Identity Theft

ID Theft puts an ugly face on your good name. A con artist who knows your social security number, account number or other personal information can temporarily become you in order to commit fraud. Can you completely prevent identity theft from occurring? Probably not. But by managing your personal information wisely and cautiously, you can minimize your risk.

  • Protect your Social Security number, credit card numbers, account passwords and other personal information. Before you reveal any personally identifying information, find out how it will be used and whether it will be shared with others. Never give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact and know whom you are dealing with.
  • Protect your incoming and outgoing mail. Much of your mail contains personal information, so remove it from your mailbox as soon as possible. When leaving on vacation, have your mail held at the post office or picked up by someone you trust. When mailing something that contains personal information, drop it in the post office mailbox instead of leaving it for home pickup.
  • Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if your bills don't arrive on time. A missing credit card or statement could mean an identity thief has taken over your charge card account and changed your billing address.
  • Put passwords on your credit card, savings accounts and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your birth date, mother's maiden name, or the last four digits of your social security number.
  • Keep thieves from turning your trash into their cash. Many will go through trash looking for financial information. Get a personal shredder and use it to destroy these documents. Store checks, credit cards and documents with personal information securely, especially if you employ domestic help or are having service work done in your home.
  • Review your credit report every year. Make sure your report is accurate by monitoring it for unauthorized accounts or purchases.
    • Pull free credit reports from each bureau annually at www.annualcreditreport.com
    • Contact the appropriate bureaus immediately if you detect suspicious activity (contact information is available on their websites).

    Identity theft doesn't just happen in the movies, it happens to real people every day. We've tried to give you some of the best and easiest ways to protect your good name. Another good resource is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Visit the FTC's Identity Theft Website.

    ID Fraud Tip: In retail stores, groceries and restaurants, watch out for nearby people holding cell phones. New cell phone cameras can photograph your credit card with enough detail to capture your name, number and expiration date. New identity theft scams materialize every day, so always be alert and aware of your surroundings.

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