Monday, June 7, 2010

Identity Theft: Prevention and Recovery

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is the crime of obtaining the personal or financial information of another person for the purpose of assuming that person’s name to make transactions or purchases. Identity theft is committed many different ways.
  • Some identity thieves sift through trash bins looking for bank account and credit card statements;
  • Others use more high-tech methods for accessing corporate databases to steal lists of customer information.
Once identity thieves have the information they are looking for, they can ruin a person’s credit rating and the standing of other personal information. Thieves steal and fraudulently use names, addresses, social security numbers, bank account information, credit card numbers and other types of private information.

The good news is that many types of identity theft can be prevented.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft. While there is no guaranteed way to avoid identity theft, you can minimize your risk and minimize the damage if a problem occurs. Here are some helpful tips:
  • Deter identity thieves by safeguarding your personal information.
  • Detect suspicious activity by always monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements.
  • Defend against identity (ID) theft as soon as you suspect a problem. Promptly deal with discrepancies on any personal documents.

How can I protect myself from identity theft?

The best way to prevent identity theft is to:

  • Be aware of how information is stolen
  • Be aware of how to protect your information,
  • Know how to monitor your personal information to uncover problems quickly, and
  • Know what to do when you suspect your identity has been stolen.

You can also help fight identity theft by educating your friends, family, and members of your community. The FTC has prepared a collection of easy-to-use materials to enable anyone regardless of existing knowledge about identity theft to inform others about this serious crime.

Be sure to check out our cheat sheet on how to beat ID Theft.

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