Identity theft is a growing problem that has reached worldwide, astronomical proportions. Internet identity theft is on the rise and can have a huge, detrimental affect on your life by destroying your credit score and even leaving you open to criminal charges for crimes that are committed in your name.
When someone else assumes your identity for illegal or otherwise unsavoury purposes, this is known as identity fraud and is growing at a frighteningly rapid rate throughout the United States and the rest of the world.
These unscrupulous characters make a living by stealing your identity and impersonating you to commit crimes such as bank fraud, credit card fraud, mail fraud and more. Criminals abound in this lucrative field and they are quite skilled at rapidly conducting a myriad of illegal operations once they assume another person's identity. Not just a local crime, instances of Internet identity theft have been linked to organized crime and drug trafficking as well as pornography, money laundering and alien smuggling.
The Internet, while providing an efficient and easy to use marketplace for users, is also a domain that is fraught with identity theft opportunity. However, recognizing and protecting yourself from identity fraud is possible. If you use due diligence when conducting business over the Internet, you will be able to give your identity a blanket of protection, thus saving a great deal of heartache and headaches later.
In order to ensure safety in your Internet transactions, you should adhere to the following:
- Always use the same "stored-value" card for all Internet transactions. Stored value cards are ones that are issued by your financial Institution with specified dollar limits.
- Establish an account with an Online Payment Service whose primary service is geared to protecting their clients' financial transactions over the Internet.
- Use a browser that has built in encryption capabilities, which will scramble any sensitive information transmitted via the Web. If the URL address begins with "https" and you see a small "lock" icon in the status window, chances are your browser is equipped with the latest technology to protect your personal or financial information.
- Strive to conduct business with sites that have been authenticated with digital certificates. Click on the authentication logo to ensure you are on a legitimate, protected site before you provide any sensitive information.
- Never disclose passwords or your identification information unless you are positive of with whom you are dealing. Legitimate Internet Service Providers will never solicit this information from you via e-mail, so you should promptly report any correspondence of this nature to the original site owner and then delete the mail. Never, click on a URL contained in this type of e-mail, as this is just a scam artist's way of accessing your private information -- commonly referred to as phishing.
- Maintain records of all Internet transactions and routinely check your credit card statements for accuracy.
- Most legitimate online merchants will provide confirmation e-mail once you place your order. Be wary of those that do not offer this service.
Technological advances provide more and more protection to Internet shoppers; however, as quickly as the innovations are put into place, there are criminal elements that are diligently working to thwart these efforts.
When dealing with merchants on the Internet, you must practice common sense and be security conscious. Should you fall victim to Internet identity theft, you must take action to protect your self immediately.
As soon as you suspect your identity has been compromised through Internet identity theft, contact the service provider. Next, get in touch with your credit card issuer and immediately close your account. Your credit card company will be only too happy to issue you new cards with a different account number. Ensure that your old account contain the notation "closed at consumer's request" so that there will be no harmful consequences to your credit score. Follow up all verbal communication with your credit card company in writing so you have a hard copy record of the transaction.
Next, call all of the three credit reporting agencies to report the fraudulent activity. Request that they review your records to make sure no additional credit cards have been opened in your name without your authorization. Ask that all your accounts be flagged with "fraud alert", so that no accounts can be opened in your name in future without your express permission. Provide the reporting agency with all your contact information, including phone number, so that you can be readily reached should your account show any ongoing, problematic activity.
All this may sound a bit like "over-kill", however Internet identity theft is a thriving underworld activity and your life will change dramatically for the worse if you fall victim to its evil hold. Therefore, protecting yourself ahead of time in order to avoid Internet identity theft is a smart, sensible move. As the old adage goes: there's no sense locking the barn door after the horse gets out.
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George Dodge is author and webmaster of Identity Theft Defense at www.Identity-Theft-Defense.com where you can discover more about the various forms and methods of Identity Theft and how to protect yourself from becoming an Identity Theft Victim.
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