No one in America today is immune from identity theft – thieves continue to come up with new ways to steal the information they want.
Stealing your purse or wallet is, of course, the simplest method, but since you’ll notice that and cancel your credit cards, it’s also the least lucrative. Therefore, they prefer methods that you won’t catch unless you’re keeping a close eye on both your credit accounts and your credit report.
Some thieves are low-tech. They steal your mail or your trash.
Your mailbox holds credit card billings, boxes of new checks, and medical invoices that reveal both your insurance numbers and your Social Security number. If you order things through the mail, your outgoing mail could give an identity thief your credit card number, its expiration date, and those three little security numbers from the back of the card.
To be on the safe side, you may want to consider putting a lock and mail slot on your mailbox – and drop your outgoing mail in a postal mailbox.
Trash is another rich source of information, and thieves are not too proud to cruise your neighborhood at night, picking up bags to take somewhere else for sorting.
For safety’s sake, shred or burn anything and everything that contains your date of birth or an account number of any kind. Even an old utility bill can give a thief a path to your personal information.
You’ve undoubtedly read about high-tech thieves who find their way into entire databases filled with names and personal information – but there are others who don’t make the news because they steal one account at a time.
For instance, when you hand your credit or debit card to a restaurant server, it could very well be scanned into a number collection device before it’s returned to you. The best advice is to keep your card in sight at all times, and to “swipe” it yourself. One trick that’s being used today is for the clerk to accidentally drop your card, then swipe it through an under-the-counter device as he or she bends down to pick it up.
Some bold thieves install a device called a “skimmer” on ATM machines – this little device reads the numbers from your card when you insert it into the machine to make a withdrawal. Pay attention to anything on an ATM machine that looks unusual, and check to make sure it belongs there before using the machine.
Finally, some thieves simply ask you. “Phishing” scams abound both on the Internet and on the phone. Never, ever give out information unless you have placed the call or gone to an official and legitimate website. Remember, stealing logos online to make a bogus e-mail look official is now child’s play.
These methods only skim the surface on the ways in which identity thieves can get access to your information, and they’re thinking up new schemes everyday.
You cannot keep your information absolutely secure, but you can prevent undue damage to your credit by catching identity theft as soon as it starts. You can do that by actually reading every credit card and bank statement that comes in the mail – and by going on line to check accounts between statements.
Additionally, since identity thieves can change “your” address before using your inactive credit cards or opening new accounts using your identity, “you” could be out there running up bills without knowing it. The only way to be sure you haven’t become a victim is to use credit monitoring to keep a close watch on your credit report.
This guest post was written by Mike Clover from CreditScoreQuick.com.