Small shiny piece of plastic – you’re easy to carry around and efficient to use when making purchases. But swiping those cards away is not very budget friendly. I wouldn’t want to swipe away all of my money in purchases, and I definitely wouldn’t want others to spend it either. Hard to believe, but there are people who are out there that can spend your money without you knowing, they are called identity thieves. Don’t freak out! I know it’s scary, but there are ways to protect yourself and let those thieves know that you’re not a gal who they can be easily pick on.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft is serious and is a crime (read what the government has to say). It can affect your name, credit record, job opportunities and your future. Approximately 15 million United States residents are victims each year with financial losses totaling to about $50 billion (source Identity Theft).

For those who are new to identity theft or you just need a refresher, here are a couple of tips that have really helped me:

Passwords: Toughen up your passwords and don’t use the same password for everything – by using the same password and email over and over again, can create vulnerabilities. Create a password using lower and uppercases, numbers, and/or symbols.

Social Media: Tighten up your information social media sites –personal information can hand an identity thief everything they need to impersonate you. Keep your full name, maiden name, date of birth, etc. in private mode. 

Online Banking: The benefit of you creating your own online account is that it is easier for a hacker to create a new account for you than breaking into an already establish account. Remember to routinely monitor your financial accounts and billing statements for suspicious activities. Setting up your own account with smart passwords, keeps you safer!

Debit/Credit Card: Limiting the number of cards you carry. The fewer the cards, the easier it is to track for any suspicious activities. Did you know that thieves can steal your credit/debit card numbers by using a skimming device that stores your card information when processing your cards? Be careful where you use your cards! Always update your creditors and banks about new phone numbers, billing addresses, and any other changes immediately. There are ways to prevent skimming devices also.

Online Shopping: Shop on sites that has Trust-e symbol or Business Bureau online seal, proves that they are trustworthy. Only shop on Web sites that offer privacy policy and uses https (“Hyper Text Transfer Protocol” with Secure Sockets Layer) Web pages; https websites are sites that has been secured and encrypted for safety purposes, especially when buying stuff with your credit/debit card.

What should you do if your identity is stolen? (source Federal Trade Commission)

Police Report: Before you report to your bank and notify creditors, you need to have a police report so the authorities know that you have been a target of identity theft.

Check Credit Report: Check to see what the theft has been doing with your credit, and make notes of the transactions that they have done.

Report to Banks/Creditors: Report to your bank that you have been a target and list the transaction that the theft has created.

How to report identity theft? (source Social Security)

Equifax – 1-800-525-6285
Trans Union – Fraud Victim Assistance Division: 1-800-525-6285.
Experian – 1-888-397-3742

If you are smart about how you use your credit card, it can actually help you. Using your credit card wisely can improve your credit score. So, keep your identity safe – deter the thieves for going after you, detect any suspicious activities, and defend as soon as you suspect a problem. A little precaution is worth the time.