The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 9 million — yes, 9 million — Americans have their identities stolen each and every day!
In fact, according to figures released by the FTC, identity theft topped the list of its most common consumer complaints.
It’s easy to understand why crooks love ID theft. Your personal information such as your Social Security number, your bank and credit card account numbers, and even your name, address and phone number, can be possibly used to commit fraud.
Identity theft, which occurs when someone rips-off your personal data for criminal purposes, is the fastest growing crime in the United States. These identity thieves steal your personal information to open new credit accounts, order merchandise and even borrow money, all in your name and without your authorization or knowledge.
Many times, sadly, innocent consumers are not even aware they have been victimized by identity thieves until they are contacted by collection agencies trying to cover debts they did not even know they had.
The FTC encourages folks to make sure their transactions, both online and off, are secure and that personal information is protected.
As with any other crime, prevention is the key, so here are some tips from the FTC folks to help you protect your personal data:
3. Put passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number or your phone number, or obvious choices like a series of consecutive numbers or your hometown football team.
4. Minimize the identification information and the number of credit cards you carry to what you will actually need. Do not put all you identifying information in one holder in your purse, briefcase or backpack.
5. Keep items with your personal information in a safe place. When you discard receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, bank checks and statements, expired charge cards, credit offers you get in the mail, and mailing labels from magazines – tear or shred them.
6. Consider ordering a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies every year. Make sure it is accurate and includes only those activities you have authorized.
A Quick Security Tip: Some identity theft authorities suggest you review copies of your credit reports even more frequently than once a year.
7. Use a secure browser when shopping online to help guard the security of your transactions. When submitting your purchase information, look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar to help ensure your information is secure during transmission.
A Quick Security Tip: Some scoundrels have been known to place fake “lock” icons on their phony websites, so always use extreme caution when revealing any important information online.
For more information, log on to www.ftc.gov.
My Final Thoughts: In today’s high-tech world in which we all live, the challenge of safeguarding your personal information is paramount. Identity thieves are just waiting to obtain your personal data for their unlawful use.
Identity theft is a particularly ugly crime. A victim of identity theft may have to spend many hours and hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars trying to restore their good name and reputation. These identity thugs are not just stealing something from you; they are, in effect, stealing “you.”
Note: If you manufacture or distribute any security, safety, emergency preparedness, homeland defense or crime prevention related products, please send information on your product line for possible future reference in this column to CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.
Copyright 2008 by Bruce Mandelblit
“Staying Safe” with Bruce Mandelblit (www.Mandelblit.com) is a regular column for the readers of Newsmax.com and Newsmax.com magazine.
Bruce welcomes your thoughts. His e-mail address is CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.
Bruce is a nationally known security journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer.
Bruce writes "Staying Safe," a weekly syndicated column covering the topics of security, safety, and crime prevention.
Bruce was commissioned as a Kentucky colonel — the state’s highest honor — for his public service.
This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.
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