Identity Theft: It's Personal
In the course of a busy day, you may write a check at the grocery store, charge tickets to a ball game, rent a car, change service providers for your cell phone, or apply for a credit card. While you likely don’t give these every day transactions a second thought, identity thieves do. What is identity theft? Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft is a serious crime. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years and thousands of dollars cleaning up the mess the thieves have made of a good name and credit record. In the meantime, victims of identity theft may lose job opportunities, be refused for loans, and even get arrested for crimes they didn’t commit. How do thieves steal an identity? According to the Federal Trade Commission, skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to obtain your personal information, including:
What do thieves do with a stolen identity? Once they have your personal information, identity thieves use it in a variety of ways. They may:
How can you find out if your identity was stolen? The best way to find out is to monitor your accounts and bank statements each month, and check your credit report at least once per year from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can request a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you check your credit report regularly, you may be able to limit the damage caused by identity theft. Unfortunately, many consumers learn that their identity has been stolen after some damage has already been done. To find out more about how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft, visit www.ftc.gov/idtheft. Source: Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov/idtheft
October 17 – 23 is National Protect Your Identity Week The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 10 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft.
In partnership with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the Better Business Bureau, and Cintas, GreenPath is taking a lead role in helping ensure that consumers are aware of steps they can take to protect themselves from being a victim of this crime.
Since prevention is the best answer to solving this growing problem, GreenPath will be offering a number of workshops and personal document shred events, which are open to the public and free of charge. Check out http://www.greenpath.com/other-pages/national-protect-your-identity-week.htm for event descriptions, times and locations.
“Even though the traditional ways of stealing a person’s identity are alive and well, the thieves are beginning to focus on the personal information they can obtain from our everyday electronic devices such as cell phones, PDAs, and even copy machines,” said Amy Parten, GreenPath Education Specialist. “Education is the best way to stay in front of this problem and encourage consumers to attend our events to become better informed.”
As an additional resource, watch our video on identity theft at http://www.greenpath.com/tools-and-tips/videos/fast-forward-on-finances/identity-theft.htm.
How to Protect Yourself
Nothing can guarantee that you won’t become a victim of identity theft. However, you can minimize your risk, and the damage if a problem develops, by making it more difficult for identity thieves to access your personal information. Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission to help protect you or someone you know from becoming a victim of this crime.
Did You Know?
Source: National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), www.protectyouridnow.org.
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