Identity theft is a serious crime that occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity thieves rob more than 500,000 Americans every year and can result in devastating losses for the victims. Credit can be damaged, and fixing it can cost you hundreds of dollars and take hundreds of hours of your time, so it is very important to take as many precautions as you can to protect sensitive data about yourself.
WBS outlines simple steps to help protect yourself from identity theft:
- Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet and give it out only if absolutely necessary.
- Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who exactly you are dealing with and you are absolutely certain they are a trusted source. On websites look for the URL to display a "https://" this is a good indicator the site you are on is protected by a secure source.
- Never click on links sent in emails from organizations you are not familiar with. Use anti-spyware and anti-virus software to protect your home computer and make sure they are not expired!
- Get creative with your passwords! Try not to use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother's maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- Monitor your credit report. It contains personal and sensitive information that should only be seen by your eyes. Be aware of any suspicious activity and if you notice unusual changes occurring do some investigating!
- Request that your name be removed from junk mail or direct mail mailing lists. There are several websites where you can do this. Visit The Direct Marketing Association's website to learn more.
- Examine the charges on your credit card statements before paying them and question immediately any unusual charges or activity. Also, be sure to use automatic tools and alerts your credit card company offers - set up alerts to be notified in the instance of out-of-county charges and/or large purchases posted to your card.
Visit OnGuardOnline.gov for more information.