Like many Americans, I have been a victim of identity theft and so has a member of my family. Several years ago my mother was buying a new house. Somewhere along the line her social security number fell into the wrong hands, and someone was opening lines of credit in her name in a different state. When she started receiving calls about suspicious accounts, she thought that the calls were from scammers, not people trying to help, so she hung up on them. She did eventually discover the theft and get the worst of it removed from her credit report, but to this day her credit report still lists one of her former addresses as being in Homestead, Fl. We can learn a few things about identity theft protection from her experience:
- Be careful who you give your personal information to. She never found out for sure where her number was compromised, but has her suspicions about the person who was initially helping her to sell her house. Try to do some research before you give a person or business your social security number.
- To protect from identity theft, monitor your credit report. She would have discovered the theft much sooner if she had checked he credit report. Early detection is key in minimizing damage.
My own experience only included an existing account, but was scary all the same. I was in college finishing up a semester at sea and at our last stop in South America, I used the wrong ATM. I knew that it didn’t look right, but was young and not as concerned as I should have been. The next time I checked my account, I learned that it had been completely drained. Protect from identity theft and don’t make the same mistakes that I did:
- Don’t keep all your money in one account. I had just received a hefty student loan to cover housing the following semester. All of it was gone.
- To protect from identity theft, be careful where you use your card. ATMs and gas pumps can be compromised by skimmers to steal your personal information. Watch cashiers when you have to hand them your card. Consider using cash in restaurants because waiters usually have to go out of sight with your card.