Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft

Identity theft is so much more involved than someone stealing your ID and pretending they're you. These days, money can be stolen using your name through banking procedures, fraudulent credit card use, online shopping, social program misuse, tax refunds and mail fraud. "Personation" is another form of identity theft, when criminals pretend they're someone else in order to hide their own identity, commit a crime, enter a country, obtain special permits or commit acts of terrorism.

Criminals steal identities by

  • gathering information from grave markers, including names, names of parents, and dates of birth and use this information to create a new identity
  • redirecting mail to themselves
  • going through discarded credit card receipts
  • dumpster diving for your personal information
  • stealing mail
  • accessing online databases
  • computer hacking

Here's how to protect your identity

  • only give out your personal details and contact information when absolutely necessary and when you're 100% assured of the identity of the person you're speaking to or dealing with
  • destroy personal information that's no longer needed; don't just throw it out, but cut up or shred old bills, statements, credit cards and ATM cards
  • think of your personal identification and information like date and place of birth like you would cash; don't leave this data lying around for others to take

How to tell if you've been a victim of identity theft

  • you learn from a credit granting firm that they received an application giving your name and address, but you didn't apply for that credit
  • you receive mail, email or phone calls from a credit granting firm saying your application has been approved or denied; and again, it's for an account you didn't apply for
  • you receive credit card statements or bills for an account you never applied for
  • you stop receiving credit card statements, or you notice that you're missing mail you regularly receive
  • you hear from a collection agency that they are collecting for a defaulted account that's in your name, but you never opened that account
 

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