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The fasted growing crime in the US and it is not even done in the presence of the victim. Most often the crime is performed on-line, by mail, on the telephone, or on a fax-based transactions, This crime is known as non-self-revealing. Did you know? -At the minimum, Identity theft victims spend about 40 hours resolving the theft. -Most identity thefts involve the thief acquiring a credit card -Only 15% of victims find out about the theft through proactive action taken by a business -Emotionally, this has about the same impact as that of a violent crime HOW THE THIEVES DO IT:

  • Stealing mail or bills disposed in the rubbish (dumpster/garbage, trash cans, realize that your personal information is no longer personal, if deposited in the trash outside for pickup).

  • Victims carelessly throwing away old equipment, without proper sanitizing (hard drives, etc.).

  • Stealing your credit card information, front and back, while you are making an in-store purchase.

  • Inside infiltration of data bases of that store vast amounts of personal information.

  • Eavesdropping (via Wi-Fi) on public transactions to obtain personal data. This can be done from the parking lot of many major stores.

  • Stealing by hacking personal information in databases

  • Impersonating a charity organization.

  • False advertising, where the victim is seeking some type of bogus job, and having to provide private information.

  • Browsing online for personal details that have been posted by users, this is so easy, and victims providing the information, so naive.

TransUnion, Equifax, Experian are the major credit reporting agencies in the US. Protecting yourself from identity theft takes action on you. Do not think for a minute, that it cannot happen you, for it can happen to anyone. While you can't totally protect yourself from thieves, you can at least attempt to make yourself less vulnerable as a victim by doing what you can, to make it more difficult for thieves to access your personal information.

The financial world classifies ID theft as: -Identity Cloning: (assuming someone else's identity in daily life) -Financial Identity Theft: (using anther's name and other identifying information to obtain goods and services) -Criminal Identity Theft: (posing as some else, when arrested "or detained" for a crime) -Business/Commercial Identity Theft (using another's business name to obtain credit) A few suggestions to avoid being a victim.: 1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put 'PHOTO ID REQUIRED.' 2. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the 'For' line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels won't have access to it. 3. Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a PO Box use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address. Never have your SS# printed on your checks. (DUH!) You can add it if it is necessary. But if you have it printed; anyone can get it. 4. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. I also carry a photocopy of my passport when I travel either here or abroad. We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed on us in stealing a Name, address, Social Security number, credit cards. 5. We have been told we should cancel our credit cards immediately. But the key is having the toll-free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them. 6. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one). 7. Call the 3 national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and also call the Social Security fraud line number. I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me an application for credit was made over the internet in my name. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. -You should Optout. All you have to do is to write to the three major credit bureaus (calling (888) 5OPTOUT (567-8688). They will remove your name, for two years, from mailing and telemarketing lists -Do yourself and buy a small shredder. Newer models not only provide for shredding paperwork, but also that of credit cards. If you don't want to purchase one, at least cut up the documents and credit card cross cut style. -Annually review your credit report. Every time you apply for a loan, the visit by the credit inquirer is noted on your credit report, even though you did not go through with it. If you did not initiate it, contact the reporting credit agency and let them know. -Do not carry your Social Security card with you. Memorize the number and put away in a secure location. How many credit cards do you carry with you? do you really need all of them? Carry only your Driver’s license and as few credit cards, as necessary. -Do photocopy all of your credit card(s), your driver’s license, just-in-case you lose your purse or wallet. It makes it a whole lot simpler if you have all of the information available. -Do not ever provide personal information on the phone to someone you do not know. Quite often, the scam artists call unsuspecting victims pretending to be their financial services company and request information to be provided over the phone (a very easy way to circumvent this potential scam is to get their name, phone number and address, and then call them back at the number you have on file or that is printed on the statements you receive).

-Do you look over your monthly credit card statement each month to make sure there aren't any charges showing up that are not yours? If there are charges not initiated by you, immediately contact that company. -Fortunately, credit card companies are getting on the ball. If your card company contacts you about questionable (Last week, while you were in Paris, did you buy a piece of jewelry for 5,000.00 dollars?) charges and you did not, beware, this is notice that someone has stolen your identity. -If at all necessary, do not place out-going mail in your mail box. Take it to the Post Office or a Post Office neighborhood collection box. Many thief's take documents that contain personal information for your personal mail box. Did you know that thieves have the chemical ability to remove ink and then rewrite your checks? -Unfortunately, should a thief get their hands on your driver’s license, they can change it to their own picture, thus providing proof that they are the person, named. At this rate, it will not be long before they simply print a counterfeit driver license with your information on them, with their picture.

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