How Consumers Can Protect Themselves From Identity Theft

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Identity theft is one of the most frequently occurring crimes in the world today. When this crime takes place, it costs its victims a great deal of time and money. While you can become the victim of identity theft at any point, you can also take steps to minimize the risk of it happening to you. With a little careful planning and precautions, you can significantly limit the chances of having your identity stolen.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Shredder
  • Shred any mail that you receive with your personal information on it. When you get a bank statement or a credit card statement in the mail, destroy so that your personal information doesn't sit in the trash can when you dispose of it. Identity thieves typically use trash as a way to get addresses, account numbers, names and other important information.

  • Avoid giving out your Social Security number unless absolutely necessary. Some people get in the habit of writing their Social Security number on checks and giving it out on applications. Most businesses and other people do not need your Social Security number. In addition try to avoid keeping your Social Security card in your wallet or purse while you are out. Keep it in a safe place that no one else can access.

  • Change your passwords frequently and try to be creative when coming up with new ones. If you shop online or bank online, a thief could steal your password and your identity. When this happens, the thief could make purchases in your name or potentially transfer money from one of your accounts.

  • Use cash as much as you can. One of the most common ways that identity theft occurs is when a thief takes information from your credit card and uses it to make purchases. If you can avoid using a debit or credit card, it will decrease the chances that you will become a victim of identity theft. When using cash, you can pay for what you need to buy without giving out any personal information.

  • Check your credit report frequently so that you can spot identity theft immediately. Anytime someone accesses your credit file, it will show up on your credit report. If someone opened an account in your name, you can see it on the credit report. You can get a copy of your credit report free every year or you could subscribe to a credit monitoring service. Many of these companies make it possible to see your credit report frequently and they will alert you if something suspicious occurs on your credit.

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