Identity theft is a growing problem in the U. S. While it is impossible to completely erase your risk of becoming a victim of this growing crime trend, there are ways to reduce your risk.
Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information without your permission. It can happen to anyone. Basically, someone uses your personal information to open up a credit card, bank account, loan or utilities in your name. They may even have a fake driver's license or Social Security card with your name on it.
The first way to prevent this from happening to you is to be vigilant about protecting your Social Security number. Don't give it out unless it is absolutely necessary or required by law. If you are over 25, you will receive a statement from the Social Security Administration each year. Check to make sure that the income amounts are correct on it. Ask businesses to use a different number for your account rather than use your SSN. And don't give out your children's numbers either.
It isn't a good idea to carry your SSN card with you. Likewise, you shouldn't have any passwords or personal identification numbers (PINs) written down either. Thieves can use these numbers to access your accounts. Instead, use hard to guess numbers and passwords that you will remember. Don't write them down.
You shouldn't throw away any documents with any personal information on them without shredding them. Credit card offers, charge receipts, insurance forms, cheks and bank statements are gold for theives. Believe me, they will go through your trash to find these gems. If you have a fireplace, burn them if you would rather. Also, don't throw your duplicates checks in the trash. Not only is your account number on them, the account numbers for all of your bills are as well.
With that in mind, you should keep a minimum of personal information on you and in your office desk at home. Don't carry your birth certificate, extra credit cards, SSN or passport unless you will be using it. Put everything you don't need in a hidden safe or a safe deposit box. Make copies of all cards you do carry and your bank and investment account numbers for your safe place. Add phone numbers and this will give you an emergency contact list if your wallet is stolen or your home broken into.
Most people worry about identity theft and fraud on your internet, when in fact it is much closer to home. It is as near as your mailbox. It is much easier to remove mail from your mailbox than it is to hack into your computer. Remove your mail as soon as possible. Have it held if you are going to be out of town. Never mail you bills in your mailbox, instead drop it at the post office or in a secure post office mailbox. Remember, that red flag signals more than the mailman.
Keep a close watch on your accounts and statements. Watch to make sure that everything adds up. If a bill doesn't arrive on time, call your bank or creditor immediately - the account could have been taken over by a stranger and the address changed. Check your credit report at least once a year for accounts that aren't yours.
Identity theft happens frequently. Chances are that it has happened to several people you know. The best prevention is closely guarding your information.
Martin Lukac represents http://www.RateEmpire.com and http://www.1AmericanFinancial.com , a finance web-company specializing in real estate and mortgage rates. We specialize in daily updates, mortgage news, rate predictions, mortgage rates and more. Find low home loan mortgage interest rates from hundreds of mortgage companies!