Identity Theft is quickly becoming one of the most organized and costly crimes of modern times. Identity Theft is a crime in which an imposter deceptively obtains identifying personal data and uses it for their own personal gain. Some of this data might include social security numbers, driver's license numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers. The process can start with a stolen wallet, pilfered email or an online data breach. Identity Theft can affect anyone of any age, including children!

Over 8 million people are victimized by identity theft each year, with identity theft remaining the top complaint to the FTC for 11 years running. Overall losses from identity theft were over $37 billion in 2010. The average consumer out of pocket cost was up to $631 per incident.

Here are some tips for protecting your identity:

  • Buy a shredder and use it! Shred everything including credit card receipts, old bank statements, medical statements, every day bills and pre-approved credit card offers. If you don't have a shredder or can't buy one, look for shredding events in your area.

  • Monitor your credit and bank accounts carefully, so you'll know if a bill is missing or if unauthorized purchases have been made.

  • Protect your Social Security number. Only give out your Social Security number when absolutely necessary.

  • Never give out your Social Security number, bank account number or credit card numbers to phone solicitors.

  • When shopping online, make sure you see the Trust-e symbol or a Better Business Bureau online seal. These indicate that the seller has been independently audited and deemed trustworthy. Also make sure that online sites are secure or in an encrypted mode. The best way to do this is to look for a web address that begins with https instead of the usual http.

  • Have a constant awareness of your surroundings when shopping or using ATM's. Unscrupulous people can pick pocket you or look over your shoulder to gain your pin number.

  • Consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. Such services alert you via email anytime there is an inquiry or other activity to your credit report.

  • Order your credit report regularly. Consumers are allowed one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three bureaus- Experian, Equifax and Transunion. Order a report now from one bureau and then from another in January. This will give you a look at your credit report every 4 months and is still free.

    The best way to protect your identity is to be proactive and through prevention. It is much more difficult to recover from identity theft than to take steps to stop it before it happens.


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