A May 2012 Federal Reserve report states that the total U.S. consumer debt is about $2.5 trillion. This confirms that millions of consumers depend on credit to preserve a desired standard of living. Thieves are taking advantage of these statistics. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Safeguarding personal information is essential for consumer credit safety.
It’s important for consumers to protect their identities. Thieves use stolen information to open credit card accounts, rent apartments and even obtain employment. Identity fraud can result in devastating consequences for consumers, and it can take years to repair damaged credit.
Shop Safely Online
Verify a website’s security when shopping online. The “s” after “http” in the address indicates that a website is secure. A closed padlock icon at the bottom of the screen also signifies a site’s security. Shop on familiar sites only, or research a company before making an online purchase. Reliable online companies list physical addresses and a phone number on their sites, and you can call the company if in doubt. Read the website’s privacy and security policy, which states whether the online merchant shares customer information with third parties.
Safeguard Credit and Debit Cards at ATMs
Avoid using credit and debit cards at unfamiliar ATMs. Thieves install surveillance equipment, or skimmers, on ATMs to record customer account and PIN information. Inspect ATMs for loose or damaged card readers before using them, block the keypad from people who could be watching when you enter your PIN. Use ATMs inside a building when possible, and stay away from ATMs in tourist areas, as these are popular targets for skimming scams.
Order and Verify Credit Report Information
Federal law permits consumers access to one free credit report per year. A credit report summarizes a consumer’s borrowing and repayment history. Credit reports contain a great deal of credit history and personal information, including payment history, credit card and loan balances, the age of your accounts and any new credit activities. Review your credit report carefully and verify that the information is accurate. Report any errors or suspicious activity immediately by filing a dispute either online or by mail.
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images