The last thing anyone needs is to lose their personal information (or money!) to a crook. In this podcast, we talk about the dangers of identity theft, along with strategies to help you avoid becoming the next victim.
Welcome to another edition of our CredAbility [now Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions] Podcast. Along with your host, Mechel Glass, here’s Steve Moore with a look at ways to avoid a very expensive and troubling worldwide crime, identity theft. Steve: Mechel, identity theft, I’ve heard a lot about this, but give me the details. What is it really?
Mechel: Well, identity theft is when someone steals another person’s information to basically open up credit or to buy a home or to get car loan. They’re using your information instead of their own. Steve: Well, how big a deal is this? Will that really happen to me?
Mechel: Well, it’s a big deal, and it’s something you should be concerned about because it happens all the time. So it’s important to be proactive and protect yourself as much as possible. Steve: Okay, how does this happen? How do they get my identity? And what information do they take?
Mechel: Well, they get the information numerous ways. They could get it from your mail in your mailbox. They could go into your mailbox when you’re not there and take one of your credit card offers out of there that you get. And they could use that to try to open up a credit card in your name and start using it. They could also get it from other people that you do business with. Say, for example, you fill out information at a doctor’s office, and you’ve got your social security number on there. If their place is robbed and those folks get those social security numbers, they could steal your identity just from that. And you had nothing to do with it. It was something where your information was at another location. Steve: And obviously, since most of us use the Internet these days, any transactions you use that involve your name, your identity, your social security number, your credit card numbers, those can be stolen online. Mechel: Absolutely, because everyone uses different technology at their place of business, so you could be exposed there as well. Steve: All right, how do I protect myself?
Mechel: First, if you don’t use these credit card offers that come to you in the mail, then you probably should limit the amount of times that those offers come to you through the mail. If you open your mail and throw it on the table at your house and then you have work people come through your house, you may want to try to put your bills in another area so that your personal information is not out there and exposed for anyone who comes into your home to see it. If you’re going to do your shopping on the Internet, it’s important to look at the websites and make sure that they’re legitimate. A lot of them have maybe the little key lock on the site to let you know that they’re protected. So doing some due diligence ahead of time makes sure that information is protected before you expose it. Steve: My family is always on me because my password is one word everywhere I go, and it’s my mother’s maiden name. It probably needs to be a bit more sophisticated than that. Mechel: Yes, you may want to change that as soon as possible.
Steve: Okay, well, what if this does happen to me? Where do I go? What kind of help can you give me?
Mechel: Well, if it should happen to you, the first thing you need to do is file a police report. And you need to keep that police report with you at all times, especially if you had your checks stolen. The other thing you need to do is report it to the Federal Trade Commission, and you can call them at 1-877-IDTHEFT. You want to also put a fraud alert on all of your credit files. And you can call the three major credit reporting bureaus to make that happen as well. And then after you do that, you probably want to check your credit history to find out if there’s been any type of activity that you’re not aware of and make sure that you close those accounts as soon as possible. Steve: You’re a big proponent of checking your credit reports at least once a year, right?
Mechel: Absolutely. Get a copy of your credit report for free by going to annualcreditreport.com and that is a service that everyone should use. Steve: Mechel, thanks very much. Mechel: Thank you.