Analysis: How to avoid Identity Theft
Identity theft is not just an unauthorized charge on a credit card anymore.
Identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission, “occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security Number or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.”
How such information is stolen, and how it is used, varies greatly. With stolen Social Security numbers, thieves file false medical claims, apply for mortgages and open lines of credit for fictitious businesses. By putting fronts on A.T.M.’s or gas pumps, they collect credit card numbers and PINs.
But while the trade commission estimates that nine million Americans are victims of identity theft yearly, these extreme cases of identity fraud remain rare, luckily.
You may find that you will need only to close a compromised account or freeze your credit if errors appear. But recovering from the effects of an extreme case of identity theft can be messy and time-consuming. You could be denied a mortgage, for example, or refused new lines of credit. It can take months or even years to repair your credit history, and this type of crime is hard to prosecute.
While financial institutions, health care companies and other organizations have taken steps to improve security measures in recent years, do not rely on them to protect you. A few common-sense steps now can help prevent major headaches later.,,