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June 03, 2011

  • News:  Identity Theft; Hot Topic 

    Nearly every day there seems to be a security breach in the news. These cases leave consumers wondering how to protect themselves. Experts encourage users to change their passwords regularly. Many people use the same password for multiple accounts, so the email password may be the same as the credit card account password. If one site is hacked, the thieves have access to other personal accounts as well. In the same vein, if an email address gets exposed in a breach, spam and malware may spike probing to get more information. The same is true for traditional mail. With skill and creativity, criminals are able to gain access to credit card and bank account information via malware on a computer, a corrupted ATM or credit card payment terminal, documents that were not shredded or even a crooked employee using a skimmer to get card information.

    With all of these avenues for criminals to gain access, it's important to always watch bank balances and credit card statements. Any suspicious activity should be reported to the bank. Some banks offer an automated alert system that will email the cardholder when there is activity. If a breach is suspected, contact the bank to determine the best course of action, which may be having a new card issued. Consumers can put a fraud alert on their credit report if identity theft has occurred. This alerts the major credit agencies that a breach occurred and they should be on the lookout for suspicious activity such as a new credit card and bank accounts.

    Each year U.S. citizens are eligible for a free credit report from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies. A visit to AnnualCreditReport.com will get the process started. If identity theft is discovered, the clean up process can be both chaotic and tedious. It takes calculated effort to go through the process step-by-step to rectify the crime and recreate a credit footprint, with new credit card accounts and all.

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