Identity theft is the false gain and use of someone’s identifying or personal information, such as a credit card, address, Social Security number, and more. Fraud occurs when the criminal uses the false identity to make purchases, open accounts, ask for loans, and more. Fraud can happen to anyone, but there are ways to keep yourself protected.
Prevent Identity Theft
- Never carry your Social Security Card with you; keep it locked up at home.
- Never carry your check book or blank checks with you.
- Avoid giving out personal information over the phone unless it is a trusted company.
- Keep an eye on your credit card bills.
- Ask for credit reports at least once a year. Credit reports show you everything financially in your name.
- Make sure your computer has the latest firewalls and spyware/virus protection.
- Shred any type of credit card application you get in the mail.
- Consider having your telephone number unlisted.
- Cancel any credit cards that haven’t been used in the last year.
- Avoid more than one credit card on you at a time.
- Never respond to spam email, or open any kind of link that says "You’ve won!" Chances are, if you didn’t enter in it, you didn’t win it!
- Never post personal information online for everyone to see. Make sure your privacy is protected!
- Make sure if you’re traveling to have a trusted neighbor or loved one collect your mail.
If Your Identity Is Stolen
If you notice some odd charges on your credit card, or that your wallet is missing, or if you know your mail has been stolen here are some tips on what to do in the case of your identity being stolen:
- If you lost your wallet and notice these charges, put your cards on a credit freeze.
- Report any stolen Social Security Numbers.
- Contact your bank, telling them your credit card has charges that were not authorized.
- Contact the company where the fraud occurred, telling them you didn’t authorize those charges.
- Request a Credit Report to check on everything with your name on it.
- Close any new accounts in your name.
More information on what to do can be found on the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft website.
Remember, identity theft can be the beginning of other crimes for criminals; they can steal a car in your name, steal money, and more!