Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Serious Look At Identity Theft Prevention For You

By Jay Anderson

Do you use identity theft prevention measures? If not, you may want to start. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes of this century and more than 10 million people find themselves a victim of it annually. The vast majority of this is simply not being cautious with who they share their personal information with.

The average victim of identity theft can expect to pay at least $500 to try and correct the problems that will result. You can also expect to spend a minimum of 60 hours making phone calls, writing letters, and sending faxes to try and prove that it was not you that made the charges on the accounts affected. These thieves have become more creative so you must become more educated about the best identity theft prevention measures available.

One of the simplest and yet most effective things you can do is to shred all mail that comes into your house. That means the credit card offers, the mortgage offers, the refinance offers, all of it that you did not request. Get a shredder with "cross-cut" shredding which makes it almost impossible for a dumpster-diving thief to piece it all back together again. Also look in magazines, since the magazine address label contains information about you, and many times magazines have pre-printed forms inside with your personal data on it, as a convenience in case you wish to order something.

The government has become aware of the prevalence and severity of this crime and has implemented some legislation aimed at identity theft prevention. The first thing is allowing you to get a free credit report once a year from each of the credit bureaus so that you can see activity on your account and identify activity that should not be there.

The credit reporting companies have also gotten into the act to help you prevent this crime. One way is to send them an "opt-out" which means that you no longer want any banks or financial institutions to mail you offers, even if you qualify. This is a great idea, especially because you may be tempted to sign up for what may appear to be great offers and then find yourself with financial problems due to over-extending yourself.

The credit bureaus also allow you to request a "credit freeze" on your account which will completely freeze your report. What this means is that nobody can run a credit report on you without your express permission. To get permission, it is a somewhat difficult process, and most identity thieves will not bother with this since there are so many targets that are much easier.

If you still feel vulnerable, you might consider buying identity theft protection. Two popular ways are either hiring a company that monitors you credit report and notifies you of any changes or there are companies available that will help you prevent it to begin with. Either type of company can be found online and charge a monthly fee for the service.

With the amount of identity theft victims increasing every year, it is time that you really took identity theft prevention more seriously. Having your identity stolen will rob you of your good credit rating, cost you hundreds of dollars and take weeks and in most cases even months to repair the damage done.

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