Many people do not realize how easily criminals can obtain our personal data without having to break into our homes. In public places, for example, criminals may engage in â€œshoulder surfingâ€ â€“watching you from a nearby location as you punch in your credit card number.
If you receive applications for â€œpre-approvedâ€ credit cards in the mail, but discard them without tearing up the enclosed materials, criminals may retrieve them and try to activate the cards for their use without your knowledge.
The Internet has become an appealing place for criminals to obtain identifying data, such as passwords or even banking information. Many people respond to â€œspamâ€ unsolicited e-mail that promises them some benefit but requests identifying data.
With enough identifying information about an individual, a criminal can take over that individualâ€™s identity and inflict substantial damage on the victimâ€™s assets, credit, and reputation.
To reduce or minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud, there are some basic steps you can take. For starters, just remember the word â€œSCAMâ€:
S - Be stingy about giving out your personal information to others unless you have a reason to trust them.
C - Check your mail for monthly statements and make sure to never leave sensitive information in the outgoing mail.
A - Ask periodically for a copy of your credit report.
M - Maintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts.