I am working on a book for young people to help them acclimate to life after high school. This is an excerpt from that project. If you have a son, daughter, niece, or nephew in this age group, this may be good information to pass along to them.
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Wow! Now you’re on your own. You can buy things, go anywhere, and do anything you want to. Right?
Yes! To a point.
There are some precautions you should take, just to be safe.
Safe? Safe from what, you ask.
Well, now that you’re on your own, you have to take over the job of looking out for yourself. And we’re not talking about avoiding dark allies, here. What we’re talking about is identity theft.
As a young person, you hold a lot of promise in your future life. The thieves know this and unfortunately, this makes you a very vulnerable target for identity theft.
Again, as a young person, especially one starting out in a new career, you hold promise. A lot of promise. It is something that attracts potential employers to you. Sadly, these same qualities attract thieves.
So, what can you do to protect yourself? First, shred every piece of mail you receive with your printed name and address on it—especially if it has any account information accompanying it.
Shredding your mail is especially important if it contains any “free” offers—in particular, those from credit card companies that include your account information on blank checks.
Why the credit card companies continue to jeopardize their clients in this manner goes beyond common sense. Certainly, at some point, someone will file a class-action lawsuit against those companies engaging in such practices, which open their clients to the possibility of devastating financial disaster.
If a company mails anything to your address carrying your private information, you cannot afford “just to throw it out.” By the way, when I talk of shredding, I am not talking about tearing up mail into tiny pieces; I am talking about shredding it. With a shredder. Preferably a crosscut shredder if you can afford it. The best thing you can do for yourself to protect your financial interests is never to throw out any personal information.
If the information you discard remains intact, anyone can use it to buy goods and services in your name. Unfortunately, you may be liable for any losses if you have failed to take reasonable action to protect yourself.
What is reasonable action? Notification of the fraudulent charge against your account in a reasonable period. What is reasonable? A week? Two? A month? For you, the sooner the better.
We live in a truly magnificent time. Who would ever have thought we would have the opportunity to check all of our financial accounts at once – with the simple touch of a computer key stroke. This allows quick and thorough monitoring all of your finances.
Computers and the Internet are some of the most valuable tools we possess in the fight against identity theft. Unfortunately, these tools also aid the bad guys.
What you should keep in mind is this: to protect yourself, check all of your accounts at least weekly – maybe even daily.
The sooner you discover the fraud against your name, the easier it is to clean up after the fact. If you did not know this, keep in mind that on average, it takes 700 hours of research, letter writing, telephone calls, and one-on-one discussions for an ID theft victim to clear their name. That is an awful lot of time and effort to fix a problem you could easily have avoided with a few good practices.
As long as you keep up the good safety practices, you should be okay. If you protect your name, address, and personal account information, you make the thieves’ job much more difficult; this will probably result in them leaving you alone while they go after easier prey.
© 2011 J. Clark