Avoiding Identity Theft
Identity theft can happen to anyone at any time - even college students.
Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information to obtain loans, open credit card accounts or even acquire a mortgage in your name. An Identity Theft Survey Report by the Federal Trade Commission showed that 6.4% of Americans, or almost 10 million people, were victims in a single year.
Victims can spend months or years trying to correct problems caused by identity theft. On average, victims spend about 30 hours and $500 of their own money trying to resolve issues caused by identity thieves. They may be unfairly turned down for loans, denied jobs and pursued by bill collectors.
To protect yourself from identity theft, follow these guidelines:
- Protect your mailbox.
- Remove your mail immediately after delivery. Always deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at the post office rather than leaving it in your mailbox for pick-up.
- Protect your wallet.
- Keep items with personal information, particularly your Social Security card, in a safe place at home and do not share them with others. Memorize your Social Security number and never write it down on anything you carry. Destroy your receipts when you no longer need them.
- Protect your credit and debit cards.
- Sign new cards immediately. Never loan your cards to anyone.
- Notify your bank and credit issuer when you change your address or phone number, and report all lost or stolen cards immediately.
- Never write down your PIN or put your account number on the outside of an envelope.
Monitor your credit report
Fight identity theft by monitoring and reviewing your credit report. To request a free credit report, available once every 12 months, visit www.annualcreditreport.com. This site was established by the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. To learn more about identity theft, visit http://www.ftc.gov or www.aessuccess.org.