Identity Theft

One of the worst things to happen to an unsuspecting individual is to have an unscrupulous character steal his or her identity. This scumbag can steal everything from money to property, ruin the victim's credit and make his/her life totally miserable. By the time the identity theft is realized, it is usually too late. It can take months, sometimes years and enormous sums of money to get this type of crime reversed.

Identity theft is on the rise and will be soon, if it isn't already, the number one crime committed against individuals. It is very difficult to find and prosecute these criminals and if they are found, the current laws are not set up to do justice for this crime. This criminal usually gets off with a slap on the wrist and is set free to steal someone's identity again. I hope before much longer this will change.

What can you do to prevent someone from stealing your identity?

Practice common sense. Never give your personal information to anyone unless you are the one to initiate the inquiry.

Do not, (I repeat, do not!) send personal information such as Social Security number, Birth date, Mother's maiden name, etc., to anyone through email.

Do not give this information to anyone that calls you.

Get a good cross-cut shredder and shred any personal documents you no longer need. This includes all those free credit card offers that come in the mail.

Do not put bills or other important mail in your mailbox to be picked up by the postman. Anyone can pick it up! Mail these at a secure U. S. Postal mail box. If your mail box is not in a secure area, get a P O Box and have all your mail sent there. As a side note, you may want to get a P O Box if your mail carrier doesn't always put the right mail in the right mailbox.

Get a copy of your credit report at least once a year. I subscribe to a service that watches my credit report. It isn't very expensive and lets me know if anything unusual is happening regarding my credit.

If you order items on the Internet, make sure you are dealing with a reputable firm. Check to make sure there is contact information. (Mailing address, telephone number, email address) When entering credit card details, make sure it is a secure site. (https in the web address, not http, and there should be a secure indicator like a little padlock in the lower right on the page) Never use your bank's debit card! Use a credit card. And never, ever order anything from a spam email!

Steps that you can take to help identify and to help protect yourself from deceptive (spoofed) Web sites and malicious hyperlinks (Microsoft).

Equifax Credit Watch  (formerly Privista) Secure your credit.

Many credit cards offer credit watching, check your credit card to see if it offers this service.