5 Tips About Identity Theft5 Tips About Identity Theft

When a thief breaks into your home, they're probably after your jewelry, cash, guns, and electronics, right? While these categories of items are certainly targeted by most burglars, there is another category of items you may not even have thought of: personal documents. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in burglars stealing personal documents, which are then sold on the black market to identity thieves. They may also obtain this information by going through your trash, hacking into your computer, or stealing it from a bank or other institution. These thieves locate your information via any number of resources.

With the rise of the internet has come a growing number of identity theft cases. By some estimates, up to ten million American fall victim to ID theft each year. So what exactly does identity theft mean? Simply speaking, identity theft occurs when someone, without your knowledge, gains access to your personal information and uses it to commit fraud. For example, they might use your name, birthdate, and Social Security number to sign up for credit cards, obtain medical care, or even buy a house.

What Do Identity Thieves Steal?

The name "identity theft" is a little misleading, since these thieves aren't pretending to be their victims 24/7. For the most part, these thieves use a name, date of birth, social security number, address, or credit card numbers to make purchases in your name. The thief gets a bunch of free stuff and your credit rating suffers immensely. Victims of this type of crime often don't know that they're victims until it's too late. In fact, there have been thousands of cases in which victims of identity theft didn't know they had been targeted until being turned down when applying for a loan of their own.

How does the theft work?

There are many different kinds of identity theft. As mentioned above, the thief may get your personal information from almost anywhere. A surprising amount of personal data is contained in job applications, discarded bills, and other paperwork you may leave around the house without a second thought. Once the thief has your data, your existing credit card or bank accounts may be taken over, or new accounts and loans opened in your name?

How can you protect yourself?

While you can't prevent a thief from stealing information from a bank or other organization - once you send these companies your personal information, there's virtually no way for you to know who has access to it - there are a few things you can do to reduce the possibility of becoming an identity theft victim.

1. Do not give out your social security number unless you trust the company requesting it.

2. Shred (rather than just throwing away) any document with sensitive information on it.

3. Keep your credit card in a safe place in your wallet. Do not write the PIN number on the card or keep the PIN number with the card, and do not tell anyone the number.

4. Use cash if you don't feel comfortable handing over your credit card
Scrutinize bank account statements for anything amiss

5. Check your credit score at least once per year.
by Richard Armen
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