NEW YORK (TheStreet) — You may not know it, but you stand a much greater chance of falling victim to identity theft today than you did a few years ago.
According to the National Consumers League and Javelin Strategy & Research, in 2010 consumers had a one-in-nine chance of experiencing identity theft. But these days, the odds have changed, and not in your favor - now it's a one-in-three chance your personal financial data will be compromised via I.D. theft http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2014/07/23/study-data-breaches-pose-greater-risk/.
Using your credit card without due diligence is a common path to identity theft, says Creditnet, a Seattle credit card comparison site. Hackers and I.D. thieves regularly dig through trash or copy your card number if they work for a product or services provider where you use your plastic to do business.
Avoiding credit card fraud is much easier, however, if you apply some Creditnet-suggested common sense to the issue:
Look before you pay. Credit card thieves love to lurk about and grab as much data they can from your credit card while you're using it for a purchase. So when you're about to use your plastic to pay in public, look around first to ensure nobody can see you enter your PIN on a bankcard or see your credit card number.
Shred your paperwork. Copies of receipts and statements that wind up in the trash are a gift to data thieves. Invest in a shredder and destroy all card payment records you don't save. Keep I.D. thieves out of your trash and out of your life.
Shatter your electronic devices. A cottage industry has sprung up around the removal of unwanted mobile devices, including phones. Selling or giving away your old phones may make sense on an altruistic or even financial level, but be careful. If your old phone holds personal data and falls into the wrong hands, you could pay a big price. Eliminate digital data on memory devices, SMS cards and hard drives. Once you've done that you can go ahead and release your now data-free electronic device.
Study your card statements. One of the most common ways to discover you've been victimized by card thieves is from your monthly statements. Don't wait for the paper-based statements, though. Instead, check your statements online two or three times per month and make sure there are no bogus charges. If you see one, contact your card provider right away.
Be careful buying online. Paying for goods or services online is convenient, but it also can be a high-risk scenario in which fraudsters use key-logging software or other hacking techniques to swipe your card data. If you buy online, make sure you use only stable, reputable sites that promote solid security practices and use encryption software.
Additionally, if you use paper checks to pay bills, make sure to deposit the payment in a post office mailbox and not your personal mailbox. Credit thieves often steal payment envelopes from personal mailboxes to get critical account information they use to compromise your credit card and your identity.