As many as 9 million Americans have their identity stolen each
year, according to the FTC.
Identy theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as your name, social security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity
theft can damage your credit status and cost you time, money, and aggravation restoring your good name.
An identity thief may use your information to commit various types of fraud:
- Credit Card Fraud: Thieves open a credit account in your name, use it and don't
pay the bill.
- Utilities Fraud: Thieves may open new services such as a new
wireless phone line on your existing account or open a new electric account
using your name.
- Bank Fraud: Thieves may create counterfeit checks using
your name and account number, open a new bank account in your name and write
bad checks, clone your ATM card, or take out a loan in your name.
- Government Documents Fraud: Thieves use your name and SS number to get
government benefits, get driver's license with your name but their picture or
file fraudulent tax returns.
- Other Fraud: Thieves may rent a house or get
a mortgage using your name, or give out your personal information to the police
in an arrest.
Identity thieves may use different methods to get hold of your information:
- Dumpster Diving: They rummage through trash looking for bills or other papers with your personal information on it.
- Skimming: They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
- Phishing: They pretend to be financial insitutions or companies and send out spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
- Changing your Address: They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of
- Old Fashioned Stealing: They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records or bribe employees who have access.
- Pretexting: They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies and other sources.
If you get your identity stolen, file a police report, check your credit and notify creditors and dispute any unauthorized transaction.
Some tips to safeguard your identity are:
- Don't carry your SS card in your wallet
- Never write down your PIN number on your card or a paper kept in your wallet
-Watch out for "rubbernecks". Block the key pad when entering the PIN to avoid someone looking over your shoulder
- Collect your mail promplty. Place it on hold if you are going away
an eye on billing cycles. If you don't get a bill on time, contact the
- Keep receipts and compare them to your bank statements
- Tear up
or shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, expired cards, etc.
Store personal information in a safe place
- Don't respond to unsolicited
- Install firewalls, passwords and virus protection software
Check your credit report yearly