If Superman used Clark Kent’s credit card to buy a new cape, Clark wouldn’t mind. If Joe Theft bought a new jacket with your credit card, you would definitely mind. You would mind even more if Joe decided to assume your identity and not only use your credit card but steal from your bank account, open an unauthorized credit line, and establish phony policies in your name. This is identity theft. Joe isn’t your alter ego. He’s a thief.
How can you protect yourself from Joe?
Insurance: Your homeowners or renters policy may provide coverage for theft. However, this coverage typically has a fairly low limit. Identity theft must be listed specifically in your policy for you to get the proper coverage for the scope that the situation may entail. You can also obtain a stand-alone policy or an add-on to your homeowners or renters policy. This coverage will reimburse you for the cost of repairing your credit score and restoring your identity. Expenses might include lost wages, mailing costs, phone bills, and attorney fees.
Caution: Recovering from identity theft can take years. While insurance will help, it’s best to avoid the situation entirely. Try these tips:
- Don’t carry credit cards, your Social Security card, or your passport with you unless they’re necessary.
- Never throw credit card or ATM receipts in public trash receptacles.
- When shopping online, use only authenticated websites.
- Never give out passwords or personal information via e-mail.
- Install antivirus and firewall programs on all devices.
- Check your credit report annually.
- Use strong passwords for all accounts.
- Shred documents that contain sensitive information.
- Keep an eye on all accounts and report suspicious activity immediately.
- Contact your insurance provider for proper coverage, in case tips 1-9 fail to stop Joe Thief.