When you know the ID thief
By Tanisha Warner
Money Management International
The safety of your personal information and your
identity is always at risk. In fact, identity thieves may be even closer than you think. According to the Identity
Theft Assistance Center (ITAC), for every five cases of identity theft, at least two victims knew the thief personally.
Identity theft is still the
fastest growing crime in America; affecting more than 10 million victims a year. In 2007, the FTC reported a total of
$1.2 billion in identity fraud losses, with the average individual losing $550 in out-of-pocket expenses. Furthermore,
victims spent nearly 3.6 million hours resolving problems related to identity theft.
Overcoming identity theft is a difficult, complex and often frustrating process.
The impact of the crime is significantly magnified when the imposter is someone you know and trust. In honor of National Protect
Your Identity Week (October 19-25, 2008), consider the following proactive rules offered by the experts at Money Management
International (MMI) to help keep your information safe:
up. Invest in a filing cabinet that locks. File all personal documents including credit card and bank statements, tax documents
and any other financial paperwork kept at home.
Password protect your computer.
Be sure to password protect your computer and all files on your hard drive pertaining to your finances. Change the passwords
often and be sure to use a password that is not too easy to figure out.
Keep credit cards and PINs safe. Do not keep your PIN number in
your wallet or anywhere near your debit and credit cards. Also, do not lend your card to others or share your PIN.
If you have already made this mistake, call the issuer to get a new card and change the PIN.
Be picky about houseguests. Use caution when inviting strangers into your home. Be extra
careful when choosing someone to housesit or pick up your mail when you are on vacation. Consider asking the post office
to hold your mail when planning to be away for more than a few days.
Research shows that people who bank entirely online reduce their chances of becoming identity theft victims by about 10 percent.
Also, consider investing in personal finance software to track expenses and pay bills online.
No one can completely protect themselves from all
types of identity theft, so if you become a victim, time is of the essence. Acting quickly and thoroughly can limit
the potentially far-reaching impact identity theft may have on your finances and life. For more information about protecting
your good name and your good credit, visit www.protectyouridnow.org
Tanisha Warner is
a spokesperson and the communications specialist for Money Management International. Money Management International (MMI)
is the nation’s largest non-profit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance,
counseling and debt management assistance to consumers for over 47 years. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop
a spending plan and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24/7 by telephone and
Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call 800-762-2271 or visit their website