Mystery shoppers often become the target of identity theft simply by the fact that their credit information is more often used and accessed. Your credit card or check card information can be stolen by the salesperson or wait staff on your mystery shop assignment can steal your credit card information with a simple swipe of your card through a special machine. There may be various false websites that appear to be providers but end up stealing your personal information and often your money. This is not to mention any number of other ways your personal information may get stolen. There are a number of steps you can take to lessen the likelihood of identity theft:
- Set Up A Business Entity. Some mystery shoppers prefer to operate their business under a corporate entity. When you set up a corporation or other legal entity, you will be assigned a separate tax ID number, which you can use for payments with all of your mystery shopping assignments. Using the business entity, you will keep your social security number protected and put your business tax ID out in the world. This isn’t a sure-fire way to avoid the risk of identity theft, but it certainly makes it much more difficult for your social security number to get stolen.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are fees involved in setting up a business entity, and you will have to file a separate business tax return each year for your entity.
- Check Your Credit Report. While checking your credit report can only tell you if there a sign you have already had your identity stolen, knowing this information can prevent further damage being done to your financial and credit life. You can order one free credit report each year from each of the three bureaus. Each bureau may report different information, so be sure to check all three on an annual basis. Your credit report will tell you what your current balances are as well as your open credit accounts. Keep in mind that the information showing on your credit report may be lagging by about thirty days or so, so don’t be alarmed if your credit card balance looks like it did a month ago before you sent off that last payment. However, if you see an account with a balance that you are not familiar with, or if your balances appear grossly out of whack, contact the creditor as well as the credit bureaus immediately to investigate and correct any wrong information.
- Identity Theft Insurance. There are a number of insurance companies out there who offer insurance to protect you against losses due to identity theft. Everyone from the big name insurers to much smaller insurance companies are jumping on this latest band wagon. Keep in mind that the incidence of identity theft is relatively small, and you should weigh the costs of the insurance against the possibility of risk. Some people do find that the cost of this additional insurance coverage gives them the peace of mind to rest easy at night.
- Know Your Provider. As with any other job, research any new providers before you sign up to work with them to ensure they are legitimate. Make sure they are listed on the Mystery Shoppers Providers Association’s approved list of providers. If you are still in doubt, check with your fellow mystery shoppers by posting a question on a mystery shopping forum. If you can’t find information on the provider in question, it’s best to put that work avenue on hold until you can uncover information. As the adage goes, better safe than sorry!
With some preventative steps and a little extra effort on your part, you will be able to protect yourself as best you can against the possibility of identity theft.