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April 07, 2012

Tips on reducing your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft

Anyone can become the victim of identity theft. It happened to the wife of Ben Bernanke, the current chairman of the Federal Reserve. It also recently happened to Paul Allen, the co-founder (with Bill Gates) of Microsoft. Federal investigators allege that Brandon Lee Price pretended to be Allen when he called one of Allen's credit card companies and changed the address on the account. Price then had a debit card issued in Allen's name but sent to Price.

Price's scheme unraveled when the bank's fraud protocol spotted red flags when Price allegedly attempted a $15,000 Western Union Wire transaction and made a payment on a bank loan. But all that could have been averted had the credit card company had more safety protocols in place before allowing an unverified caller to change the address on Allen's account.

Here's some good advice from Adam Levin, co-found and chairman of Identity Theft 911, about how to avoid having this nightmare happen to you:

1) Develop a strong relationship with your Bank and ask what provisions they have to protect you if you become a victim of identity theft.

2) Ask your bank or credit card company what steps it takes to authenticate the identity of someone attempting to access the account by phone. If there is no pin or secret password in place, ask for one.

3) monitor bank accounts daily. I know that sounds like a daunting task in this fast paced world, but make use of the ability to be "logged in" from practically anywhere to your advantage. Keeping a close watch on your accounts could save you a lot of hard ache elsewhere.

And one that Levin did not mention. Ask your credit card company or bank to add either e-mail or text alerts for any changes to your account. If Allen's credit card company had texted him when Price changed his address, a lot of hassle could have been avoided.

Also, and this is one that I was guilty of in the past, don't use the same login and password for all your internet activity (i.e. banking, social media, e-mail, online games) because, if you do, once your password is compromised, they got you. Use something hard to figure out (i.e. not your birthday, mother's maiden name or kid's name) and use upper and lower case letters and numbers in every password. And not just numbers at the end but in the middle too.

Hope these tips help you avoid the nightmare of being an identity theft victim.

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