Friday, August 19, 2011

Identity Theft - Has It Happened To You?

Recently I wrote about our American Express account being hacked and fraudulent charges being billed to our account. We got lucky because American Express was on top of it and called us because the charges were made in New York, and we never go to New York. It seems that everyone I tell about this incident has a story of her own to share, or knows someone who has been similarly affected. And I think we've all heard horror stories, whether in the news or personally, about people who have not been so lucky, and in many cases even had their identity stolen. 

The thought of someone stealing my personal information (or that of my children - even more disturbing!) totally creeps me out. Unfortunately, it seems to be ridiculously common. I would really like to know who these people are, and how in the world they justify their actions. I have heard of people fighting for years to clear their names and their credit reports after having their identity stolen. Identity thieves purchase cars, open new credit card accounts, apply for mortgages, and basically destroy their victims financially. Not to mention violating the victims' peace of mind and privacy.

I've recently learned that there are certain services that provide identity theft protection. For example, I've heard of Identity Hawk, a company that assesses your risks and works to prevent identity theft. (And I noticed on their website that they're offering a free 30-day trial).

Do you have any horror stories involving identity theft? I can only imagine what a nightmare it would be (and I fervently hope I never have to do anymore than imagine!). Besides using a service like Identity Hawk, do you have any practical tips for avoiding identity theft?

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