Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Identity Theft- A big problem

image from www.livesafely.org
As the use of technology in our society has grown, so have the criminals who use technology for their crimes. An unfortunate side-effect of being able to connect with people through various platforms on your computer is that criminals can also use it to try and scam you.

Here in Meridian Township we've experienced many of the forms of Identity Theft. Whether it's having your wallet or purse stolen and the thieves using your credit cards (the most common), or using your personal information to get credit under your name.  We've also seen individuals scammed into giving their personal information to criminals over the telephone or by email because they were told they won a prize.

Here are some tips on how to avoid having your information used without your knowledge, and what to do if it is.

Tips to avoid Identity Theft:
1. Invest in a good paper shredder, and use it.
2. Never leave your wallet or purse in an unattended vehicle or unlocked locker.
3. Watch out for people trying to "shoulder surf." Some criminals will try to get your PIN as you enter it.
4. Don't give out personal information over the telephone, by email or over the internet unless you know who you are corresponding with and you initiated the contact.

What to do if you are a victim of Identity Theft:
1. If your wallet or purse has been stolen; cancel your credit cards and your debit cards.
2. Place a fraud alert on your credit report by calling the three major credit bureaus. Each has a toll free number.
3. Report the incident to the police.  You can report the incident to the police department where you live.
4. Close any accounts that were opened fraudulently.
5. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You can do so online at www.consumer.gov/idtheft or by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT.
6. Monitor your credit reports. You should look for inquiries you didn't initiate, accounts you didn't open and any unexplained debts.

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