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.
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.
■ 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.
Defend against ID theft as soon as you suspect it.
■ Place a "Fraud Alert" on your credit reports, and review the reports carefully. The alert tells creditors
to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have toll-free numbers for placing an initial 90-day fraud alert; a call to one company is sufficient:
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)