Identity theft is a serious crime. It occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowldedge to commit fraud or other crimes. It can destroy your credit and ruin your reputation.
How ID Theft Happens:
- Dumpster Diving. They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper 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 institutions or companies and send 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 address" form.
- "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 from their employers, or bribe employees who have access.
Some Basic Precautions
- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card or write it on checks. Give it out only if necessary or ask to use another identifier.
- Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails. Instead, type in a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your computer; and keep them up to date.
- If you make a purchase through an online business that contacted you without your request you can assume that your information has been compromised.
- Don't use obvious passwords that people who know even a little about you can guess, like your pet's name.
- Keep your personal information in a secure place, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your home.
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