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Identity Theft

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What is Identity Theft? Identity Theft is when someone steals another person’s personal information to commit fraud. Identity thieves may go through your trash (or “dumpster dive”) or steal your mail, wallet or purse. Using stolen Social Security numbers or credit cards and other financial information, identity thieves, among other crimes, buy cars, buy cell phones and other goods, take out loans, open new credit card accounts and open bank accounts.

Deter identity thieves by safeguarding your information, detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements and defend against identity theft as soon as you suspect a problem. Here are some tips you can follow to decrease your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft:

1. Watch for ATM shoulder-surfers.
2. Require photo ID verification to use your credit cards.
3. Shred everything.
4. Destroy digital data on your computer.
5. Be diligent about checking statements.
6. Pay your bills at the post office.
7. Limit the information on your checks.
8. Analyze your credit report annually.
9. Protect your Social Security number.
10. Caveat Emptor.

A brief explanation of the 10th item is in order. Caveat Emptor means Buyer Beware. I recommend you not do business online with companies you don’t know anything about. You can feel relatively secure doing business online with Amazon.com or BestBuy.com or any web site affiliated with well-known, national or global merchants. But, if you are buying something online you need to have some level of trust that the company you are doing business with is legitimate and that they take the security of your personal information seriously.