There have been many stories in the media in the recent past talking about identity theft and how it can damage a person’s credit rating. The number of personal paper shredders sold has increased because of public awareness over how our personal information can be found by the thieves who intend to use it to illegally obtain credit cards or to make purchases by using our account numbers without our knowledge.
Fraud Prevention is something that we can all keep in the forefront of our minds and there are steps we can take to educate ourselves about how the criminals operate and then be wise about how we handle our own paperwork and other financial information.
The crime of identity theft is carried out in one of several ways. One very common method is when a criminal gets your social security number. This number can be the gateway to credit card and loan applications and it can permit the thief to begin a cascading array of financial thefts which can damage or even destroy the victim’s credit rating, sometimes before they are even aware it has taken place. Fraud Prevention can be as simple as just being very careful about who you give your social security number to. Email and telephone “phishing” scams will often ask for the full social security number, but a legitimate credit card company or other financial institution with which you do business will rarely ask for the full number, often they only ask for just the last four digits. Be suspicious when calls or emails arrive and demand that number be entered on a web page. Sometimes, Fraud Prevention is just awareness and being alert to things that seem strange or out of the ordinary. Additionally, there are rarely times when you will need to have your social security card with you or in your wallet and it is best to keep it at home in a secured location. If your purse or wallet is stolen, you do not want the social security number to be included in what is taken.
Fraud Prevention is also about how other personal financial information is managed. More than just your social security number is at risk. Your ATM card is another easily stolen item and when you are using the card, be alert and aware of any people who may be around you. Protect and shield your PIN number, criminals are clever in the ways they may appear to be casually standing nearby, but their eyes are quick to catch your password code and money can disappear from your account in mere moments after your card has been stolen.
Having a personal paper shredder is a great way to destroy the many financial documents that every person has in their home. The pre-approved credit card applications that arrive in the mail, the checks that your credit card companies send you to be used for purchases, those are all items that should be shredded before being discarded to prevent them falling in to the wrong hands. Any financial documents, account statements and tax records that are no longer needed should also be shredded to prevent them being out in a place where they can be taken and used for criminal activity. Fraud Prevention can be as simple as just responsible disposal of your unwanted home office paperwork and it is very effective.
There are times that our carelessness can play in to the hands of the identity thieves and it is important that we keep this in mind to protect our financial information. When you get a new credit card or other bank card, be sure to sign it immediately in ink and put it in a safe place. When you leave your home, only carry the cards that you will need, if your wallet is stolen, you want to minimize the number of accounts that are affected. Simple steps like this can be your best Fraud Prevention measures.
Never leave your purse or wallet unattended, do not turn your back or lose sight of your card during financial transactions. Be aware that in places such as the grocery store, thieves have gotten more sophisticated and may be working in teams. If you leave your purse in the shopping cart and a stranger is suddenly asking you questions or distracting you, there may well be another accomplice who is deftly stealing your wallet from the purse you are not watching. Wearing your securely-closed purse on your body or better yet, a small body wallet that is hidden beneath your coat can permit you more peace of mind and security from the would-be identity thieves. Fraud Prevention is a state of mind that keeps you conscious of how you can minimize your risk in even the easiest ways.
Aside from your physical financial items such as account statement paperwork and credit cards, your passwords used online are an important part of Fraud Prevention. Making the passwords difficult to guess is of primary importance. The criminals who wish to hack your accounts are well aware of the common words people use as passwords. Never use words or numbers that can be guessed by someone trying to hack your accounts. Your phone number, your child’s name, anything that could be guessed should never be your password. The strongest Fraud Prevention passwords are mixes of letters and numbers that are without meaning and they can protect your accounts from the hackers who have identity theft as their goal.
Your mail is another vulnerable spot and there are Fraud Prevention steps you can take with your daily mail deliveries. Bring the mail in each day as soon as possible and if you are able to avoid leaving checks and payments in your mailbox to be picked up by the postal service, it is more secure to mail them in a mail drop rather than leave them in your outdoor mailbox. Your signed checks that have been written out to pay your bills can be easily altered by the thief who has stolen your outgoing mail.
The daily habits we develop to manage our personal information can go a long way toward preventing fraud and prevention is much easier and painless than trying to recover from the damage that identity theft can cause.
Filed under: Fraud Prevention
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