Identity theft is the ultimate crime of the modern generation. A criminal can steal your personal information, your money and even your life, all without making contact with you. In fact, you might not even know it’s gone until it’s too late. Identity theft is a serious problem that’s becoming more prevalent as we move toward a cashless society in which technology is king.
The problem is that banks don’t want you to worry about identity theft. When you hear about “zero charge liability,” you’re lulled into a false sense of security. But just because you don’t have to reimburse your bank for fraudulent purchases doesn’t mean identity theft doesn’t cost you anything. The physical, emotional and financial toll is significant, and it could have disastrous effects on your life.
Why Fight Identity Theft?
Your credit or debit card might prevent you from being liable for purchases related to identity theft, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to the Washington Post, 8.1 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2010, and that number is increasing. The Federal Trade Commission reports that the number of identity theft complaints has increased 11 percent since 2010, and identity theft has been the top fraud complaint for the past 12 years. Furthermore, the average cost of resolving identity theft nearly doubled between 2009 and 2010, and that doesn’t take personal stress into account. In short, there is a price to be paid, regardless of what your bank might say.
What Can You Do?
- Protect Yourself. Don’t wait for identity theft to become a problem before you start protecting yourself. Services such as those offered by CreditRepair.com provide credit report alerts, so that you’ll know if unauthorized changes have been reported about you to the credit bureaus. All CreditRepair.com members are provided with identity theft insurance. This insurance affords some protection if someone does steal your identity.
- Mix Your Passwords. Most people have so many passwords that they can’t possibly remember them all. However, having one universal password is a bad idea; if someone steals it, that person could then break into all of your bank and credit accounts. Create unique passwords containing both numbers and letters for all of your online accounts, and keep a list handy (but well hidden) so that nobody can compromise your security.
- Watch for Skimmers. Skimmers are small devices placed on card slots at ATM machines, gas stations, self-checkout lanes and many other places. These devices can steal your card and PIN numbers, giving thieves the ability to create a duplicate card and spend your money. You might not be able to spot a skimmer, but if something looks suspicious about the card slot at any point of sale, use cash or go elsewhere.
- Record Your Card Information. If you lose a credit or debit card, you may not be able to just call your bank and get a new one. Customer service centers have measures in place to make sure someone can’t get a new card using your identity, and that usually includes requesting your card and/or Social Security number. Make sure you have your card number and the phone number on the back of your card written down somewhere safe at home. This will make your life much easier if you become a victim of identity theft.
Identity thieves are always one step ahead of the game, and there’s no real way to ensure you’ll never become a victim. However, by using protection services and implementing safeguards, you’ll minimize your chances of seeing your credit score suffer needlessly due to identity theft. Furthermore, if you do get victimized, you’ll be able to respond much more efficiently, making your return to normalcy far less stressful.