Christian Identity Theft Monitoring

The most effective Christian identity theft monitoring begins with individual responsibility for one's personal and financial information. Consumers can take definite steps to protect their identities and limit the likelihood that a criminal will obtain access to private data. One of the most important tasks for every consumer is to take advantage of federal legislation that requires each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus to provide, upon request, a free copy of one's credit report. The three companies are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Financial experts generally suggest that consumers set up a rotating schedule so that they receive a report from a different bureau every four months. The request can be made online and, in most cases, the bureau's report accessed almost immediately. The consumer can then review the report for accuracy and take the required steps to correct any errors. Though one report a year is free, each bureau charges a small fee to obtain one's credit score. However, this purchase is optional. By looking at a credit history on a regular basis, the consumer is taking an important first step in personal identity theft monitoring.

Individuals are encouraged to develop other habits to help protect personal data. For example, social security cards do not belong in wallets. Social security numbers need to be kept private so that unscrupulous people can't use them to build a separate identity. Only one or two credit cards, if any, should be carried at any one time and shoppers should be very careful when making purchases to protect account numbers. Fortunately, experts say that over half of identity theft cases involve no out-of-pocket expenses since consumers aren't liable for fraudulent credit card purchases. Unfortunately, experts believe that family members and friends are the perpetrators in nearly half of reported identity theft cases. Perhaps a relative forges a check. Or maybe a so-called friend uses a child's social security number to fraudulently obtain a credit card. One of the psalmists wrote this prayer: "Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings" (Psalm 140:4). Though we are encouraged to pray for protection from those who would do us harm, God gave us common sense for a reason. Exercising common sense translates to educating oneself on the identity fraud issues. Consumer advocates encourage individuals to shred receipts, billing statements, and any other documents that contain personal or financial information. Credit card offers should be torn up or shredded instead of tossed in the trash so that dumpster divers can't apply for them. Banking and credit card accounts can easily be monitored online to be sure nothing strange is happening. These kinds of habits provide a form of personal identity theft monitoring that help reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim.

Unfortunately, a conscientious person can do all the right things and still become a victim because of security breaches at financial institutions, retail stores, or government offices. The ramifications of this type of fraud may not be felt until a great deal of damage has already been done to one's financial reputation. Companies that offer identity theft monitoring services cannot stop security breaches or even the theft by a family member or friend. They do promote their ability to watch out for fraudulent use of a client's accounts by tracking numerous databases. For a monthly, quarterly, or annual fee, these companies provide regular and frequent reports to their clients and provide an alert if a problem is found. The sooner a problem is identified, the more quickly it can become resolved and the less damage will occur to an individual's personal and financial reputation. Actually, spotting new fraud is a primary benefit of an identity theft monitoring service. But the company may not be able to detect the misuse of an open account.

The marketing materials for some monitoring firms promote features that individuals can do for themselves. For example, the company may provide a copy of an individual's credit report. However, as already noted, consumers can easily go online and get this report for themselves. The identity theft monitoring company may put a fraud alert on a client's credit history. But any victim of identity theft who has filed a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can also take care of this. Additionally, for a small fee (that may be waived in some circumstances), consumers can freeze their credit reports and unlock them for specific purposes. This step alone drastically reduces access to an individual's credit history.

Some consumer advocates also warn that identity theft monitoring services cannot help with either medical identification theft or criminal identification theft. If someone steals another person's health insurance information, that person may fraudulently receive medical services and leave the victim with a false medical record and a hospital bill. A criminal may go so far as to use a stolen identity when arrested for some crime. This is a very difficult type of fraud for an innocent person to resolve as a warrant may be issued in his name. Despite their drawbacks, many consumers appreciate the peace of mind they experience by having a reputable company monitoring their accounts. Some of these also offer identity theft coverage which assists with certain out-of-pocket expenses incurred when restoring one's creditworthiness. Each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus offers identity theft monitoring services and so do many other online companies. Consumers are advised to comparison shop and be sure they understand the exact services they are receiving in return for their money.

Christian Identity Theft Prevention

High-tech hackers have made identity theft prevention a must-have for anyone with monetary assets and a long term record of paying bills on time. No one wants to spend years building good credit only to have it destroyed in a moment's time by identity theft or charge card fraud. But due to a proliferation of private information accessible by public means, thieves are increasingly targeting unsuspecting consumers to steal identities and rob them of valuable assets. Young working adults, college students, professional educators, or the kid who works at the corner drug store: no one is exempt from this insidious white collar crime. Thieves target older adults with retirement income, homeowners, or individuals with substantial savings through computer hacking, get-rich-quick email schemes, and telemarketing scams.

Federal and state governments and banks exercise precautions to safeguard personal information. No two Social Security numbers are the same, bank account numbers are also meticulously compiled to avoid duplication; and life and health insurance companies adapt built in safeguards to distinguish one beneficiary or policy holder from another. Individuals spend a lifetime accumulating wealth, building creditworthiness, and establishing a sound financial future; but sadly, can become victims of identity theft overnight. However aggressive identity theft prevention is one guarantee against losing money and peace of mind. In natural and spiritual matters, watchfulness is a safeguard against loss. "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up" (Matthew 42-43).

How do thieves gain access to private information? They dive into dumpsters and dig through trash for bills and receipts which include Social Security numbers. Some look over the shoulders of unsuspecting shoppers at the checkout counter, bank teller, or ATM machine for account numbers and PINs; while others respond to credit card offers using someone else's identification. Identity theft prevention involves ensuring that sensitive, personal data, such as patient information in medical records; credit card and banking account numbers; and drivers' license digits don't fall into the hands of crooks, because the results of such theft can be grave. Stealing patient information could easily result in the loss of life or a medical malpractice lawsuit for the healthcare provider. Credit card fraud leaves creditworthy consumers faced with hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid debt. Stolen drivers' licenses and Social Security numbers can be used to secure employment, open a bank account, lease an apartment or house, or take a tropical island vacation. But savvy consumers who are aware of the potential for fraud can employ strategic identity theft prevention that works.

Consumers should take a common sense approach to identity theft prevention: discard, destroy, and don't divulge personal data. When using credit cards for purchases at the checkout counter or gas pump, shoppers should be sure to retrieve carbon copies of charge receipts. Although receipts block out all but the last four digits of a charge card, thieves can use those last four numbers to acquire valuable goods, especially over the telephone. How simple would it be to just give the last four digits when telemarketers ask to verify an account number? Some carbon receipts include card expiration dates and customer signatures, which enable crooks to gain access to other account information or make purchases. Mail offers to open new accounts should be destroyed, preferably burned or shredded. If not, identity thieves can easily apply in a consumer's name using a fictitious or stolen Social Security number. And speaking of Social Security numbers: Big bad ID thieves have even been known to use numbers belonging to deceased individuals! Illegal immigrants sometime pay black market racketeers big bucks to buy numbers that enable them to manipulate the system and stay in the U.S. against the law.

Tools for identity theft prevention include employing credit card and credit score monitoring companies or utilizing software to alert account holders when abnormal activity, such as large purchases of luxury items, expensive electronics, or exotic vacations occurs. Monitoring involves regularly perusing consumer credit reports from the three major agencies to assess abnormal or fraudulent usage. Credit scores that take a dive due to unpaid purchases or an unusual number of inquiries also sends up a red flag to companies hired to keep a watchful eye on consumer accounts. Hospitals and healthcare providers maintain patient privacy through rigorous federal and state-mandated laws, including checking patient IDs to avoid misidentifying individuals scheduled for medical procedures. Some insurance companies include identity theft prevention as part of a comprehensive package to provide survivor benefits and safeguard client assets. Insurance companies offer 24/7 credit report monitoring, recovery of identification and credit cards in the event of theft, and notification of creditors to help clear identity theft victims of guilt.

The best offense against identity thieves is to avoid sharing personal data over the phone or online. Never give out Social Security numbers to telemarketers or callers who misrepresent legitimate companies. The response should always be, "I'm sorry, I cannot give you my Social Security number, but I do have a company account number for verification." Consumers should safeguard important legal documents and shred outdated receipts, bills, and paperwork containing sensitive data. Keep deeds, insurance policies, and banking information under lock and key. Protect personal identification numbers (PINs) and passwords; and never give out access codes to coworkers or telemarketers. If a computer system has been compromised, change the password and keep the new one in a safe place. Effective Christian identity theft prevention includes a series of vital steps diligently taken to ward off criminals who want to violate the privacy of others and steal valuable assets.

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