Computer Identity theft is a major crime that is expanding each year. If you are a victim of identity theft it may take months, even years, trying to repair credit history. A seriously damaged credit report can compromise your chances of getting a new job, a bank loan, insurance or even rental housing. It’s even possible to be arrested for a crime you didn’t commit if someone else has used your identity to break the law.
Unfortunately, many of the methods that thieves use to steal identities are beyond your control to guard against. Although it’s rare, even store clerks have been known to use their position to pass along information to identity thieves. There are measures you can take, that will make it more difficult for a thief to use your identity.
Protect Your Credit Card Number After It Has Been Swiped When Buying Items
Protect your credit card number after It has been swiped when making a purchase, check to make sure that the printed receipt hides all but the last 4 digits of your credit card account number (usually there will be Xs in place of the first 12 digits). Some terminals still print receipts that show all of the account number, and may include the expiration date as well. After your card is swiped, you are permitted by law to hide the first 12 digits of your account number on the copy of the receipt that the vendor retains. A marking pen that will do the job usually.
When you go to a restaurant, it is important to make sure that the first 12 digits of your credit card number are hidden on your receipt. You may be in the habit of signing it and then leaving the restaurant’s copy on the table after your meal. An identity thief can easily steal the signed receipt before the waitperson comes back around to pick it up from the table. Don’t take any chances.
Do You Really Need To Give Your Social Security Number?
Another important way that you can guard against identity theft is to avoid giving out your social security number unless it’s absolutely required. Although you need to share your social security number when you apply for credit or for a bank account, sometimes a store or an organization will want to use it as an ID number, simply to identify you within their system. This is a common practice even though the law says that social security numbers aren’t to be used as ID numbers. In these situations, use your judgment. There’s usually an alternative if you ask.
Destroy Documents That Contain Personal Information
Buy a paper shredder and use it to shred documents you are throwing away which contain personal info such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, phone numbers and dates of birth. This is important to do both at home and at work. Identity thieves aren’t above going through someone’s trash to find valuable personal information that can help them obtain credit in your name.
If you are a victim of computer identity theft, take the following steps at once. Notify credit card companies, shut off your accounts immediately immediately and ask to have new cards issued to you. Place a fraud alert on your file with any one of the three major credit bureaus. The other two will be notified automatically. File a police report. You may need it to show to creditors as proof of the crime. Lastly, review your credit monitoring options and sign up for a service that will alert you of any changes in your credit reports. You can