Identity thieves are ready and waiting to take advantage of financially distressed consumers in 2009. Current economic trends have created the perfect atmosphere for identity thieves. People are struggling to pay their bills, save money, obtain credit, and afford other basic necessities. Identity thieves take advantage of worried, stressed consumers, and with the added current variety of economic challenges, people can literally not afford to become an identity theft victim. The Identity Theft Resource Center has released their list of top identity scams for 2009, but with some proactive steps consumers can avoid becoming a victim. The top scams of 2009 will be:
- Real Estate – Real estate scams take on many forms. Consumers facing foreclosures are especially vulnerable to these scams. Right now, one in 10 homeowners are behind on their mortgage payments.
- Credit Card Scams – Scammers are advertising credit cards aimed towards individuals with poor credit or with no social security number. When people apply for these cards, the scammers have access to everything needed to steal an identity.
- Phishing and other Cyber Crimes – Phishing is a mass e-mail sent asking for verification of personal information. Phishing has been around for well over a decade, but the twist now is scammers are posing as recently merged banks, asking consumers to verify personal banking information.
- Check Fraud – Check fraud is simple. Stealing checks from a victim’s checkbook or creating fake checks from information found in the trash.
As a result, 2009 may see a record number of identity theft victims.
“When people are desperate for money, they do not always consider if an offer is too good to be true, and then they fall victim to identity theft,” said Lisa Cameron, Director of Education at Credit Advisors Foundation. Cameron offers these tips for identity theft protection.
- The number one step you can take to protect yourself is to shred anything and everything with personal information on it. One item many people forget is credit card applications. By knowing just a little information about you, anyone can go through your trash, fill out the form, mail it back and receive an approved credit card in your name.
- Protect your Social Security Number. Your SSN usually is the key to unlocking your identity. Never carry your card with you, don’t give the number out or use it as a password.
- Pull your credit report and monitor it for any suspicious activity. A good rule is to check your report every six months. The FTC allows consumers to pull a free credit report once a year.
- Whenever anyone starts asking for personal information, ask them questions. If they are unwilling to answer or their answers seem questionable, the organization may not be trustworthy.
Cameron adds that anyone who is an identity theft victim should contact all three credit reporting bureaus, the FTC, and local law enforcement as soon as the breach is discovered. Everyone can take an active part in protecting their identity this year by being aware of identity scams and being proactive with identity security.