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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Protecting yourself against identity theft


While, thankfully, not everyone will necessarily have an experience with identity theft in their lifetime, everyone is certainly susceptible to the possibility. Particularly at risk of this calamity are travelers: it's easier to lose your valuable pieces of identification when you are traveling because (a) you are likely to have them on your person, rather than locked away safely in your home (like a passport, for example) and (b) those perpetrating the crime usually seek victims in locations where travelers are likely to be, such as airports or tourist attractions. This makes you a target. Even without travel, though, the risk of identity theft still exists for someone simply going about their day to day affairs.

Identity theft is particularly unfortunate because it could potentially give you a criminal record: the information that is stolen is usually used to commit some type of fraudulent activity, or other crime, using your name. The consequences of falling victim to identity theft can be absolutely devastating. It can damage your credit rating, for one. It also opens you up to the possibility of having your medical records tampered with, leading them to be inaccurate. It can completely mess up your financial history. And most obviously, it can leave you with barely a penny to your name.

Should you fall victim to identity theft, the process of restoring all of what was lost or damaged can be a very long and arduous process, and can cost you a great deal. This being the case, when it comes to identity theft, this is definitely one of those cases where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So what does it take to protect yourself from this misfortune to begin with? Well, one of the wisest courses of thought you can take on this is realizing that despite your best efforts to make sure you don't fall prey to such a crime, it could still happen to you. Knowing this, have your protection already in place. Talk to your insurance provider about purchasing identity fraud insurance. This type of coverage is quite low cost and can usually be added on to your home insurance plan, making it simple to keep track of. This type of coverage will give you peace of mind in the event of identity theft, as it should reimburse the cost of reclaiming your identity (which involves administrative and lawyer fees, as well as the costs associated with replacing your identification pieces), recovering lost wages, and restoring any financial loss owing to tax and medical fraud. Once you have such a plan in place, do your part to ensure (to the best of your ability) that you are not a likely target for this crime:

  • Always keep any pieces of identification safely stored, and know exactly where they are at all times
  • Don't carry identification or credit cards that you won't be using. For example, there is no need to carry your social insurance card with you on a trip to the mall.
  • Check your credit card statements for fraudulent activity.
  • Check your credit history, and if there are penalties for actions that you know you had no part in, be sure to discover their source.
  • Limit what information you make available about yourself on the internet.
  • Don't simply throw or recycle old documents with sensitive information in them; be sure to shred them first.

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