Preventing Identity Theft - Dont Lose Your Identity

By: Manny Vetti

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America today. More than 9.9 million Americans were the victim of many types of identity theft scams in 2004, which ended up costing them almost $5 billion. Most identity theft victims suffered sever financial damage and even financial ruin because they thought identity theft would not happen to them. No matter what your current financial state is like, where you live, or what your spending habits are, you are a target for identity theft. The truth is that everyone is at risk for identity theft, but fortunately there are things you can do to prevent identity theft from happening to you.

It may seem simple, but shredding all documents you receive that contain any of your personal information is one of the best ways to prevent identity theft. This includes credit card receipts, bills, and pre-approved credit applications. This important step alone can give you great protection against identity as the majority of identity theft originates from financial documents that were thrown away or intercepted.

You should also remember never to give your personal information to anyone over the phone, through the mail, or on the Internet. Identity thieves will often claim to be from various sources including your bank, the government, or even law enforcement to get you to divulge your personal info. You should always keep your personal information private in order to prevent identity theft. If you are contacted by a legitimate institution, make sure you check the validity of their claim and do not give information on the first contact. Call or contact the company directly to make sure it was really them who contacted you.

It is also important to check your credit report from all three major credit bureaus once a year to make sure everything is accurate and there is no suspicious activity. If you find an error or something suspicious dispute it immediately to protect your credit and prevent identity theft. Always be aware of when your bills should arrive every month and always check them over carefully to make sure there are no unknown charges. Identity thieves will steal your credit card statements and other bills and then use the information for their own gain. This type of identity theft has been around for years and is the oldest type of identity theft.

Another way to safeguard your identity is not to use common numbers as ATM passwords. Your birthday, address numbers, and part of your social security number are all easily accessible to thieves who steal your wallet and ATM card and will allow them easy access to your cash. You should also never carry your social security number in your wallet in case it is stolen. Your social security number should be safeguarded at all costs and you should also be very discriminating in who you give it to. Generally the only people you need to give it to are your employer, doctor, and financial institution. If another company asks for it, find out why they need it and decline to give it to them if they do not need it for tax reporting purposes.

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