Identity theft is a crime in which an impostor obtains key pieces of personal identifying information (PII) such as Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers and uses them for their own personal gain. It can start with lost or stolen wallets, stolen mail, a data breach, computer virus, “phishing” scams, or paper documents thrown out by you or a business (dumpster diving).
How can I minimize my risk of becoming an identity theft victim?
As consumers, you have little ability to stop or prevent identity theft. However, there are some positive steps to take which will decrease your risk.
- Don’t give out your SSN unnecessarily (only for tax reasons, credit or verified employment.) Before providing personal identifiers, know how it will be used and if it will be shared.
- Use a cross-cut shredder to dispose of documents with personal information. Also, use a specialized gel pen when writing out checks.
- Place outgoing mail in collection boxes or the U.S. Post Office.
- Know your billing cycles and contact creditors when bills fail to show up. Review bank and credit card statements carefully.
- Password protect your financial accounts. A strong password should be more than eight characters in length, and contain both capital letters and at least one numeric or other non alphabetical character. Use of non-dictionary words is also recommended.
- Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you initiated the contact.
- Use firewall software to protect computer information. Keep virus and spyware software programs updated.
- Reduce the number of preapproved credit card offers you receive: 888-5OPT-OUT (you will be asked for your SSN)
- Order your free annual credit reports on-line at: www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling (877) 322-8228
- You may also “freeze” your credit report. For more information on this, go to: State Resources
On this website you will find numerous protection tips on a wide variety of topics.
FS 103 - Online Shopping
FS 119 - Direct Connections to the Internet - Protecting Yourself and Your Information
FS 121 - Prevention Tips for Job Seekers
FS 122 - Travel Tips for the Business or Vacation Traveler
FS 131 - Credit cards vs. debit cards
FS 138 - Social Networking and Identity Theft
FS 141 - Consumer Shopping Tips
FS 142 - Protecting Your Computer from WiFi Danger
FS 144 - Smartphone Safety
FS 145 - Smartphone Threats
FS 146 - Smartphone Privacy and Security
FS 147 - Risks of Mobile Applications
SN 13 - Protecting Information of the Internet
SN 14 - Protecting Your Online Identity
SN 19 - File Sharing P2P Software Safety
SN 22 - Medicare Card Tip
SN 23 - Emergency Situations and Identity Theft
SN 24 - Tax Time Tips
SN 25 - Detecting Scams
SN 26 - College Students and Identity Theft
SN 32 - Strong Passwords
SN 33 - Securing Your Home Wireless Network