Your good name is worth keeping safe.
Identity theft can impact anyone, just as it affected a small business client of mine recently. The client had hired a person to manage his business. The client fired the employee after discovering that he was not doing a good job.
After being fired, the ex-employee began opening new credit card accounts in the company’s name. It was easy to do because the ex-employee had all the information necessary to open new accounts. The ex-employee had access to all corporate information, as well as all the personal information of the business owner. Obviously, this was fraud.
The small business owner had to contact the bank immediately to make them aware of the situation, had to bring in an attorney to work on behalf of the company, had to hire me to dig through the accounting records to see how much the employee had embezzled from the company prior to being fired, had to place a “fraud alert” on his credit reports to prevent further damage, and so on.
The business owner had become a victim of identity theft.
Here are some things you can do to prevent yourself from becoming the next identify theft victim.
Dont give out your social security number or date of birth unless absolutely necessary. This is key information for identity thieves. A popular scam on the Internet is to send a “spoof” email – one that pretends to be from a legitimate company and provides you with a link that takes you to a Web page where you are asked (or often, threatened) to provide personal and financial information. If the company’s request is legitimate, a representative of the company will call you or send you a letter. Even if you receive a letter that appears legitimate, call the company to make sure that it is. You can’t be too careful in this regard.
Retrieve your mail. If your business or home mail comes to a place where others might be able to access it, don’t let it sit there. People can steal mail, steal checks that might be sitting in the mail, and steal personal and financial information that enables them to pretend to be you and steal your identity. It is not uncommon for drug addicts to steal mail only to sell it to support their drug habits.
Shred mail and other documents before you throw them away. With just a few key pieces of information, thieves can begin the process that enables them to steal your identity, steal your money, and ruin your credit.
As soon as you become aware of any type of identity theft, place a “fraud alert” on your credit accounts by contacting one of the three credit reporting agencies. Also notify all banks where you have checking or money market accounts, and the employees there will help you close your current accounts and open fresh new accounts to which no one unauthorized will have access. Your name is the one thing you have that no one should be able to steal. Protect it.