Increased online activity has left all internet users more vulnerable than ever to identity theft – a crime in which someone obtains your personal data fraudulently and with the help of this data masquerades as you. Most of the times, this deception is done for financial gains, whether through shopping on stolen credit cards, getting loans on the basis of a stolen identity, gaining employment by impersonation or by tax return and health insurance frauds. Some fraudsters have even used stolen identity to get through driving offences like DUI!
It has been suggested that identity theft is among the fastest growing crimes in the US, with the number of victims going into tens of millions. Considering the fact that you stand to lose a lot if you become one of these victims, it is advisable to consult an attorney on the best way of dealing with the issue. You can discuss with your friends and relatives to know if they can give you reference to a good lawyer specializing in handling identity fraud/theft cases. You can also refer to online resources, the best being a popular online local business directory. Before retaining any particular attorney, research well to learn about his/her industry standing, qualifications and experience, fee, etc.
As they say, prevention is better than cure. It is much easier to protect yourself against identity theft and fraud than trying to get your name and credit history cleared after falling prey to an impostor. Rather than suffering financial loss and stress at the hands of an identity thief and thereafter, spending a lot of time and effort in undoing the damage done by the fraud, it would make much more sense to take some precautionary measures such as
- Guarding your account numbers, PINs, social security number, etc.
- Using strong passwords wherever required and changing them periodically.
- Monitoring your credit card and bank statements.
- Shredding documents containing your vital personal information if you don’t need them anymore.
- When going online for banking, shopping or paying bills, make sure that the websites where you share sensitive information are secure.
- Protecting your electronic gadgets like cell phones, laptops, etc. from theft.
- Sharing computers with caution.
- Using ATMs with care by looking out for skimming devices and making sure that nobody is ‘shoulder surfing’.
Don’t be disheartened if you encounter identity fraud even after taking all sorts of precautions. Consult a reputable identity theft lawyer to help you fight for your rights and restore your good name in the community.