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Identity Theft

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Identity theft

Identity theft and associated fraud is now the fastest growing crimes in the world so it’s important to know how to protect yourself from other people stealing your identity and personal details.

Identity thieves use a variety of methods to gain access to your personal details and financial data – from skimming machines to good old fashioned dumpster rummaging. Thieves can steal your identity by:

  • Stealing wallets and handbags containing your identification, credit cards and bank cards.
  • Stealing your mail - bank statements, credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers and credit card applications, phone account details and tax information. Some thieves even complete a "change of address form" to divert your mail to another location.
  • Searching through your rubbish, or the rubbish from your business for personal data.
  • Fraudulently obtaining your credit report by posing as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a legal right to the information.
  • Stealing your business or personnel records at work or in your home.
  • Using the personal information you share on the Internet.
There are also more high-tech and organised thieves who use skimming machines carefully hidden on automatic bank tellers and credit facilities, or may buy your personal information from "inside" sources.
With this information, identity thieves can then:
  • Open a new credit card or bank account in your name and using your personal details. But they don’t pay the credit card bills and right bad checks on these accounts.
  • Call your credit card issuer pretending to be you, and ask to change the mailing address on your credit card. Because your bills are being sent to a different address, it may take some time before you realize there's a problem.
  • File for bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they've incurred under your name.
  • Counterfeit checks or debit cards and drain your bank account.
  • Buy cars or other expensive items by taking out vehicle loans and in-store credit in your name.
  • Posing as a bank, send you an email asking your to confirm your personal details. Banks just don’t do this, so if you do receive such an email – it is a trick!
The net result from the above is that you can be left with a drained bank account, substantial debt in your name – a debt that you personally didn’t rack up – and poor payment history which affects your credit rating.

So knowing this, what can YOU do? Well, you can make it harder for identity thieves by:
  • Shredding any rubbish-mail with personal details before disposing.
  • Cutting up old credit and bank cards into small pieces before disposing of them.
  • Storing all personal information in a lockable safe at home and ensure you’re your personal records at your place of work are also secure.
  • Only using secure Internet sites for on-line payment (eg Pay Pal) and never give out personal information over the internet.
  • If you do receive an email from a bank asking your to confirm your personal details, let your bank know so they can track down the fraudster.
But no matter how careful you are, you can still be the victim of identity theft. So you also need to be diligent in monitoring your finances. So:
  • Check your bank account and credit card statements every month and validate all transactions. Often thieves will try a small transaction first to see if you’re paying attention and if you’re not – WHAM!
  • As soon as you notice a discrepancy – tell your bank and ask them to investigate and re-issue your credit/ bank cards (and cancel the old ones).
  • If you notice that you’re not receiving bank/ credit card statements – find out WHY.
  • If your wallet is stolen, report the stolen cards to police and your bank as soon as possible and ask them to cancel your cards.
The important thing is to seek professional advice as soon as you suspect you’re a victim of identity theft to maximise your chance of restoring your credit rating and getting your money back.
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We are not certified financial planners or advisors. The information in this website is general information only. Always consult a licensed financial planner before making any finance or investment decision.

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