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Identity theft is the fraudulent use of your name and identifying information by someone to obtain credit, merchandise or services.
7 million people claim they were victims of Identity Fraud in 2002. In 2003, over half of a million people filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission related to Identity Fraud.
How Thieves Obtain Your Information:
- Dumpster Diving
- Mail Theft
- Email or Phone scams
- Change of address on existing accounts
- Theft of purses or wallets containing personal information
- Stealing records from businesses you deal with
How to Avoid Identity Theft:
- Enroll in some type of Identity Theft protection program or order a copy of your credit report yearly from each of the major credit reporting agencies. The three major credit reporting agencies are TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. You can take advantage of an annual credit report at no cost by visiting this website: www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp
- Secure your credit cards by making them password protected or use those that include a photo of you. Password protect your bank accounts and phone accounts. Don't make these passwords too easy. Don't use your mother's maiden name, the last four digits of your social security number, or the last four digits of your phone number.
- Don't give out your personal information unless you've initiated the contact and know whom you are dealing with on the other side.
- Guard your outgoing and incoming mail. Place outgoing mail in Post Office collection boxes and remember to ask the Post Office to hold your mail when you are out of town.
- Don't carry your social security card or the number written out in your purse or wallet.
- Give your Social Security number only when necessary. If you question this, many businesses will not require it.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles or statement cycles and call the business if you haven't received your statement at the regular time (this includes credit, bank and brokerage accounts).
- Don't dispose of a computer without erasing all personal information.