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It’s a sad fact that identity theft and fraud is quite
common today. In the last ten years it’s
estimated that over 50 percent of adults in the
US have faced some form of identity theft. Here’s
a review of some of the common ways that you
can have your personal financial information
stolen and how to avoid them.   

The biggest threat to anyone is probably the
information that they already have online. However,
this may not be information that they have knowingly
placed there. It is information put there by companies
with which they have obtained credit, or have
otherwise done business. We read every week of a
company whose records have been compromised,
whose client/credit information has been stolen. There’
s not much you can do about this, except to limit the
businesses to you deal with to the best. Keep the
number of business you share your financial
information to the minimum.  

Other forms of identity theft are under your control to a
greater extent.

Never respond to phishing emails. This is an email
that looks very similar to that you might legitimately
receive from a company you have or might do
business with.  You might get an email from Chase
bank requesting that you confirm bank information,
etc. They request that you login to take care of some
urgent business. It usually includes a logo similar to a
real institution and a link to the website and sign-in
screen.  Of course, it isn’t really from Chase, and most
institutions are quick to say they will never send such
an email. Don’t respond to these emails. Don’t click
on the links. If you believe it might be legitimate then
find the contact information of the institution
independently and get in touch them separately.

Be very careful on mobile phones, since a similar
scam occurs when entering some websites or
applications. You enter a site and there is a popup
screen requesting your email ID and password.
People who are less familiar on a small screen or who
are inattentive may enter this information thinking it is
a legitimate request initiated by their phone. It isn’t.
Armed with access to your email account, they can
comb through it for other IDs, accounts and
passwords.  

Be very careful on social network sites such as
Facebook and others. You should have all your
privacy settings set to the most private. Of course, you
should not provide age, address and phone number
information at all unless there is something critical you’
d like to accomplish by doing so. Avoid revealing
information that could be used as security access
questions on other sites when you’ve forgotten your
password. For instance, your pets name or family
history (mothers maiden name, etc.)

Don’t use your email ID for any other important
accounts. Especially don’t use the same password
with your email ID in another account. If they
compromise your email account, they’ll have access
to the other accounts as well. In general, don’t use the
same password on many different accounts and
sites.  Obviously once they get the password, it’s only
a few short steps to get your accounts/ IDs, and then
you’ll be completely compromised.  

Protect your Social Security number. Essentially, you
should not give your SS number to anyone except
where it is absolutely necessary. In some situations,
where an institution already has your number, and
wants to verify it, you can often simply provide the last
four digits, and that’s enough. In other cases, when
applying for a loan, or anything requiring a credit
report, they will need your social security number. The
key here is to only apply for credit when you truly need
it. More importantly, only deal with institutions you
believe have a system in place to safeguard your
information.  You should never give it over the phone
unless you are absolutely certain it is a trusted source
on the phone.   

Take your exact address off of your personal literature
such as a resume and other documents where it is
non-essential. Have you ever been asked for your zip
code to verify a credit card purchase? If someone has
your resume (with your address), and they steal your
credit card separately, they can fraudulently make
purchases. They wouldn’t have been able to without
your address. This is an example of how thieves can
chip away at your identity information from different
angles, and combine different pieces to steal from
you.


To continue please see
Part 2 of  Identity Theft - The
Best Ways to Avoid It.   


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_________________________________________
Identity Theft – Key Actions to Take to
Avoid It – Part One.
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