Identity theft can take in many forms. In some cases it involves thieves setting up credit accounts using your name. In other cases, it may be scammers simply opening bank accounts in your name to run phony checks through.
They don’t set up any credit to alert you to the problem. Your first notification of this type of identity theft may be a warrant for your arrest! In other cases, your identity may be used to help someone show legal status to get a job and the first you hear of it is when the IRS comes after you for tax evasion.
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Here are a few tips on how to prevent identity theft.
To prevent people opening up credit accounts in your name, the answer is simple. Freeze your credit. This means that no one can access your credit without a special access number that only you have. It can cost between $0 (if you have already had an identity theft problem) on up to $75 to freeze all three major credit reports.
There is also usually a charge to “thaw” your credit when you want to open up a new account yourself, and also an extra hassle for you when you want to open an account. However, once your credit is frozen, there is almost no way that your identity can be stolen to open up credit accounts.
However, you still need to be careful because freezing your credit may not stop other types of identity theft. Therefore, you need to follow a few common sense rules when it comes to your personal information.
First, never give out your personal information unless you completely and fully understand why it is needed and what is being done with the information. Never give out your personal information to someone who calls you.
No matter how much information that person who says they are calling from your bank, or phone company, or credit card company already has, never give any more information when they call you. Always look up the number and call them so you know you are talking with the real official representatives of the company.
Likewise, never click on a link in an email and enter your personal information. Go straight to the website yourself before entering any information. Never use someone else computer to go to that website and definitely never use a public computer.
Another step you should take is to never carry your social security card or more than one credit or debit card in your wallet. Thieves don’t need much information to steal your identity and the more identifying info you have in your wallet, the more likely it is to be a severe problem if it is lost or stolen.
In addition, you need to protect your personal information that comes on bills and account statements. Always clear your mailbox every day, and always be on the alert if it seems that you have not received a statement you are expecting.
If possible, you should switch to paperless billing on every account. This includes utility bills as well. A scammer can get an amazing amount of personal information from your mailbox. Get a good crosscut paper shredder and always shred any personal statements that you are throwing away
Preventing identity theft often boils down to simple awareness and common sense couple with the realization that thieves need very little personal information to do a lot of damage. Make a point to be careful and to think ahead when dealing with any personal information.