Identity theft is what happens when someone, a criminal, takes on another person’s identity and uses it for any purpose, often nefarious or for personal gain.
Identity theft is a serious issue and is much more than simple misuse of Social Security numbers, it often involves credit card and mail fraud. In order to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft, use the guidelines below to keep safe:
Keep your personal ID safe
Be careful with what information you disclose. Criminals often try to get hold of your SSN number through various schemes. Scam artists may pose as bank employees, government offices or stores, either through mail, phone or on the internet. Only ever disclose important information if you are 100% sure that who you are talking to is who they claim to be.
Use caution with your trash
Even in this digital age, important information is still sent primarily by regular mail. You may think that once you throw something in the trash, then it’s gone and done with, but that is in no way certain. Scammers and criminals go through trash looking for confidential information such as bank statements or information containing your SSN number. You’d be surprised as to how much a trained scammer can get from your trash. Make sure to completely destroy important mail after you have used it.
Check your balance and credit reports
You may not even know that you have become victim to identity theft, because the criminal will rarely take full advantage early on. Instead, it’s common for the thief to try to charge your credit card with a small unauthorized purchase. If you don’t respond to this, then he or she may go for the big score. In the same way, you should be careful with preapproved credit card offers, which are common hunting grounds for criminals and scammers.
Ask questions always
While some attempts at identity theft may seem crude and amateurish, the more advanced scammers will likely not be obvious. That is why it’s a good idea to always ask questions when someone is requesting your personal information. Any government employee, for example, would be prepared for this and have ways of verifying his identity. Also be very careful about what software you install and the websites you visit.
Stay safe online
There are many ways a criminal can get access to your personal information online. The most common way is by using so called phishing websites. These are websites that mimic authority websites. They may send you an email asking you to change your password or something similar. Then when you click the link in your email you will be taken to the false site, where the criminal will gain access to your password. Other ways of online identity theft includes scammers installing software on your computer without your knowledge, the so-called Trojan horses.