Theft has always been a common problem, but with the increase of technology and use of credit and debit cards, identity theft is more present than ever. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 17.6 million United States residents experienced identity theft in 2014. In that year alone, thieves have misused the victims’ personal information to make unauthorized purchases and open new accounts without their knowledge. Here are ten ways you put yourself at risk, and how to prevent identity theft from occurring.
Related: What to do once your identity has been stolen
Missing Credit Cards
If you have lost your credit card, it is a smart idea to contact the card issuer. You will be able to find out if anyone made charges on the lost credit card and prevent any new charges from happening. The card issuer will send you a brand new credit card and cancel the stolen one. Learn to keep your cards in a safe place and double-check where you store them.
Unknown Purchases on Bank Statements
No matter how you bank, online or off, make sure you are regularly checking your statements. Check to see if any unauthorized deposits or withdrawals have been done to your account. If you see any odd transactions, be sure to contact your bank or card issuer. Most banks are very helpful if you find unauthorized charges and they assist you with canceling the compromised account, and refund your money.
Keep Reading: Who is most susceptible to identity theft?
One of the ways identity theft happens is when a thief steals mail from the victim. Bank statements, for example, can typically go missing. If you usually get monthly statements, then you should find out what is going on. He or she may have taken the mail and changed the address. Another way this happens is if you receive statements from your online account and the account has been compromised. Contact your financial institution to find out the situation. A quick fix to this problem is to go paperless with your bank and do all your banking online.
Receiving Odd Phone Calls and Bills
Have you noticed any odd phone calls from bill collectors? Received any pieces of mail that turn out to be billed claiming you owe a certain amount of money? Again, check your accounts and credit report to make sure no one is making fraudulent purchases on your behalf.
Credit Report Errors
Errors on your credit report can be a sign of identity theft. A common identifier is a new unauthorized account has been made, or a credit inquiry comes up that you don’t recognize. Contact credit bureaus to get this mistake cleared up right away.
Using ATMs in Unfamiliar Areas
ATMs can be convenient to check balances and withdraw cash, but it can also be risky. Thieves can install skimming devices, which will take the personal information on your card and money can be taken. Go to an open ATM area at a known, familiar location.
Keep Reading: Credit v Debit Cards: which is safer for online shopping
There are websites that are unsecured, which can put your personal information at risk if you are making purchases. Best advice is to use a known website that has HTTPS (Secure HTTP) in the beginning of the website in the address bar. Also, look for the lock icon on browsers to make sure it is safe to use.
A person may use your social security number (SSN) for a number of reasons. For example, when you go to file your taxes and you statements says you earned more than your actual wages, this could mean that the person who stole your number is using it for wage reporting services.
If you have fairly good credit, applied for a loan or new credit card and you have been denied, then something fishy may be going on. You should immediately check your own credit report to make sure there are not any unknown lines of credit in your name.
Calls from Your Bank
If you have been receiving calls from your bank, the smart move is to pick them up. Banks will work with you and tell you if they see any odd changes to your accounts. If you miss a call from your bank, call them back immediately. This way, you can sort out any issues. If you receive an e-mail, check to make sure it is legitimate. The best way is to simply call the number to the bank.
Keep Reading: 5 tips to protect your mobile credit card data
Hopefully, these situations and tips will help you keep an open mind. This is not to say you should be paranoid, but always be mindful when it comes to your personal information
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