Identity theft is the stealing of another person's personal information (e.g., name, social security number, credit card number, passport) in order to open credit accounts, loans, etc.
Once they have the information they are looking for, identity thieves can ruin a person's credit rating and the standing of other personal information. Many types of identity theft can be prevented. One way is to continually check the accuracy of personal documents and promptly deal with any discrepancies.
How do they get my information?
- They go through your trashcan, looking for straight cut or unshredded papers.
- They steal your mail or your wallet.
- They listen in on conversations you have in public.
- They trick you into giving them the information over the telephone or by email.
- They buy the information either on the Internet or from someone who might have stolen it.
- They steal it from a loan or credit application form you filled out or from files at a hospital, bank, school or business that you deal with. They may have obtained it from dumpsters outside of such companies.
- They get it from your computer, especially those without firewalls.
- They may be a friend or relative or someone who works for you who has access to your information.
How can I reduce the risk of this happening?
- Check your credit reports once a year.
- Guard your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card with you.
- Guard your personal information. You should never give your Social Security number to anyone, except in legitimate cases (employment, credit).
- Carefully destroy papers you throw out with sensitive or identifying information.
- Be suspicious of telephone solicitors. Never provide information unless you have initiated the call.
- Delete without replying to any suspicious email requests.
- Use a locked mailbox to send and receive all mail.