Even Ben Bernanke, the top banker in the U.S., is not immune to identity theft. This week, Newsweek reported that the Federal Reserve Board chairman, became a victim of a fraud ring after his wife's purse was stolen, along with her Social Security card and chequebook.
A few weeks ago in this blog, I shared my own personal experience with debit card fraud and the sense of helplessness that came with it.
It's clear that credit and debit card fraud, along with other identify theft scams, is not going to disappear any time soon. Just this month, three people were indicted in the U.S. for the theft of 130 million credit cards, in the largest case of computer crime and identity theft ever prosecuted.
Unfortunately, there is not much that consumers - even one as powerful as Ben Bernanke - can do to avoid fraud on this scale. The responsibility for our personal financial data ultimately lies with the financial institutions that issue our cards and process our transactions.
Still, in an effort to protect and prepare ourselves to the greatest extent possible, there are rules of thumb to follow.
1. Don't carry your Social Insurance card in your wallet. With just these nine digits, your entire identity can be laid bare and stolen.
2. Destroy the hard drive of your old computer before throwing it away. Don't rely on deleting the information alone.
3. Make a photocopy of everything in your wallet so you'll know what is missing if it gets stolen.
4. If you access the Internet from a wireless connection, make sure you secure it with a password. Without a password, other people online can access the data on your computer. .
5. Check your credit reports and account statements regularly. This will make sure that you catch any irregular transactions that could be a mark of fraud early on. For information on how to get your credit report, ready my blog entry on the topic.