Identity Theft Protection
|"Identity theft is a reality that consumers can easily protect their loved ones from experiencing. Last year, families spent $5 billion dollars and 300 million hours resolving identity theft related issues."|
Protect Your Family from Identity Theft
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(ARA) – We protect our families in so many ways. We make sure our smoke detectors are working, ask everyone to buckle up, and encourage the kids to wear sunscreen. But have you thought about credit protection?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that one in five families is a victim of identity theft each year. Baby boomers caring for aging parents or with teen dependents attending college should be particularly attentive to family credit protection. As graduates leave the nest, increased credit activity makes them easy targets for identity theft. In addition, an increasing number of perpetrators have launched scams particularly targeting older Americans.
Identity thieves are not always strangers but can be friends, roommates, co-workers and sometimes even relatives who capitalize on their relationships to commit fraud. Unfortunately, they have an even greater chance of successfully assuming an identity because of the amount of personal information they have access to through connections with their victims. One of the best ways for individuals to combat this threat is to regularly check their credit report.
According to Robin Holland, identity theft expert and senior vice president of Consumer Services for Atlanta-based Equifax, "Identity theft is a reality that consumers can easily protect their loved ones from experiencing. " Last year, families spent $5 billion dollars and 300 million hours resolving identity theft related issues. These out-of-pocket costs and time burdens decrease significantly when the crime is caught early and prevention tools are in place.
"It is imperative that consumers take the same proactive approach to credit health that they do to ensure the physical health and well-being of their families," said Holland.
Top Five Tips for Protecting Your Family
Use a Credit Monitoring Service
You can sign up for a service such as Equifax's Credit Watch Family Program that alerts users to activity indicating possible identity theft The program features e-mail alerts within 24 hours of any suspicious activity and monthly "no alerts" to reassure you that your credit file is safe. The service also features $20,000 in identity theft insurance for each membership as well as one-on-one victim assistance with an identity theft specialist.
Lock It Up
Make sure your family keeps all financial information and personal records locked at all times especially if you have a housekeeper, babysitter or guest in the house. Remind teens that this practice is especially important when living on college campuses.
Watch Your Mailbox
Criminals can gain most of the information they need to commit identity theft right in your mailbox. Use a locked mailbox and pick up your mail promptly at all times.
Shred it to Protect Your Credit
Be sure that your family shreds all sensitive documents before disposing of them.
Don't Let Hackers Crack Your Credit Code
Be sure the virus protection software on your family computer is current and never open attachments from strangers. Other safety tips include using firewall programs and secure browsers with high-level encryption and password protecting any sensitive documents stored on your computer. Also, never discard a computer without "ghosting" it - using a wipe program to eliminate personal information.
The experts at Equifax have developed the following quiz to determine your family's risk. Answer the questions below to determine your family's score:
* Do you care for an elderly family member? Add 5 points.
* Did a teen dependent recently move away to attend college? Add 5 points.
* Does your teen dependent have a roommate? Add 10 points.
* Has your immediate family ordered credit reports during the past two years? If not, add 10 points.
* Do you believe that people look through trash for credit or financial information? If not, add 10 points.
* Are elderly family members aware of the risks associated with giving personal information, particularly their Social Security Number (SSN), over the telephone? If not, add 10 points.
* Do your teen dependents keep their financial information under lock and key? If not, add 10 points.
* Is the identification number provided on a member of your immediate family's driver's license a SSN? If so, add 10 points.
40 points or more - high risk.
Between 15 and 40 points - your family's risk is average. The risk is higher if your family's credit scores are good.
15 points or under - congratulations, your family has a high identity theft IQ. Keep up the good work, but don't let your guard down.
For more information about identity theft prevention and credit education, contact Equifax at www.equifax.com.
Note: This article was submitted by a second party and the contents are subject to our disclaimer.
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