5 Ways You’re at Risk for Identity Theft

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It’s the fastest-growing crime in America, and every minute, 19 people fall prey to it. What is it? Identity theft.

In addition to the personal violation you feel, identity theft is costly and time-consuming to reverse. It’s fairly easy to prevent identity theft just by changing some of the habits you may not know are putting you at risk.

Here are five ways you may be putting yourself at risk:

1. You let your credit card out of your sight.
Whether it’s running into the gas station with your purse in the car or letting the server take your card away to scan, letting your card out of your sight puts you at risk for identity theft. Thieves can steal your card information through a process called skimming, in which a tiny device copies the information from your card. It occurs most often at restaurants, gas stations, and bars, so opt for cash in these places.

2. You store your financial information online.
This is dangerous for a couple of reasons. When you can buy whatever you want with a single click, it’s easy to overspend. More importantly, however, keeping credit card numbers saved on your computer puts you at risk for identity theft; it’s fairly easy for a skilled hacker to steal credit card numbers from saved accounts online.

3. You use public wi-fi.
Sure, it’s convenient. But is connecting to public hotspots at places like Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, and other places really smart? According to experts, not really. Public wi-fi connections aren’t as secure as private password-protected networks, putting you at greater risk for theft. If you absolutely must use free hotspots, avoid checking your bank statements or entering any personal or financial information.

4. You haven’t opted out of credit card applications.
Unsolicited mail, including pre-approved credit offers, are also risky. Thieves can steal these offers out of your mailbox and open accounts in your name. (This has actually happened to me!) The Federal Trade Commission offers a way for you to opt out of such offers by contacting 1-888-5-OPT-OUT or by visiting www.optoutprescreen.com.

5. You don’t check your credit report.
One of the biggest indicators of identity theft is changes to your credit report. New accounts, late accounts, or collections for accounts you never opened are surefire indications you’ve been victimized. Everyone is entitled to a free copy of their report each year from annualcreditreport.com. You could also sign up for a credit monitoring service, which alerts you of any changes to your report, including new accounts, collections or drops in your score.

With a little due diligence on your part, you can stay safe from identity theft. Share your tips for preventing identity theft in the comments!

 

Posted in: Credit and Debt, Money, Uncategorized

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