Identity theft occurs when your personal information, such as your name, social security number, credit card number, etc., is stolen and used without your knowledge. Theft of identity is a dangerous thing, potentially ruining your bank account, credit score, and reputation.
In order to protect from identity theft, it is helpful to be aware of some of the ways it can occur. The Federal Trade Commission lists the top five most common ways that identity theft happens:
1. “Dumpster Diving” to find any documents that have personal information on them.
2. “Skimming” by stealing credit/debit card numbers when processing your purchases.
3. “Phishing” by pretending to be financial institutions or companies and sending you spam e-mail or pop-up messages enticing you to reveal your personal information.
4. “Changing Your Address” by simply going to the post office and filling out a change of address form in your name. The thieves will then have access to all of your mail, including your bills and bank statements.
5. “Old-Fashioned Stealing” by stealing wallets, purses, mail, new checks, tax information, or even personal records from employers. They may also try to bribe employers who have access to your personal records.
Having your identity stolen is scary. In order to avoid identity theft, here are some key tips from the FTC:
– Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
– Protect your Social Security Number. Don't carry it in your wallet or purse, and don't give it out unless absolutely necessary.
– Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the internet unless you know exactly who you're dealing with.
– Never click on links sent to unsolicited e-mails and use firewalls and anti-virus protection on your computer.
– Don't use obvious passwords like your name, date of birth, etc.
– Keep your personal information in a secure place at home.