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Identity Theft in Today’s Marketplace

by on March 8, 2012

As National Consumer Protection Week continues, we take a closer look at a crime that can potentially have a drastically negative impact on your finances—identity theft. The Department of Justice reports over 8.6 million households in the U.S. have at least one person who has been the victim of identity theft. More than 64% of those cases involved the misuse or attempted misuse of a credit card.

According to CreditCards.com, the current time to resolve a credit card fraud issue is 21 hours. So even if you reach a full resolution with all the fraudulent charges made on your credit card, you still lose valuable time and have to put up with the stress of filing a report, disputing the charges, and working with your creditors to restore your credit line to proper working order. Happily credit card fraudsters and identity thieves are getting caught more often—with twice the arrests and convictions in 2009—but you still have to deal with the stress and the hassle.

To help you avoid the problem all together, here are some tips from your PowerWallet team on how to protect yourself from identity theft:

• Keep your eye on your credit card when you’re shopping. Never let a store attendant or a server take your credit card where you can’t see it. They can make an imprint of your card or even call a friend to give them the number so they can start making purchases. Keep your card in your sight at all times to avoid problems with unethical employees.

• Never give out PIN numbers or login credentials. Never share your account information, including your personal identification number as well as your online login information, with friends or even significant others. People sometimes give this information out because of convenience, but it ends up causing a bigger problem if it leads to fraud.

• Only shop on reputable websites and enter financial information on secure pages. Make sure you know the company you’re buying from or at least do a little investigation to make sure they’re on the up and up. When you get to the actual purchasing, you should only enter your credit card information on a secure page. Look for “https://” in the URL address bar—no “s” means the site is not secure.

• Check a seller’s information and history on a marketplace website before you give them money. Online marketplaces like eBay allow consumers to sell goods personally and provide a valuable service. The service is only good though, if you’re buying from a reputable seller. Check the seller’s profile and review their sales history to make sure they haven’t already been flagged for fraudulent online sales in the past.

• Never use public computers to make purchases or access your financial accounts. Online shopping and banking should always be done on a private computer or a secured private network, such as at your home. Shopping online at a library, café or school means you’re on a public network, so there’s an increased risk someone can gain access to your information. Even the network at your job may be questionable. While in some cases the network at your job may be as safe as checking your accounts at home, this is only true if there are high security settings on your company network. If you’re not sure about the security of your office network, it’s better not to risk it.

• Consider getting a credit card for online purchases. Having one credit card to use for all your online purchases helps you minimize the risk when shopping online. You can even use a secured prepaid credit card, so any potential thief would have access to limited funds. This way, if your credit card information is stolen or used fraudulently, the damage won’t be as potentially devastating. While this won’t prevent identity theft, it will provide you extra peace of mind in case it happens.

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