Identity theft occurs when a criminal uses your account or personal information (your birth date, address, driver's license, or Social Security number) and uses it to secure loans, credit cards, checks, merchandise, etc.
Good news - you can dramatically reduce the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft by following these relatively simple steps:
Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry it with you and only give it out if absolutely necessary. Don't have your driver's license or Social Security number printed on your checks.
Do not have your Social Security number on your driver's license.
Shred all credit card offers. Also, remove and shred the address portion of your junk mail. Always shred "old" credit card and ATM receipts, checks, deposit slips, insurance papers, pay stubs, tax records, etc. Most identity thieves find the information they need to perpetrate crimes by going through people's trash.
If possible, get credit cards with your picture on them.
Make photocopies and keep a record of all your credit and ID cards (names, account numbers, and customer service numbers). Keep the information in a secure place. By doing this, you will have the information necessary to cancel your cards in case any of your cards become lost or stolen.
Do not leave paid bills in your mailbox for the mail carrier to pick up - mail them at your local post office.
Memorize your password and PIN numbers. Don't carry them on you.
Never allow sales clerks to write your credit card numbers on your checks for additional information.
Call your credit card company if your card has expired and you have not received a new one.
Do not buy anything over the telephone or internet unless you initiated the call or transaction.
Never give your personal information, credit card, or Social Security number over the telephone to someone claiming that you have won a prize.
Check your credit report at least once a year - examine it thoroughly. Credit reporting bureaus are the ones selling your name to the credit card companies that flood your mailbox with offers. The national credit bureaus offer a toll-free number that enables consumers to opt-out of all pre-approved credit offers with just one phone call.
Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) for more information.