Discover Practical Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

By: Stanly Q. Morgansten

Have you heard the term straight from the horse's mouth? While it's okay to learn about protecting yourself from books and law enforcement agencies, the real teachers are the reformed identity thieves themselves.

If you have watched the news for any length of time recently, you are very aware that identity theft is a huge problem. In fact, you have probably been a victim or know someone who has been victimized. I can say that quite confidently because according the U.S. Postmaster General, there were over 12 million cases of identity theft recorded. While many consumers know the problems exist, very few have a clear understanding of what these identity thieves do to gain access to your personal information.

Myth # 1 Most Identity Thieves Are Male If you stop the average person on the street show them 3 random photos and ask them to point out the person most likely to be a I.D. thief, you will find that at a rate of 6 to 1, most people select the men as potential thieves. This all too common misconception leaves you vulnerable to being scammed. The facts are clear that just about anyone these days could be an identity thief. It is very important that we stay on guard. Simply be aware of your surroundings and never leave your personal items unattended for any reason.

Misconception # 2 Relaxing Your Guard While Shopping or Eating Out This one is hard to overcome because in our society, we have grown use to not carry cash. It's simple and easy to hand over our credit or debit card to a waitress or cashiers to pay our bills. The problem is regardless of where you are or how nice the neighborhood is, you have just handed your personal information to a total stranger. You totally trust this person to only use that information for this transaction. What you don't know is that it is so very easy to steal your credit card information, store it on another card, and have it back to you in less than a few moments and you'll never know until you get the bill. To combat this, regularly look at your statements and begin to keep a daily spending journal and immediately respond to any discrepancies.

If you are really serious about this, you might want to establish an expenditure limit on your credit card. This would allow the credit card company to alert you whenever a transaction occurs over a certain dollar figure. This is very helpful because if you are like me, you use your debit or credit card for everything and tracking each minor expense would be very tedious.

Misconception # 3 Tossing Out That Junk Mail Unopened Whether you have good credit, great credit or terrible credit, it really does not matter. You will receive in a given month between 12 and 50 plus new offers each month to open new banking, credit accounts. The problem with this is that most of us are lazy. We fall in one of two categories. The first is a person who does not own a personal shredding machine and simply tosses the multiple credit offers in the trash or simply tears them in half and then tosses them. The second is the person who does own a personal shredder but has become too lazy to shred each and every piece of documentation sent to them.

Listen, all a thief has to do is get a hold of one piece of information from your trash can and you quickly become a victim. Don't believe me? Let me ask you this, what are doing at 3a.m.? Really, well guess what our trustworthy identity thief is doing? She is in your trash can randomly pulling a bag out of your can for shifting and sorting later.

Idea: You might also try running water over your personal mail before you trash it so that it becomes totally unreadable to potential thieves. Why would a thief waste time with your wet smudged mail when your neighbor's mail is so much easier for them to steal?

Misconception # 4 Having Mail Delivered to Your Home Are you starting to see the point now? At all costs, you must maintain your privacy. Why is this important? Well, if your mail sits unattended, it won't be long before someone attends to it. You get the idea.

Another way to do this is by opening a post office box. For many this is a necessity because they do not arrive home in time to collect the mail as soon as it is delivered. If you give a crook access to your mail, it becomes a simple process of updating your address to theirs. Once done, you've lost a lot more than you think.

After learning everything mentioned above, I thought to myself, how anyone can do this alone. These thieves are getting smarter and more sophisticated everyday. It seems almost impossible to keep up. Years ago, I often wished that there was someway to ensure that my family would be safe. Today, there are finally companies that specialize in protecting consumers like us.

When selecting a service to monitor and proactively protect your credit, make sure they have been recommended by over and over by top law enforcement personnel and their service has been proven to work in real world situations.

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