You know who you are . . . who else does?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifiable information (PII) without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes; such information includes your name, Social Security Number, credit card number, or financial information. Identity thieves may use your information to obtain a new credit card or driver’s license, open a bank account or a new phone account, or they may sell your information to other Internet criminals. Some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, but others must spend large sums of money and many hours repairing the damage to their good name and credit record. Internet criminals and identity thieves use clever and deceitful schemes to steal information. Awareness is the most effective weapon against identity theft -- you are the best person to protect your information.
Identity thieves use a variety of methods to steal your identity:
- Phishing schemes – thieves pose as legitimate financial institutions or companies through email to lure you into disclosing your personal information, such as your password or PIN number;
- Virulent email links and attachments – criminals use email to distribute harmful attachments and links that install malicious software on your system;
- Dumpster diving – thieves search through your trash looking for bills or other paper containing your personal information; and
- Shopping from unsecure websites – Internet criminals obtain personal information and financial information by compromising unsecure websites.
Protect your identity using the following tips:
- Never respond to email requests for account information, passwords, PIN numbers, your birthdate, mother’s maiden name, or other sensitive information. No credible institution or organization will request personal information via email;
- Do not click on links in an email message, instant message, or text message unless you trust the sender and are expecting the information. If you are unsure, check with the sender directly without using email;
- Use a cross-cut shredder to destroy documents and mail containing personal information; and
- Shop only at reputable and secure Internet locations. Make a point to look for the “https://” in the address bar.
Visit these resources for additional information:
- Federal Trade Commission http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/
- Receive a free credit report from each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies once per year (http://www.annualcreditreport.com):