Stopping Identity Theft

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The Federal Trade Commission reports identity fraud occurs once every two seconds.

Someone right now is having their identity lost or compromised. Unfortunately, many of those victims are located in my hometown, St. Louis, MO.

A good example of this growing problem, St. Louis ranks third among all Metro areas nationwide in identity theft. Missouri also ranked number one ahead of Connecticut and Florida in identity theft complaints according to the 2015 survey by the Consumer Sentinel Network, an online database of consumer complaints available only to law enforcement.

A 2016 Identity Fraud Study, released by Javelin Strategy & Research, found that $15 billion was stolen from 13.1 million US consumers in 2015. In the past six years, identity thieves have stolen $112 billion.

Identity theft can run the gamut from credit card fraud to loans and new accounts opened in your name. In many cases the victim will have to fight to get his or her name restored to good standing. The process can take months or even years to repair.

Both businesses and individuals may be vulnerable. Despite the high probability that your identity will be hacked, stolen and abused, there are steps one can take to help prevent ID theft from occurring.

These include guarding your information online. With the increase in shopping and banking online, your passwords and logins should be cleared regularly, especially if you work on a public computer. These should be changed on a monthly basis.

Credit cards should be used for online purchases. Federal law provides better guarantees for credit card protection than other options. Use these instead of online payment services or debit cards.

Avoid sites that may look like a bank but are really what is known as a phishing scam. They will try to get you to enter your personal information. Ensure that you are on a website that is familiar and secure before handing over detailed background data.

Bank and credit card statements should be monitored. Check for odd purchases, ones you are certain you did not make. Businesses may have dozens of pages to comb through each month. Individuals not too many. Regardless these reports should be checked regularly.

Credit reports should be used several times per year. Individuals are entitled to a free annual credit report by law. These are available from the three bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Businesses can check with Dunn and Bradstreet. Be aware of knock-off sites that will try to charge you for similar reports and other unnecessary services.

Your children’s activities may also be inadvertently opening doors to your family data. Forms for school and social organizations should be checked especially when social security numbers and credit cards are needed for participation. Parents should ask how the information will be used and how it will be stored to eliminate possible breaches.

Finally, contracting with an identity theft prevention firm can provide a mix of preventive and reactive tools to help maintain your identity and credit. These can include fraud alerts and credit freezes. Some services provide unlimited protection without limits should your assets become compromised. Programs are available for the entire workforce as well as individuals.

As the old proverb states, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” A saying never more appropriate when your identity is at risk.



Source by Natalie Meyer

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