Friday, 19 July 2013

Protecting yourself from new account fraud

Protecting your personal information from falling into the hands of ill-willed individuals is of utmost importance. This is why insurance providers typically offer identity theft insurance. For those who have never been affected by identity fraud, it can be hard to imagine what pieces of personal information might be of interest, and just how catastrophic the damage could be if this information ever got into the hands of the wrong people. While there really are countless offenses that can be committed using this stolen information, we're going to examine specifically those that enable the thief to open new accounts for services they would otherwise be unable to obtain without that stolen information.

The type of fraud that usually comes to mind when people think of fraudulent activity associated with account information is credit card fraud. It is also the most common type of identity fraud period. There are two primary reasons that a thief may want access to your credit card information: either to use that credit account for the purchase of goods and services they don't want to pay for themselves, or to to actually draw funds from it. While most major credit card providers are very good at catching suspicious activity on a credit account almost as soon as it takes place, there are still instances that slip their notice. Because of how easy credit card fraud is, it is imperative that consumers do their part to protect themselves. You should be monitoring your account regularly. Since most accounts are now viewable online, you are no longer limited to checking your transactions on a monthly basis: you can check them daily, and you should. Be careful, however, about doing so on shared computers—in fact, you should avoid doing this altogether.

Another type of account fraud—one that most people don't think of—is utility fraud. Utility fraud is very, very easy to commit because of how little information is required to do this. Usually, all that is required is a name, telephone number, and address. The address that is provided in this case is the address of the thief using your name. It can be a long, long time before utility theft is ever discovered because the victim has no way of knowing or checking for this. It can go on for months before you hear from a billing department that wants payment for these services. This is definitely a case where prevention is the best measure of protection you have. Be sure to file your monthly bills in a secure place. If you are discarding them, shred them to ensure that none of your information is accessible.

Loan fraud, while not nearly as common as the other two types of account fraud we've just discussed, can be devastating to the victim. The reason it is not as prevalent is because you are usually required to provide your social insurance number at the time of applying for a loan. It is key that you guard this number carefully. Good practice is to not carry it with you in your wallet, and to only give it out when you are legally required to do so.


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