Identity theft happens. It’s an unfortunate fact of modern life. But there are certain steps you can take to help keep your personal information from falling into the wrong hands.
Here are five easy ways:
- Read your credit card and bank statements carefully and often.
- Know your payment due dates.
- If a bill doesn’t show up when you expect it, look into it.
- Read the statements from your health insurance plan.
- Make sure the claims paid match the care you got.
- Shred any documents with personal and financial information.
- Review each of your three credit reports at least once a year. It’s easy, and it’s free.
- Get your Free Credit Reports Here
Before you know it, protecting your personal information can be as routine as locking your doors at night.
Many consumers use their credit and debit cards on a daily basis to make all sorts of purchases, and now it seems one of the world’s largest processors of those purchases is willing to sell consumer data to advertisers.
MasterCard – the world’s second-largest processor of debit and credit card transactions, handling 34 billion per year – is now working toward a deal with targeted advertising firms that will give those companies access its customers’ transaction histories, according to a report from the Financial Times. In particular, this data will be used to allow marketers to more effectively identify and target consumers who are more likely to purchase the products they offer.
The company has looked into such a decision in the past, but last year decided there were too many legal and regulatory pitfalls to navigate to truly be worth the trouble of entering into these partnerships with targeted advertisers, the report said. However, MasterCard already has the capability to use transaction histories to determine which consumers are more likely to purchase certain items, and is now pitching that as a selling point to marketing firms.
MasterCard confirmed to the news agency that it has been working on the initiative in earnest since February, the report said. However, it also says that maintaining consumers’ individual privacy was something to which it was quite committed; that the data sold to marketers would remain anonymous and is aggregated into groups, rather than individually. Instead, it claims the transaction data it collects is tied to credit card numbers only – though it does not share those with the advertisers for obvious reasons – and not consumers’ names or other data.
This plan is apparently not dissimilar to information shared by other major credit card payment processors with marketing firms, the report said. Visa, for instance, allows retailers to send consumers text messages based on credit card transactions – though customers have to opt into the program, and receive discounts in return for their participation. Meanwhile, American Express aggregates consumer transaction data as well, but also keeps it anonymous.
Many Americans may be concerned about the way in which these actions will affect their privacy, and that is a worry shared by federal policymakers and consumer advocacy groups alike.
Children are not supposed to have a credit report in their name, but new studies have found that the number of those who do is growing considerably, which can pose major problems for affected kids.
People under the age of 18 who have a credit report in their name are almost certainly the victims of identity theft, and this is a large and growing problem nationwide, according to a report from the Columbus Dispatch. Some studies have found that large amounts of kids have been a0ffected by identity theft, in which the crooks open large amounts of credit in their name and steal tens of thousands of dollars or more, and leave their young victims to carry the blame.
Often, this type of crime is carried out when a thief gains access to a kid’s Social Security number, the report said. Sometimes this can happen as a result of data breaches at hospitals or schools, and other times, their relatives may steal their identity. These youngsters are usually targeted because they will have no credit history and, since parents wouldn’t normally even think to make sure their son or daughter has a credit report in their name, the crime is unlikely to be discovered for a long time.
“These kids’ Social Security numbers are particularly valuable to thieves because they can go years without detection,” Bo Holland, chief executive of AllClearID, told the newspaper. “Because of privacy restrictions, the credit bureaus can’t share with parents what they find in their (child’s) files. So they don’t know who is using the Social number or what accounts were opened.”
The most common way a child who has been victimized by this type of crime discovers the problem is when they turn 18—sometimes even older—and apply for a line of credit, the report said. To their dismay, they may learn that they’re saddled with significant debts, such as those for auto loans, credit cards and sometimes even mortgages, that have gone long periods of time without payment.
One thing parents who are concerned about this type of crime can do is contact the credit reporting agencies and ask them to put a freeze on their kids’ credit until they turn 18 and are capable of obtaining some types of loans on their own.