Internet commerce has become a wonderful convenience for consumers. A customer can purchase products, research prices and talk with customer service representatives, all with one convenient click of the mouse. Unfortunately there is a dark side to internet commerce as well. Electronic business has paved the way for identity theft and fraud to become a major problem for consumers.
Identity theft and fraud occur when someone gets access to your personal information, such as credit card accounts, social security and driver’s license numbers or bank information. That person then uses that obtained information to apply for a credit card, make unauthorized purchases or apply for a loan in your name.
Often you do not realize that you have been a victim of identity theft or fraud until you receive a call from a collection agency about a bill that you did not charge. Or you get your monthly credit card statement and find purchases on the bill that you did not make. By this time it will require some time and effort on your part to set the various records straight and clean up your accounts.
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft and Fraud
There are steps you can take to minimize your risk of encountering fraud or identity theft in your own affairs. First, keep your personal information private and in a secure location. Do not offer your sensitive information to anyone over the phone or via the internet unless you are confident that it is a legitimate business. Never give out your social security number unless it is absolutely necessary. Don’t keep documents with account numbers or passwords in your car, where someone could find them easily if your car was broken into.
Shred any and all documents that contain important financial information, as well as your address and phone number before throwing them away. If you do lose your purse or wallet, report the incident immediately to all necessary companies, including credit reporting agencies. This will ensure that banks and credit card companies will be on the lookout for identity theft and fraud on your account.
Identity theft or fraud can be an expensive headache for the victim. Sometimes it can take months or even years before the far-reaching effects of the crime can be fully resolved and put to rest. Fortunately there are ways to stop identity theft and fraud before they happen to you.