Money Talks, So Should You

4 tips to prevent identity theft

Charlene Oldham
by Charlene Oldham, Dimespring Contributor

Whether they do it online, through texting tactics or by stealing your wallet the old-fashioned way, identity thieves are constantly concocting new cons.

One reason card companies are working hard to detect credit card fraud after the fact is because new scams make it difficult to prevent identity theft before it happens.

Identity thieves may be implementing “phishing” strategies by posing as a legitimate company or agency to get private information or using “skimmers” inserted in credit card slots to steal information from ATMs or gas pumps.

Consumers themselves may even download a keystroke-logging malware program that can read information on their computers.

READ: How safe is your money?

Here are a few suggestions from Steven Weisman, author of 50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age, and others to help consumers protect themselves:

  • Make sure you are completing online transactions at the correct company website and that the site is secure. Look for URLs that begin with https instead of just http because the added s indicates the company is taking extra measures to encrypt personal data.
     
  • Don’t leave your card information on file with companies, no matter how inconvenient it is to enter your credit card number for every new purchase. “Because if they are hacked, your security is compromised,” Weisman, who maintains the blog www.scamicide.com, says.
     
  • Regard emails, phone calls and text messages suspiciously. “Never email confidential information. Regular e-mail is not a secure method of sending private information,” says Discover Financial Services spokesperson Katie Henry. “Do not reply to any email requesting personal information.”  According to the Discover website, legitimate companies will not send you an e-mail requesting personal or private information such as your account number, date of birth or mother’s maiden name.
     
  • Finally, be careful about the information you share on social media sites. One recent survey from Javelin Strategy & Research found social media users may be publically posting information scammers need to steal their identity. “Specifically, 68 percent of people with public social media profiles shared their birthday information (with 45 percent sharing month, date and year); 63 percent shared their high school name; 18 percent shared their phone number; and 12 percent shared their pet’s name — all are prime examples of personal information a company would use to verify your identity.”

 

Charlene Oldham is a St. Louis-based freelancer and teacher who has worked as a staff writer for newspapers including The Dallas Morning News. She now teaches college-level communications courses and writes about everything from finance to food for publications including SUCCESS and Eating Well.