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5 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

By: Stacy Yu

From the loss of funds to a significantly damaged credit rating, being a victim of identity theft can be devastating.  As our world becomes increasingly driven by technology, database security attacks are becoming very common – even among some of the nation's largest retailers. 

To protect yourself from identity theft, the number one thing a consumer can do is be aware of the potential risk, and pay attention to how you release personal information and to whom.  To further protect yourself from identity theft, here are five things you can do to minimize the risk of becoming a victim.

1. Check Credit Card Statements Regularly

Pay very close attention to credit card statements when paying bills. Often times, identity thieves will make very small purchases, such as in quantities around $1.00, to test that a credit card is valid prior to making much larger purchases. If you notice unfamiliar small, or large transactions on your statement, contact your credit card company immediately.

2. Beware of Phishing - Pay Attention to URLs

Phishing scam artists have gotten so sophisticated, that phishing emails often look exactly like emails from legitimate sources. If you receive an email asking for verification or updating of personal information, pay attention to the URL link provided in the message. If the source is legitimate, the company name should appear directly next to the ".com" or ".org", and the URL should read xxx.COMPANYNAME.COM. If the email if not from the legitimate source, the company name will probably appear somewhere in the URL, but not directly next to the .COM, such as "COMPANYNAME.XXXX.COM."  If there is still some question as to whether the email request is legitimate, the next step is...

3. Go to the Source

When receiving telemarketing calls, email promotions, and even text messages from a retailer or solicitor, do not respond directly to the solicitation. For text messages, scammers will often ask recipients to call a particular telephone number or hotline. Rather than calling the number requested on the message, immediately close the email or hang up the phone.  Go to the company's official website and call them yourself using the numbers from the website.  Once on the line with a representative, they should be able to help you determine if the initial information request was legitimate.

4. Check Your Credit Report Often

The FTC and State of Maryland allow all consumers to have up to six free credit reports a year. Check your credit report. Are there credit card accounts showing up that are unfamiliar? Have unexpected sources been checking your credit history? Looking into these credit report details will help you determine if your identity has been stolen.  Note:  Contrary to what many believe, consumers are able to check their own credit report without negatively impacting their credit score.

5. Only List Partial Account Numbers

If paying credit card bills by check, avoid writing down your entire account number on the memo line. Instead, only write down the last four digits. The credit card company will be able to pull-up the rest of the account number based on the name and address listed on the return slip and check.

Are You A Victim of Identity Theft
If you find yourself a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a series of steps that will help repair your identity theft.

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