed on your computer. This will keep your computer protected from attackers who will attempt to gather information from your computer in an attempt to access your accounts.
If possible, use two factor authentication on all of your important sites. Banks, credit card companies, email etc should all offer this option. What is allows is that each time you login, your phone will receive a text message with a code. You will enter that code into the website before being granted access. This makes it much harder for an attacker to gain access to your account.
Enable alerts from your bank or credit card companies whenever purchases are made or account changes are made. This means that whenever there is activity on your account, you be alerted by either a text message or email. This way, you can find out about fraudulent use very quickly.
The good news is that with credit card and bank fraud, the cost to you is usually nothing because Visa and Mastercard both have policies protecting users from lost or stolen cards. The key is to catch it quickly and report it.
Defending against identity take over is much more difficult and and can be the most damaging in turns of time and money. The most important part is to get a free annual credit report and study it for anything that you don’t recognize. You can get a free credit report from Annualcreditreport.com
After making sure your credit report is clear of anything, you may want to consider a credit monitorint service like Credit Karma.
These services monitor your Transunion credit profile for any changes and notify you for suspicious changes. Many credit card companies also offer these services free to their customers. You many want to check into those as well.
Following these basic steps will go a long way into protecting your identity and helping to prevent theft.