Identity Theft

What it is and how to protect yourself

The Basics

Identity theft occurs when someone wrongfully acquires and uses a consumers personal identification, credit, or account information. Daily activities where you might give someone access to personal information are making a purchase with a check, debit card, or credit card, applying for a credit card or loan, online shopping, or paying bills online or through the mail. Identity thieves obtain personal information through a variety of methods such as skimming, stealing, diverting mail, or "dumpster diving". They can steal your personal information online by phishing, hacking, pretexting, or spyware. They can use this personal information to open new bank accounts, apply for a new drivers license, apply for credit cards or store credit card accounts, Consumers can protect themselves from identity theft by protecting your social security card and financial information, safeguarding your purse and wallet, verifying a source before sharing information, use a credit card instead of a debit card when making purchases online, make intricate passwords and keep them safe, and be careful with what you throw away for example shred documents containing personal information. You should only carry things you actually need in your purse or wallet you shouldn't carry your social security number or card, birth certificate, or passport. You should also only make purchases on secure websites indicated by https or a picture of a lock after the url and watch for clues that might indicate that your computer is infested with spyware. You should always remember not to leave your atm receipts and keep copies of your atm receipts in a safe and secure location also if your card is stuck in the atm be suspicious of anyone who offers help. You should also protect your identity by keeping documents that contain personal information safe and search the internet occasionally to see if someone is using your personal information. Early detection is important so make sure you watch for being denied credit when there's no reason to be, incorrect information on your credit report, calls from collection agencies, or new accounts or charges you didn't make. You can recover from identity theft by acting immediately once you learn someone ha stolen your identity, keeping a detailed record of correspondence and phone records, follow up all communication with letters sent via certified mail, contact three major credit bureaus and request a free fraud alert be added to your credit report. You should then close all accounts that have been tampered with, file a police report with the local police, and file a complaint with FTC.

Credit Reports

Credit Reports show identifying information such as name, address, social security number. Trade lines, all your credit accounts, the type of account, and your credit limit or loan is shown in your credit report also. Credit inquires voluntary and involuntary are shown as well as public record and collection items. To boost your credit score you can pay your bills on time, keep balances low on credit cards, pay off debt rather than moving it around, and only apply for a new credit account when needed.