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Identity theft is a crime that offers a big payout with little risk of being caught.Inherent with the Internet Age, identity theft can be perpetrated virtually anywhere on Earth, and those that are victimized can be living on the opposite side of the globe from the perpetrator.
It’s no surprise then that over 11 million Americans alone were victims of identity theft in 2009 according to financial services research organisation Javelin Strategies.
Financial transactions and data transfer through the web is so common these days that most people aren’t the least bit sceptical of the security of their smart phone mobile bank app, despite such technology being in its infancy.
Chances are that those reading this either have been, or inevitably will be, the victims of identity theft.
Identity theft prevention services exist, yet their value is certainly called into question when their CEOs brandish personal information to declare the safety of their services only to have identity theft occur anyway.
Before consulting such companies, attempt DIY identity theft prevention by practicing the following:
Destroy Your Paper Trail (and Plastic Too)
Old tricks are the best tricks, and identity thieves are certainly not opposed to dumpster diving. Buy yourself a shredder, but remember that old credit cards are gold mines of personal information as well.
How to cancel a credit card is something most of us know how to do, but countless individuals remain undisciplined in how to dispose of their credit cards. The simple solution is to buy yourself a shredder that can destroy both paper documents and plastic as well.
Cut Out the Credit Card Offers
If legitimate credit card companies you aren’t currently in business with are advertising to you through email, then it’s obvious that you’ll have no problem independently applying for one when you choose too. So visit OptOutPrescreen.com to register your email account on a list that blocks credit card offers from being sent to that address. That way you don’t have to worry about fake credit card offers, because if any come through the pipe you’ll know they’re illegitimate.
With that said, you must contact your own credit card companies to stop them from sending email offers. On the particulars of dealing with a variety of junk mail woes, consult PrivacyRights.org page.
Get Yourself a PO Box
This isn’t exactly free, but PO boxes through the United States Postal Service offer a thick level of identity security for typically cheap rates. The simple lock and key keeps most goons from getting into your unopened mail.
The majority of PO boxes are accessible any hour of the day and night too, which fits anyone’s schedule. If you already have a weekly habit of stopping by the post office, a PO box is a smart option to stock up on personal identity security.
Take Advantage of the Free Credit Report
Every American reading this, and even those who don’t, is entitled to review your credit reports annually. This is federal law, so take advantage of it.
Contacting the three major credit reporting agencies once a year will entitle you to see every borrowing action committed using your personal information: mainly your social security number. This allows you to observe suspicious activity and prevent major fraud from occurring. But don’t count out the more likely benefit of this service: keeping track of your own credit ups and downs.
Use Free Fraud Alerts
By registering with just one of the three major credit reporting agencies, you grant yourself three full months of fraud alert: one will forward the request to the other two.
It essentially enforces extra diligence on the part of creditors: in order to proceed with a credit application they must contact you and authenticate your existence and your actual desire to take out credit. Every three months call one of these agencies back and make another request.
Monitoring Your Credit Score
Personally speaking, paid credit score monitoring is a rip-off. First off, the credit score is an arbitrary figure compiled from non-regulated sources of data. Essentially, it’s value is based on what a creditor thinks it’s worth, because oftentimes it’s a very misleading number.
With that said, there are plenty of lenders out there who take credit scores very seriously, so consult Credit Karma for free access to your score. It won’t be your true FICO score, but it gives you the TransUnion version, which in terms of comparing one month to the next is just as good.
Identity theft can be a two-fold scam: the crime itself and the exploitation of identity theft victims by dubious pay-for services that claim to help. Skip both by becoming your own identity vigilante and taking advantage of free identity protection services that are available.
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