Monday, March 8, 2010

Alert! Your Personal Information May Be at Risk!

Identity theft is when an individual uses your personal information (i.e. address, phone number, social security number, credit card number) to commit fraud or crimes. Approximately 9 million Americans have their identity stolen each year. While some cases are resolved easily, others may take hundreds of dollars and hours of time to correct. In many cases, a person doesn't know their identity has been stolen until they receive a call from a debt collector, or are denied a loan due to bad credit. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for a crime they didn't commit. The best way for you to defend yourself from these criminals is to be aware of how they work and take appropriate precautions.

Identity thefts use a number of strategies to get your personal information. Here are a few:

Skimming involves stealing your credit card information without stealing the actual card. Your information is taken at the point of sale using a portable electronic device hooked to a card reader. A dishonest customer service representative may hold a skimmer in their hand and swipe your card when you are not paying attention.

Phishing is a type of email or pop-up designed to steal your personal information. Scammers work hard at making these emails look like official notes by including actual logos from real organizations and companies. Don't reply to an email or pop-up that asks for personal or financial information or follow any links they provide you.

Pretexting is when an individual uses false pretenses to obtain your personal information. These people claim to represent different companies (i.e. government, banks, internet providers) and then try to extract personal information from you by asking a few seemingly harmless questions. Pretexters may use your information themselves or sell it to another scammer.

Identity thieves may use your information for a variety of things: open a new credit card, open a new bank account and write bad checks, rent an apartment, get a driver's license with your information and their picture, take out a loan in your name, get a job using your social security number, or even give your information to the police during an arrest.

In order to battle these cunning scam artists, you need to monitor your accounts and bank statements closely and often. Check your credit report regularly. Unfortunately, you may find out after the damage has already been done.

The Secure Net solution for protecting your entire family is at This also includes roadside assistance and an FBI approved child identification kit.

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