Who will you cross paths with today? Teachers? Doctors? Neighbors? Identity Seekers?
Identity Seeker? Yes, an identity seeker is someone who tries to obtain bits of information about you and then use that information to commit fraud or theft.
When someone assumes your identity they can ruin your credit score and destroy your financial reputation for years. Identity theft is a growing crime; the FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft.
The following steps can help protect against identity theft...
Protect your personal information:
- Watch your accounts on a daily basis and confirm that all transactions are correct.
- Clean out your wallet and purse and only carry what you need. Limit the credit cards you carry.
- Do not carry your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport regularly.
- Keep confidential records in a safe locked place.
- Review your credit report at least annually from each of the credit reporting agencies.
- Shred documents containing any personal information before disposal.
Know who you are dealing with:
- Never reply to emails or pop-up messages asking for personal information.
- Never release your personal information unless you are certain of the request.
- Never give out your credit card number or other personal information over the telephone unless you have a trusted business relationship with the company or individual and you have initiated the call.
- Only order from Internet sites that use secure methods of obtaining personal account or credit card information.
- Choose a secure password that does not use personal information that someone could be likely to figure out. Things like your name, phone number, address and birth dates should be avoided.
- Do not write your passwords anywhere.
- Change your passwords often.
- Never write your Personal Identification Number (PIN) on your ATM/Debit card.
- Never write your Social Security Number on a check.
If you suspect your identity has been stolen:
- Immediately file a report with your local police.
- Call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-ID-Theft.
- Contact the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your record.
- Contact your financial institutions.
- Maintain a log of each contact with authorities and creditors.
Stay vigilant and armed with the knowledge of how to protect yourself and take action. You can make identity thieves' jobs much more difficult.