How would you feel if you were stopped for a traffic violation and suddenly found yourself being handcuffed and taken to jail for a crime you never committed? Or if you got a nasty call from a collection agency for a car loan you never had? Or if your application for a home mortgage was turned down because of information in your credit report about overdue bills on accounts you never opened?
These are situations you could face as a victim of identity theft. While ID theft can take many complex forms, the essence of this crime is simple—someone steals personal information about you to use for fraudulent purposes.
ID theft can happen to anyone. By guarding your personal information carefully, you can reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim. But you may not be able to avoid ID theft entirely; it can happen in ways beyond your control. Businesses, government agencies, and organizations that obtain personal information also have a responsibility to handle it carefully and keep it secure.
If you do become a victim of ID theft, there is help available to guide you step-by-step through the procedures that you will need to take to resolve the problem.
Avoid falling victim to identity theft by following this routine:
- Check credit reports annually and before major purchases.
- Check bank and credit card statements regularly and report unauthorized transactions immediately.
- Carry only the credit cards, checks and identification you need.
- Safeguard your Social Security Number.
- Don’t give out personal information unless you know the recipient.
- Pick up receipts from ATMs, restaurants, and stores.
- Protect your Personal Identification Numbers and never carry them with you.
- Use strong passwords to protect sensitive information. Don’t use information like birthdays or pets’ names.
- Shred important documents before discarding them.
- Destroy expired or unneeded cards.
- Keep firewall, anti-virus, anti-spam and anti-spyware software current on your computer. Don’t respond to requests for personal information from unsolicited email or pop-ups.