Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
Think of how many times a day you share your personal information. You may use a debit card at the local grocery store, apply for a credit card, make a call on your cell phone, charge tickets to a game, or buy airline tickets over the internet.
Unless you live your life in a bubble, you can't prevent the stealing of your personal information, but you can minimize the risks of this crime happening to you by following these suggestions:
- Never divulge information about your social security number, credit card number, account passwords and other personal information unless you initiate contact with a person or company you know and trust.
- Never carry your social security number in your wallet and be sure to choose passwords and PINs that will be tough for someone to figure out.
- Protect your incoming and outgoing mail, especially envelopes that may contain checks, credit card applications or other information valuable to a fraudster. Deposit outgoing mail, especially something containing personal financial information, in the official post office collection boxes or hand it to the mail carrier instead of leaving it in your home mailbox.
- Destroy credit card applications, cancelled checks, bank statements or other information useful to an identity thief by using a paper shredder.
- Contact your financial institution immediately if you lose your checkbook or bank credit card, if there is a discrepancy in your records, or if you notice something suspicious such as a missing payment or unauthorized withdrawals.
- If a credit card bill doesn't arrive on time, contact the credit card company. This could be a sign that someone has stolen your account information, changed your address and is making charges in your name from another location.
- Once a year check your credit record with the three major credit bureaus. On AnnualCreditReport.com you can get a free annual credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies.
Most of us assume that thieves are only interested in the cash in our wallet or purse, when in many cases, they are more interested in access to sensitive information that can be used to steal our identity. Use caution and don't be the next victim of identity theft or other financial fraud.
If you are a victim of identity theft, IdentityTheft.gov was created as a one-stop resource for reporting and recovering from identity theft. There you will find contact information for the credit bureaus, sample letters, and other useful information.