How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

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Identity theft is quickly becoming one of the most common crimes. Identity theft occurs when your personal information, such as your Social Security number, credit card numbers or bank account numbers are used without your authorization to commit a fraud. Once that information has been secured by the perpetrator, he or she can use your credit to make purchases, leaving you with the bills.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer with Internet access

Prevent Identity Theft

  • Destroy all personal information before throwing it in the trash. Thieves may go through your trash to look for bank or credit card numbers or offers for credit cards that have your name on them. Invest in an inexpensive shredder, which will make information unreadable to unwelcome eyes.

  • Regard Internet solicitations with extreme caution. There are many identity theft scams that seek to acquire your bank account numbers and security passwords. Only give such information to reputable sites you access directly. Don't use hyperlinks that come in emails and ask for personal information.

  • Protect your credit cards and bank accounts from unauthorized access by selecting complex passwords that cannot be easily ascertained. It is best to have a combination of letters and numbers that do not include commonly known information such as birth dates or proper names.

  • Keep personal information to yourself. Do not give it out to phone or mail solicitors unless you know for a fact that they are from reputable companies and you have initiated the transaction yourself.

  • Keep an eye on your purse and wallet at all times. With all the information that is usually carried in wallets, thieves have access to much of your personal information, including your date of birth, bank account numbers and credit cards.

  • Monitor your credit reports at least once a year to insure that only the credit you have opened is on your history. You have the right to 1 free credit report per year from each of the credit reporting bureaus (see Resources below). This is one of the most useful ways to protect yourself from identity theft.

  • Visit the Federal Trade Commission's online site (see Resources below) for information on protecting yourself from identity theft and the steps to take if you are a victim of identity theft.

  • Follow up immediately if you discover that you have been a victim of identity theft by contacting the police and all credit card companies and banks in order to report the crime and cancel cards and accounts. Acting promptly minimizes your liability and protects yourself.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you report an identity theft to the police, you may eventually be able to recover some restitution if a judgment is ever entered against the thief.
  • If you do become a victim of identity theft, expect to devote a considerable amount of time and effort to repairing your credit.

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