Identity theft is a huge concern right now. Criminals of all kinds buy or steal other peoples personal information and pose as someone else when applying for credit, jobs, or business ventures. If you are the victim of identity theft, you stand to lose a lot more than just your personal information you can end up losing your credit, your property, and you may even end up being accused of crimes committed in your name. All of these are very good reasons to practice safety when using personal information. Experts recommend that everyone:
Many people mistakenly assume that criminals need to get their credit cards or other identification to steal identities. This is not the case in many instances, just your name, date of birth, and social security number are enough to steal your credit. Some criminals only need to know your address to steal your mail and get your information that way. Other criminals pose as someone else in order to get your information directly from you. You don't want to become paranoid, but do become more cautious about your information. Only offer your information to those who need to know.
Phishing (pronounced the same as fishing) is a hot scam that results in identity theft far too often. It works very simply: fraudsters pose as a bank, utility company, or other legitimate company in an email or on the phone. They try to get your personal information by making you a special offer or by claiming that they need information from you because of security problems at the company. Don't fall for it. Call the company in question using the phone number listed in the phone book (not the number the fraudsters provide) and ask about any problems that way.
Install anti-virus and firewall software on your system and keep all your programs updated with patches and other updates. Hackers can use vulnerabilities in programs to view the contents of your computer and steal your personal information.
If your mail stops coming or if you start getting bills or statements from accounts you do not have or companies you do not patronize, take notice! A common fraudster move is to have your mail redirected to a post office box, where it is opened and sifted for personal information. Some criminals steal credit card applications directly from your box and apply in your name. In any event, your mail is protected by federal law, so report any sign of tampering or concern at once.
When using ATMs, debit machines, or your identification cards, make sure that no one can see your card numbers or your PIN. Always know where your identification and credit cards are and stow them immediately after use.
Keep receipts, bills, and other information about your accounts and bills. This may be important information in case you are a victim. If you have lots of paperwork, toss the envelopes and advertisements inside and keep the statements only in file folders.
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