Reports, in its October 2003 cover story, offers consumers suggestions
for what they can do to prevent identity theft, in addition to information
on how thieves zap your ID and what businesses and government could
do better to protect your financial information.
theft, the fraudulent use of your name and identifying data by someone
else to obtain credit, merchandise or services, claimed 7 million
victims last year in the United States.
Union, the independent, nonprofit testing and information-gathering
organization that publishes Consumer Reports, found that
victims of identity theft typically lose $800 and spend two years
clearing their name. The article says identity theft insurance is
typically not worth paying for, and credit-monitoring services don’t
prevent the crime. Finally, the group determined that government
and businesses could be doing a lot more to protect your credit.
theft is a crime of opportunity. Along with guarding your mail,
checking your financial statement properly and ordering annual credit
reports, Consumer Reports offers the following tips to reduce
your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Be stingy
with information. Never disclose your Social Security number,
birth date or mother’s maiden name unless you initiated the transaction.
- Just say
no. Opt-out of information-sharing options at your financial institutions.
Call the credit reporting industry pre-screening opt-out number
of pre-approved credit offers.
- Shred and
destroy. Before throwing out files containing Social Security
numbers, account numbers and birth dates, shred them with a crosscut
- Beware of
strange ATMs. Avoid using private or strange-looking automated
teller machines because they may be rigged to skim data off your
card’s magnetic strip.
Reports’ in-depth report on identity theft, including six tips
on what to do if you become a victim and 11 steps you can take to
reduce your chances of becoming a victim, are available for free
on its Web site at www.ConsumerReports.org.