Identity theft is the deliberate assumption of another person’s identity, usually to gain access to their credit. Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in North America and is estimated at over $5 billion per year in the US alone. To protect yourself from identity theft:

  • Limit your credit card use. Keep your account information in a safe place that lets you immediately cancel all your credit cards if your wallet is lost or stolen.
  • Check your accounts each week online. You can catch unusual activity more quickly than if you wait for monthly statements.
  • Shred credit-card receipts, pre-screened credit-card offers and other such documents because they contain private information.
  • Mail letters from the post office. Install a lock on your home mailbox.
  • Don’t order checks preprinted with your driver’s license or SSN number. If you can keep your address off the checks, do so.
  • Don’t carry your social security card. Don’t give out the number unless it is absolutely necessary or legally required (employers, landlords etc.). If you have your SSN on your drivers license, be equally careful about who sees your license.
  • Don’t give out personal information to telemarketers who initiated the call to you. Get a phone number to call marketers back if it is an offer you’d like to pursue. Get a company name and web URL and check them out with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Never speak to anyone claiming to be from a collection agency about anything regarding a third party – and make clear to others that you expect the same protection.
  • When shopping online, make sure the company is reputable and displays an approved security symbol. Also, make sure you log out of the site when finished.
  • Request your own credit report each year and check the reports for inaccuracies. If you’ve been the target of identity fraud, check the data every six months.
  • If you believe that you have been a victim of identity fraud, keep copies of police reports and records of who you talked to and when, so that you can back up the claim of fraud with skeptical lenders.

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