Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tricks of the Trade 2/13


 This week's Tricks of the Trade by Aimee at The Mommy Trade is on how to protect your information against Identity Theft.

Have you ever had your credit card charge by someone else that wasn't you? I have. In fact, we've had several of our cards "re-issued" because the credit card company knew that our information had been compromised. It's a scary thing to think that someone else out there could have my information and be making purchases with it!

But not all ID theft is as simple as a charge to your credit card. If it were there wouldn't be too much to worry about since Credit Card companies are so good at correcting the problem. The real problems come when you SSN is stolen. Getting that corrected can take months  - if not YEARS to get back in order. It can effect your credit and your ability to purchase item on credit.

In 2005 nearly 10 million people experience some form of Identity theft - in fact, it's the fastest growing crime in America. The average amount of time it takes for someone to realize that they've even become a victim is 12 months!

But there are some simple steps that we can all take to better protect ourselves. Some of these will require changes in habits that may be the norm for you, but they are well worth the effort if they will protect you from years of agony trying to correct the problem:

Use you CREDIT card - not your DEBIT card!
If you use your debit card and someone steals the information (say online or they copy it from your card at a restaurant) and then go and make a $1000 purchase on it you are out $1000 cash because that money has been withdrawn from your bank account. But if the same scenario happened and it was a credit card you are not out cash in hand. Your are simple short that amount in your credit line and credit card companies don't require you to pay it while pending an investigation. But if it's a bank that you money was taken out of - well they don't credit your account back UNTIL AFTER they have investigated it - and that isn't an overnight process!

SHRED, SHRED, SHRED!
Shred ANYTHING with your information on it. This would include: bank statements, credit card statements, ATM receipts, tax forms, expired visas, passports & credit cards, expired or voided checks, bills, pay stubs AND those pesky credit card offers that come in the mail! (You can read about those can effect you HERE - very interesting!)
Check your Bills. As each bill arrive (particularly your credit card and bank statements) check to make sure that everything is really sometime you've charged. I'm hearing more and more of small fraudulent charges (like under $25) being made so you really want to pay attention!

Opt out of Pre-approval Offers
. Call 1-888-5OPT-OUT or visit OptOutPrescreen.com to remove your name from pre-approved credit or insurance mailing lists. You will then receive a form in the mail that you will have to sign and return. You can indicate whether you would like your name taken off the list for five years or permanently. Visit the FTC page on Prescreened Offers of Credit and Insurance for more information.

DON'T carry your Social Security card with you.
If you loose your wallet or it's stolen then so if your SSN!

Be cautious of what information you give out and know what information is sensitive to give out. There is a chart HERE that outlines the sensitivity of different personal information.

Lastly, check your credit annually for any errors
. By law you are entitled to one free credit report a year and you can get that at AnnualCreditReport.com. If you find anything that is not correct you'll need to contact the different credit bureaus. (Equifax — 1-800-525-6285
Experian — 1-888-397-3742, TransUnion — 1-800-680-7289)

I do have one last to do for you in regards to checking credit - you want to check your CHILD'S credit as well! If you run their credit it should come back saying they have none but in the rare case that their information has been stolen you could save your child YEARS of bad credit in the future. If you don't check their credit they may not discover the problem until they reach college! You can read more about protecting your child's identity HERE.

Thanks, Aimee, for a great Tricks of the Trade. It was very informative.  If you want further information on your free credit report check out The FTC's information on free credit reports.

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