Identity Theft Prevention Tips
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Anyone can be the victim of Identity theft. Identity thieves can use your personal information, such as your name, birth date, social security number, credit card or bank account numbers to commit other crimes. Some of the methods thieves use to obtain identifying information are mail theft, email fraud, website spoofing, telemarketing fraud and burglary.
Identity theft is a very serious crime in that a determined criminal can not only profit from your legitimate accounts, but can also cause you many financial difficulties, not the least of which is ruining your credit. If your identity is stolen, you can spend months or years cleaning up the mess thieves have made of your good name and credit record. In the meantime, you may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or you may even be arrested for crimes you did not commit.
Some of the ways you can prevent identity theft are:
- Keep your social security card locked in a safe place. Do not carry it in your wallet or purse.
- Install a firewall system on your computer.
- Do not give personal information over the phone or via email to anyone you do not know.
- Beware of anyone standing too close behind you when you are using your credit card or writing a check.
- Check your credit report on a regular basis, or consider signing up for a credit alert service.
If you think you are the victim of identity theft:
- Contact the fraud department of any one of the 3 major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. The fraud alert requests creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts.
- Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Use an ID Theft Affidavit when disputing new, unauthorized accounts.
- File a police report. Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.
- File your complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. For more information, visit Fighting Back Against Identity Theft.