Identity Theft Exploding
By Steven Presar
You Can Avoid
Becoming a Victim - Plus, Tips
if You do Become a Victim
Americans are more concerned about identity theft than
unemployment or corporate fraud, according to a survey of 2,000 people
conducted by Star Systems.
Nine out of ten Americans demand new federal legislation, while
two-thirds say the financial services industry needs to do a better job of
verifying the identity of customers who open bank accounts (66 percent)
and credit card accounts (72 percent).
Some 5.6 percent of respondents reported being victims of
identity theft, which translates to 12 million people. When debit and
credit card fraud and identity theft were combined, close to 15.9 percent
of consumers say they have been the victim of one of these crimes.
(Source: Star Systems, 2003)
For most of us, using a debit or credit card to make a purchase
has become an every day aspect of life. Many of us do it every day and
feel safe in doing so.
But it is far from safe. People with your debit or credit card
information may make purchases with your card information over the
telephone, via the Internet, or at a local retail store.
As we moved to a cashless system of transactions by debit or
credit card, a relatively simple crime niche has grown - identity theft
Some law enforcement authorities are not pursuing the crime in a
coordinated and cooperative fashion. Thus, a situation has grown that
affords the people who perpetrate such acts of theft and fraud, to act
with a degree of confidence that they will not get caught.
What can you do to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of
identity theft or fraud?
Here is a list of actions that you can take to avoid becoming a
victim of identity crimes.
=> 1. Never throw receipts or
statements away that have personal information on them. The trash is the
greatest repository of information for the identity thief. Even better,
shred everything that has identifying information on it (transaction
=> 2. Pay to have an unlisted
telephone number in your local telephone director.
=> 3. Take as much
identification off of your personal checks and driver's license as
possible. Thus, no home addresses, phone numbers, or social security
numbers on personal checks. Use only your last name and first initial
rather than your full name. You want a retail clerk to review your ID when
you are cashing a check.
Most states now provide a photo ID on all new automobile drivers
licenses issued. If you do not have one, consider getting your licenses
renewed now to get a photo ID for identification purposes. Do not put your
social security number on your driver's license.
=> 4. Examine your bank
accounts for suspicious activity everyday, this can be done online via the
=> 5. Have your middle
initial removed from all public documentation if possible. Middle initials
help identity thieves narrow down their searches for victims.
=> 6. If someone calls you
asking for your personal information on the telephone - do not provide any
personal information to anyone over the phone.
=> 7. Don't leave your mail out
overnight. If you will be away from home for any period of time, have your
home mail delivery stopped. If possible, secure a locked mail box at your
local post office or a retail store mail box service for your home mail
If you go on vacation, have your mail and newspaper delivery
stopped and arrange to have your yard maintained. Include the post office,
newspaper service, and your friends or neighbors to insure that your home
looks as if it is occupied while you are gone.
For additional information on home security visit -
=> 8. Write "Check ID" on the
back of your debit or credit cards next to your signature. That way, when
a retail store checks the signature on your card, they can verify that the
card is being used by the proper individual.
=> 9. Be aware of people
standing too close to you and "shoulder surfing" you while you conduct
your ATM transactions.
If you do become a victim of an identity crime - do the
=> 1. Demand to file a police report no matter how
unwilling the law enforcement office may be. Make sure to get a copy or at
least the report number.
=> 2. In the case of card fraud, make sure to cancel your
card and report it as stolen to your credit card company as soon as you
Immediately fill out affidavits with the appropriate financial
institution denying that you were the one who made the relevant purchases.
In most cases, the banks will respond with up to a 30-day process that
requires the businesses that accepted the fraudulent transactions to repay
=> 3. Report the fraud to the three major credit bureaus:
~ TransUnion, Post Office Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022
~ Equifax, Equifax Equifax Credit Information Services, Inc.,
Post Office Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374 1.888.766.0008
~ Experian Consumer Information, Post Office Box 1909,
Orange, CA 92865
=> 4. The U.S. Secret Service handles fraud cases that
cross state borders. If you know that your case applies, contact their
local office to make them aware of your case. If it is part of a broader
fraud case, you may be contacted by an agent.
=> 5. You can also fill out a complaint form with the
Federal Trade Commission, although this is strictly used to track national
identity theft statistics.
About The Author
Steven Presar is a recognized small business technology coach, Internet
publisher, author, speaker, and trainer. He provides personal, home, and
computer security solutions at
ProtectionConnect.com. He provides business software reviews at
OnlineSoftwareGuide.com. In addition, he publishes articles for
starting and running a small business at
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