As with many things in life, the saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, certainly applies to identity theft, too. Identity theft is a growing problem today, with many thieves working to steal a person’s identity, open up new accounts, charge tremendous amounts of purchases under their name, and more. Many people learn about such charges when they randomly check their credit report, when they apply for credit and learn that their scores have dropped, or sometimes when bills arrive from creditors for accounts they did not know where under their name. In some cases, the charges that have accrued have totaled in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Mystery shoppers are often a target for identity thieves because of the online nature of our business as well as because of the large number of transactions we make at stores, restaurants, and more. So how can you protect yourself from identity theft?
Use Cash When Possible. You may not be aware, but many thieves steal your credit card information at the time you swipe your card for purchases. You could be standing right there, hand your card over to a thief who is posing as an employee, and have your credit card information stolen while that thief talks to you about the weather outside. Credit card information can be stolen with a simple swipe of your card through a special machine. These machines are designed to read and copy your credit card information, and it is later used by thieves to make purchases. The only way to prevent this is to use cash when possible. So before your next assignments, run by the cash machine and pull some cash out of your account to use on required purchases. This small step could save you a lot of money and a big headache in the future.
Be Prudent About Internet Use. Many people are very careful about handing out personal information across the internet. We have learned to be weary about sites that ask for our name, address, and social security number. Often as soon as we see the request for a social security number, our red flags go up and we pause to reflect for a moment. Yet there are other times when we may feel perfectly comfortable providing this information and may willingly provide it. For instance, what would you do if you got an email from a mystery shopping provider requesting that you update your social security information using a link they provided in an email? This could be legitimate, but it could also be a scam. The link may take you to an external site operated by thieves posing as your provider. Always do your own separate research before offering this information to anyone.
Check the Forums. One of the best things you can do to prevent being targeted by identity thieves is to stay on top of industry news. Of course the best way to do this is to read the mystery shopping forum posts regularly. These sites contain up-to-the-minute posts from your fellow mystery shoppers, and many would certainly share information about a thief targeting the mystery shopping community. Being aware of crime in real-time can give you the extra information you need to be safe and to protect yourself.
Unfortunately, even the best efforts at preventing identity theft may not be enough sometimes. However, these steps can help to prevent many cases of identity theft and minimize your risks as a mystery shopper.