Over 16 million new victims and rising of identity theft are reported to law enforcement every year. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. One in 20 adults is now victimized by computer fraud.

The people who are the most vulnerable victims are the very young and the elderly.

The technology of the Internet has bred individuals who are globally organized.  Law enforcement officials are constantly being challenged by criminal activities of cyber criminals. The major effect of an increase in cybercrime is that individuals using the Internet feel less safe using this medium for electronic commerce.  Consumers fear that hackers will intercept their personal information and commit fraud crimes.  Uncertainty in consumer confidence in the electronic market would affect global commerce and consumer privacy.

Knowledge is Power

There are ways to protect your personal information.  The best way is to be aware of your PII, personal identifiable information.  The loss of your identity is a serious issue, and it could cost you time and money to regain your identity.   

Here are some steps that will give you the knowledge to protect yourself and your family from fraud crimes.

Check your wallet and purse.
Don’t carry your Social Security card or the cards of your children or spouse in your wallet or purse. Normal daily activities do not deem it necessary to carry these items.  Your Social Security card is one of the main sources identity thieves use to obtain your personal identifiable information. 

If your Social Security number is on your health insurance card, remove that from your wallet or purse as well.

Consider putting your driver’s license in a separate holder. This way, if your wallet is stolen, your license – and the personal information contained on it – may still be safe. 

Don’t carry all your credit cards with you. If you carry only one card at a time, you cut down on the risk of someone gaining access to all your accounts.

Don’t carry a list of Internet passwords with you. 

1. Keep photocopies and records of your credit cards and other accounts in a safe place. This will make it easier to contact your account providers, and cancel your accounts quickly, should your cards be stolen.  This goes for Internet providers, banks, and other passwords, too.

2. Never give your Social Security number to someone without knowing the recipient. If asked for your Social Security number, always ask the question why.   And if they don’t need it, don’t feel obligated to provide it.  Ask if there is some other information you can give them in place of this important personal information.

3. Change your mail habits. The safest way to safeguard your mail is to use a locked box. Consider renting a post office box, and drop bills into an official U.S. locked mailbox instead of leaving them in a non-secured personal mailbox in front of your house.  Don’t place sensitive, outgoing mail into an open bin at school or work.

4. Safeguard your banking information. When you order new checks, have them delivered to the bank instead of to your home or office.  The bank will hold them until you pick them up. You should also consider paying your bills online. This can often be done through either your own bank’s website or through your creditor’s website.  Many companies will also send electronic bills directly to your email account.

5. Shred. One of the most foolproof ways to guard against dumpster divers is to shred your documents. Before you throw personal data away, put it through a shredder. There are many inexpensive personal shredders available through discount, department, and office stores these days.  A cross-cut shredder, sometimes called a diamond shredder for the shapes it cuts the paper into, is safer than a shredder which merely cuts paper into strips – but any shredding is better than none.  These shredders are inexpensive and worth the money. You should shred:

  • Credit card receipts 
  • Credit card applications 
  • Expired credit cards 
  • Account statements 
  • Loan applications
  • Court records 
  • Anything containing your Social Security number 
  • Anything containing any personal information 

Consider purchasing a scanner, scan all documents and save them on your computer system before you shred them.  When in doubt – scan, save, then shred the original!

6. Be careful with your credit and ATM cards.

  • While you can’t guarantee a waiter won’t ‘skim’ your credit card, you can minimize your risk by using it less. Always check and verify your credit card with your bank online.  You do not have to wait for your bank statements at the end of the month.
  • While ATMs might have undetectable skimmers, independent ATM machines are more likely to have been tampered with than those, which belong to banks.  And make sure no one is looking over your shoulder!
  • Don’t ever give out your credit catrd number, over the phone or even in person, unless you initiate the purchase.  
  • Copy the front and back of your credit cards, as well as the customer service credit card numbers. Store the information in a safe place. You can scan this information, too, and save it on your computer.
  • Make sure your anti-virus and anti-spyware software programs are up-to-date. 
  • Avoid phishing scams.  Never follow a hyperlink in an email. Type the official address of the company’s website into your browser yourself, or call the company to see if the e-mail is legitimate. 
  • Don’t respond to “remove me from your list” links. This will notify a scammer that your e-mail address is active, and make you a potential mark.  Most email software programs have spam folders where you can move these and other unwanted email files to be purged from your inbox.

7. Never give out information over the Internet unless the transaction has originated with you. You should always protect yourself from telemarketers. Certainly, not all telemarketers are operating illegal businesses.  But be careful.  If you’re interested in what a telemarketer wishes to sell you, ask them to mail you information on the product.  Don’t give your personal information or credit card number over the phone to any unsolicited caller. 

8. Never give out information over the Internet unless the transaction has originated with you. You should always protect yourself from telemarketers. Certainly, not all telemarketers are operating illegal businesses.  But be careful.  If you’re interested in what a telemarketer wishes to sell you, ask them to mail you information on the product.  Don’t give your personal information or credit card number over the phone to any unsolicited caller. 

9. Register with the National Do-Not-Call Registry and the Direct Marketing Association lists to help protect you from unwanted calls, letters, and e-mails.

  • The Do-Not-Call Registry may be subscribed to at: https://www.donotcall.gov.aspx. Once you have registered here, telemarketers generally cannot call your phone for five years, with a few exceptions. 
  • The Direct Marketing Association may be contacted at www.dmaconsumers.org or by mail at: Mail Preference Services Direct Marketing Association P.O. Box 643
    Carmel, NY 1051.

10. Identity theft is a serious issue that can affect your life.  We can help stop identity theft with knowledge and awareness of our personal identifiable information.  Stay focused and stay aware.

For more information on “Protecting Yourself And Your Family From Identity Theft,” please visit my website at www.mackjacksonjr.com