Nov 27, 2010 Pamela Parker
Protect your credit information from thieves. - LaTunya Howard
Identity theft occurs when someone steals a person's financial and personal information to commit a fraudulent act. Shredding documents with private financial information and periodic reviews of credit reports are ways to reduce the occurrence of identity theft. Setting up alerts with banks and credit card companies when irregular activity is suspected with any accounts is another way to reduce the chances of identity fraud. For your own protection, it is imperative to be aware of the three most common types of identity theft.
Credit Identity Theft
Credit identity theft occurs when someone's credit or debit card is used for unauthorized purchases and cash withdrawals. Magnetic card readers, also known as skimming devices, copy the credit card numbers. Credit card skimming can occur when people pay at the gas pump in gas stations. Cashier clerks at restaurants are also able to quickly swipe a customer's credit card with a magnetic card reader.
Preventative measures include paying for purchases with a credit card only when the clerk is in front of you. Use cash to pay for items. Check credit card and debit card balances online or via the phone at least once or twice a week to ensure no unauthorized purchases have been made. Waiting until the monthly bill statement arrives allows any fraudulent activity to occur for a number of days or weeks without the cardholder's knowledge.
Social Security Identity Theft
Social security identity theft involves unauthorized use of someone's social security number to get a job, credit cards or to obtain a loan. Social security numbers can be retained from an old hard drive that was discarded, stolen mail, paperwork thrown in the trash, stolen credit cards, and by retrieving the information from an unsecured website.
Check your Social Security Statement to make sure the earnings and amount of benefits posted to your account are accurate. If bills are received for accounts that are not familiar, contact the respective companies to verify information regarding the account. File a complaint with the company if the account was opened without your authorization. File complaints with the credit bureaus Equifax, TransUnion and Experian regarding any unauthorized activity noted on your credit reports.
Medical Identity Theft
Medical identity theft encompasses the unauthorized use of a person's name and insurance information to obtain medical treatment and prescription drugs. Medical identity theft can result in the filing of false health insurance claims, creation of false medical records, and collection activity for medical treatment that wasn't received. Medical information can be stolen by someone finding insurance paperwork that was carelessly discarded and not properly shredded. Fraudulent activity can also occur when someone pretends to be a health care provider representative and requests health insurance information over the phone or via email.
Ways to remain vigilant of health insurance information include requesting copies of medical records from health care providers, and reviewing statements from health insurance carriers of benefits paid throughout the year. It is also important to store health insurance cards and paperwork in a safe place. Contact the health care provider immediately to request that any discrepancies in your medical bills or records be corrected.
Being the victim of identity theft can be extremely inconvenient. The longer the identity theft continues without being noticed, the more expensive and time consuming it can be to resolve the situation. In terms of medical identity theft, your medical condition and treatment can end up being compromised if your medical records are incorrect. Remaining attentive and cautious at all times when divulging and discarding information is crucial in order to protect yourself.
Federal Trade Commission, Identity Theft (accessed November 27, 2010).
Identity Theft Resource Center, Working to Resolve Identity Theft (accessed November 27, 2010).
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