Thursday, October 06, 2005

Your Family's Best Guard against Identity Theft

Your personal identity theft could be happening to you
right now, and you wouldn't know it until after the
damage had been fully done.

Besides yourself, what about your elderly parents or
children?

Children and senior citizens often are the favorite
targets of identity thieves because the fraudulent use
of their personal information can go on much longer
before it is detected.

As a recent example,a Denver man discovered he had
been the victim of identity theft at the age of 7.
The thieves used his identity to run up a $40,000 bad
line of credit under his social security number.
The Denver man, Zach Friesen now 19 years of age, only
discovered the identity theft when he applied for his
first post high school job.

Identity theft can be difficult to prevent even if you
take every precaution. Through no fault of your own,
many businesses that may maintain your personal
information have just started publicly reporting this
year to have been breached by identity thieves or even
compromised from within since a 2003 California
consumer disclosure law was enacted.

While more state lawmakers have begun the process to
emulate the California disclosure law, individual
consumers living outside of California may still not
be notified by their companies breached by identity
thieves. MasterCard International disclosed this
summer up to 40 million account holders information
was exposed to identity thieves. However, its up to
the credit card issuer companies themselves to contact
consumers affected by the data exposure.

Companies such as J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup
Inc., American Express Co. and MBNA Corp. indicated
that they are not automatically alerting their
customers that their information may have
been exposed according to a June report by the
Washington Post.

No wonder, as most of the financial institutions are
publicly traded and their stock value would likely
fall dramatically if bad news hits the markets about
their ability to secure consumer information.

Want to gain back some control?

Our tip for today to guard your personal information
is twofold.

First, frequently review your credit information for
accounts you did not open. Better still, get an
automatic personal credit alert service from Fico or
other reputable suppliers that monitor all three
of the major credit bureaus. Make sure to include you
and your family members where possible.

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