The Federal Trade Commission has some excellent information on their Web site regarding identity theft — how it happens and how you can help prevent it. Here are a few excerpts from the government’s site:
Fighting Back Against Identity Theft
Identity theft is a serious crime. It occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can cost you time and money. It can destroy your credit and ruin your good name.
Each year, millions of Americans have their identity stolen. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, wants you to have the information you need to protect yourself against identity theft. This information is summed up in the FTC’s clear and concise message on identity theft: Deter, Detect, Defend.
- DETER identity thieves by safeguarding your information.
- DETECT suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements.
- DEFEND against ID theft as soon as you suspect a problem.
Here are examples of ways the FTC says you can take the first step — DETER identity thieves by safeguarding your information.
- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
- Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date. Visit OnGuardOnline.gov for more information.
- Don’t use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother’s maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your house.