Tips to Avoid Identity Theft
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes affecting American consumers. Unlike your fingerprints, which are unique to you and cannot be transferred to someone else, your personal data can be used by others to profit at your expense.
Within hours of obtaining stolen identifying information, thieves can order expensive cell phone service, apply for credit cards, open bank accounts and even receive a PIN from the DMV to update your information online. Although it is impossible to completely protect yourself from identity theft, there are things you can do to prevent someone from stealing your identity.
How to Protect Yourself
Here are some tips to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Never give personal information over the phone, such as your social security number, birth date, mother's maiden name, credit card number, or bank code, unless you initiated the phone call.
- Shred pre-approved credit applications, credit card receipts, bills and other financial information before discarding them.
- Empty your wallet of extra credit cards, IDs, or better yet, cancel the ones you don't use and maintain a list of the ones you do.
- Order your credit report from the credit bureaus once a year to check for fraudulent activity or other discrepancies.
- Never leave receipts at bank machines, bank counters, trash cans, etc. Keep your paperwork. When you no longer need it, destroy it.
- Memorize your social security number and passwords. Do not rwrite your PINs on cards or on anything in your wallet or purse.
- Notify your financial institutions in advance of address or phone number changes.
- Report all lost or stolen credit cards immediately.
For more information about identity theft, including what to do if you’re a victim, visit the U.S. Government’s Web site on ID fraud: http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft