Preventing Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the U.S., with nearly half a million people affected each year. Identity theft or fraud is the taking of a victim's identity to obtain credit or credit cards from banks and retailers, steal money from a victim's existing accounts, apply for loans, or even obtain a job using the victim's name. Many thousands of dollars can be stolen without the victim knowing about it for months or sometimes even years.

Most often thieves will get your personal information by stealing your wallet. However, they also may steal mail from your mailbox, go through your trash, or even look over your shoulder to get your PIN while you're at an ATM.

By obtaining your social security number, your birth date, and other identifying information, an imposter can be on their way to stealing in your name - ruining your credit in the process.

To prevent identity theft from happening to you, do not give out your social security number to anyone. Make a habit of tearing into small pieces all credit card offers, ATM receipts, bank statements, and other printed materials that have account numbers on them. Precautions like these can keep you from becoming a victim.

On the Internet:

Do not send personal information through email
If shopping online, only use a secure browser that will encrypt or scramble purchasing information
Only purchase from reputable Web sites
Never give a bank account or credit card number to someone you don't know
Change your password regularly, and do not use passwords that are obvious
Don't use the option that allows your computer or Web sites to remember your passwords