Thursday, May 26, 2005
More Bang for Your Buck: Identity Theft
Sometimes it's not about how much you make, but how much you save. Each year, millions of people lose millions of dollars due to identity theft. But in tonight's more bang for the buck, we found it is possible to protect your bank account and your credit report.
WSVN -- What do Will Smith, Steven Spielberg, and Tiger Woods have in common?
They've all been victims of identity theft.
And they're not alone. I-d theft happens to one in 10 Americans. One of them - South Floridian Dave Hinkes.
Dave Hinkes: "Here I am in my 40's and probably have given out my driver's license before without second thought."
Dave now knows he should have thought twice when a merchant asked to copy his license.
Within months of buying a new refrigerator, a thief assumed his identity and applied for loans and credit cards.
Dave Hinkes: "Sure enough new accounts had been opened already with charges on them that quick."
For Dave the damage is already done, but according to attorney Thomas Sadaka, we can protect ourselves from becoming a victim.
Thomas Sadaka: "Identity theft isn't an old crime. but technology and the ease of access to information has made it very popular."
Sadaka says before you give out any personal information, think about the transaction.
Unless you're applying for credit, there is no need to give out your social security number. And when you're making transactions, avoid writing checks.
Instead, your best option is banking online.
Thomas Sadaka: "If someone wants to compromise your bank account, all you have to do is write them a check. And you've given them free access to your account."
And that's another reason why Sadaka suggests opening two separate accounts.
This way, your money card isn't linked to your primary account but is used for play money.
Thomas Sadaka: "Criminals are opportunists. they are going to do what is easy for them to do."
But you can make it hard on them.
Remember never throw receipts or statements in public trash cans.
Never provide personal information to telemarketers. And never put your mail out in the mailbox in front of your house or in the community cluster box.
Thomas Sadaka: "A lot of mail theft takes place out of those cluster boxes. take it to the post office to be delivered."
Dave's learned his lesson. He now knows you can never be too safe.
Dave: "Just be very, very careful so you and your family are not effected financially."
Another tip -- remember to constantly check your credit history. Under a new federal law, we are each allowed one free credit report per year.
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