It seems like only a few years ago that identity theft was almost unheard of. However, today it is an increasingly common crime which, if it hasn't affected you, it has probably affected someone you know. Yet preventing yourself against identity theft doesn't have to be a complex processes, follow a few simple steps to ensure that you don't become the next victim:
- Check your credit report regularly. This will alert you to any attempts to open a credit account in your name.Want to ensure that your credit report is in tact? Check your credit report now »
- Think carefully about password selection. This is particularly important for any services which you can access via the internet. Passwords which use birthdates and pet names are common and easy to crack.
- Change your passwords regularly. By updating your access codes you can stay on top of fraudsters. It's also important that if you can't remember all your passwords and need to write them down you must ensure that you store them in a secure place.
- Shred all records which contain personal information. Don't leave anything to chance, shred any records, such as bills and account statements, which could be used by fraudsters to obtain key identity details.
- Always verify a source before you share information. Identity thieves are clever and may pose as representatives from a variety of organisations to get access to your details. If someone calls you requesting verification details and you are unsure about the validity of the call take their details and call them back. That way you can call the stated organisation directly to ensure it isn't a scam.
- Only conduct an internet transaction if you are sure the website is valid and secure. The rise of the internet has created a playing field for fraudsters - always ensure a website is secure before providing personal details or account information.
- Be careful when using social networking sites. Facebook and MySpace have become a huge hit, with millions of people around the world connecting with each other through these forums. However, these sites require personal details to sign up - be wary of this and ensure that you only share information that you are happy for the rest of the world to see.
- Always destroy old credit and debit cards and sign new cards as soon as you receive them. Leaving old cards lying around or throwing them out without destroying them is simply asking for trouble - destroy them and make sure you sign your new cards straight away!
- Cancel ALL cards and memberships in the event that your wallet is lost or stolen. Preventing fraud is all about not leaving things to chance. By canceling all cards and notifying all organisations that you deal with regularly that your wallet has been stolen you will ensure that no-one else is able to use your details.
- If you move house update your address details with ALL companies that may send you mail. Uncollected mail is a key source of identification details for fraudsters. Don't give them the opportunity to access your details - make sure your mail goes with you when you move.
If you think your identity has been stolen you should contact the police, your credit provider and a credit reporting agency. It is advised that you document all conversations with these bodies.