Fear of losing or having a credit card stolen ranks as the highest identity theft concern in a recent survey conducted by the BBB.
However, more serious and costly threats are considered less worrisome, according to a poll by the Better Business Bureau in August 2012.
Thirty percent of the respondents ranked credit card loss or theft as their greatest ID protection concern. Another 23 percent worried hackers would steal credit card and personal data from a business database. Rated least concerning, by 14 percent of those responding, was the disposal of personal papers in the garbage. Also low on the anxiety list was use of credit card information online (18 percent) or on the telephone (15 percent).
Losing or having a credit card stolen is certainly a worry. However, credit card companies have elaborate security programs to quickly stop credit access and limit consumer financial exposure to fraudulent use. On a rating scale, credit card loss is towards the less distressful end, though it should always be guarded against.
Card holders should be most worried about the material they have the most control over, their personal papers in the trash. Yet, this was the area where the fewest expressed concern.
Papers with personal data and credit card numbers on them can be a treasure trove of information for fraudsters, and a serious risk to consumers. Shredding these types of documents is essential for any type of personal identity protection plan. BBB’s annual free shredding day is coming up on Oct. 20 on the College of Western Idaho campus in Nampa.
Here are a few tips to watch:
■Start with your bank – Most financial institutions offer services to watch your transactions, and will contact you immediately if there is suspicious activity, such as, any transaction of more than $150.
■Free insurance – ID theft insurance is often included in homeowner insurance policies at no extra cost. Speak with your insurer to decide whether you are covered and discuss the terms and conditions.
■Keep an eye on your credit reports – Your credit reports will tell you if someone else is opening lines of credit in your name. Get reports from the three major credit-reporting bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, or a free of charge every 12 months from the only government-sanctioned source, www.annualcreditreport.com
. You can check your credit reports all year-long by checking with one of the three bureaus every four months.
■Stay on the alert – If you find unauthorized financial activity, contact the credit reporting agencies to place a “fraud alert” on file. This will let lenders know that if someone applies for credit under your name, they may have stolen your personal information, such as your date of birth, Social Security number and address.
■Freeze your credit – A “credit freeze” is a more powerful tool than a fraud alert. A permanent credit freeze puts the brakes on any new creditors from accessing your credit report. You must ask a credit freeze from the credit reporting agencies.
Identity theft is much easier to prevent than fix.