Keeping Your Identity and Credit Safe
There are people out there who are experts at taking someone else's identity.
They steal it from your social security number, your bank account, or even by
appropriating one of your credit card numbers. And it happens every day.
The problem is that anytime someone messes with your identity, they also mess
with your credit. That is the whole reason they are tapping into you, for your
This crime is fairly easy to commit and difficult to catch. But there are
some preventative steps you can take to protect yourself. The Better Business
Bureau and Federal Trade Commission recommend you do the following to
minimize your risk:
- Before sharing any personal information, be sure you know how it is going
to be used and whether it will be shared with anyone else.
- Pay attention to your bills. If a bill doesn't show up when it usually
does, call your creditor immediately.
- Carry only the number of credit cards you need. Store extra ones at home in
a safe place.
- Keep items with personal information in a safe place.
- Make sure you tear up junk mail and trash that may contain personal
information, this is particularly true of any offers for credit cards or
- Always post your mail in a secure post office box that can't be tampered
- Don't carry your SSN card with you and give out your number on when
absolutely necessary. There is no easier way to track someone or find out
personal information than from the SSN.
- Order a copy of your credit report from a major reporting agency to check
your credit every year. This will alert you to problems.
The most common ways to lose your identity is through theft. Here are some of
the ways thieves can gain access to your data:
If you do fall victim to identity theft, take immediate action to stop
access. Cancel your credit cards. Call your bank. Report it to the police.
Contact the fraud unit of the three credit reporting agencies and request
that a "fraud alert" be placed in your file as well as a request to call you
if there is any new activity in your accounts, i.e. asking for new accounts
or changing existing ones.
- Stealing your wallet or purse is easiest.
- Stealing your mail, including credit card statements and bank statements.
- Buying your personal information from "inside" informants, say from your
work or from a waiter at your favorite restaurant.
- Taking information about you from the Internet. There are entire sites set
up to gain personal information. They are often featured as private
- Fraudulently getting your credit report by posing as a landlord or employer.
Always take these actions by phone with a follow-up letter. You will
ultimately want your anti-identity theft actions in your file in writing to
protect yourself down the line.
Source: The Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau