By Jennifer Cayce
Americans need to understand why it is important not to be a victim of identity theft and learn tactics to avoid their identity being stolen, while holding companies liable if these fraudulent actions occur. Many people are affected by identity theft every day in the United States. The average person that is more likely to have their identity or personal information stolen is someone with a good credit history and a good income. Thieves can range from cleaning people who retrieve their information from wastebaskets and trash cans to employees of good standing who are associated with bank or financial institutions. Anyone can have their credit stolen and some may not even know they have been taken advantage of for months and in some cases even years. All it takes to ruin your good name and credit report is for a thief to get a hold of your name and social security number. Once they have this information they can begin getting their own credit in your name and sometimes they can have your mail diverted to them without you ever knowing. Once the thief has your name and social security number it is easier for them to retrieve more information like, your date of birth, mother’s maiden name, employer, occupation and credit history. People need to be alert and watch for the different types of signs if you feel that your identity could be in jeopardy. Everyone should educate themselves about identity theft because that is the most effective way to prevent it. Monitor bank account information and if you get email notifications do not assume they are trash, always read them. Every four months you should order a free annual copy of your credit report. If you feel there are unauthorized transactions, put a freeze on your account. Do not carry around personal information in your wallet or purse such as social security cards. Always shred personal information you are throwing away such as old drivers’ licenses, social security cards, and bills or statements with your financial information on it. Do not use public computers such as computers at a hotel to access your banking account or pay your bills because thieves are getting smarter all the time and they have learned how to copy your information from a public computer and social networks. Thieves use social networks such as Facebook and MySpace to gain personal information from you about your personal life. If you are job hunting or seeking to buy something an identity thief can send you emails or make phone calls to you offering fraudulent information in order to gain your trust and get personal information from you. People have to watch out and avoid things like this. Make sure anyone asking for your personal information for a loan, job or credit is legitimate. Do not give out any personal information to people or companies that seem like they are phishing. Always check to make sure the company or person you are giving your information to is a legitimate place or person.
Signs that your identity could be in trouble include late billing, billing for no reason, denials when applying for credit when you know that you have a good credit score, and telemarketing scams, where people make call you and ask you to reveal personal information such as your social security number. People should check their credit score and medical record regularly because a person can get your personal information and impersonate you to get loans, medical treatment, credit cards, buy property, take vacations and practically take over your life, if you have a good credit score and do not pay attention to your billing or regularly get credit checks. When there are inconsistent patterns happening involving an account that is not usually active or an account that has a freeze on it or an account that has low activity, these are signs that someone may be tampering with your personal information. A rise in activity on your account or an unusual amount of credit being