How to protect yourself from it and more.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is a serious crime that occurs when someone uses information about you without your permission. They could use your:
~ Name and Address
~ Credit card or bank account numbers
~ Social Security number
~ Medical insurance account numbers
Why Should I Care?
You will be the one responsible for what the thief does while using your information. If the thief buys four flat screen TVs and you haven't reported the theft of your card, all of that money is on you. Those bills are on you. That's only one example. Here's how it can happen:
~ A thief can get a credit card using your name.
~ They change the address on that card, buy those TVs, gets all the bills and never pay them.
~ Your credit is then damaged because the credit card company thinks you're not paying the bills.
What Can They Do With My Information?
~ Buy things with your credit cards.
~ Get new credit cards in your name.
~ Open phone, electricity, and gas accounts.
~ Steal your tax refunds.
~ Get medical care.
~ Pretend to be you if they are arrested.
How Can They Steal My Identity?
A thief can get your personal information in person or online. A thief might:
~ Steal your mail or garbage to get your account numbers or your Social Security number.
~ Trick you into sending personal information in an email.
~ Steal your account numbers from a business or medical office.
~ Steal your wallet or purse to get your personal information.
How Do I Know If My Identity's Been Stolen?
Sometimes you can tell if someone steals your identity.
Read your bills. Do you see charges for things you didn't buy?
Watch your bank account statement. Are there withdrawals you didn't make? Changes you don't expect?
Check your mail. Did you stop getting a bill? Did you start getting a new bill you don't know about?
Get your credit report. Are there accounts or other information you don't recognize?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, someone might have stolen your identity.
Can I Protect Myself From Identity Theft?
You can lower your risk. Every time you're in a store you can:
~ Watch your wallet.
~ Are careful with your credit/debit card.
~ Do not tell people your PIN number.
When you shop online you can:
~ Use passwords that people can't guess.
~ Shop on secure websites. They have an address that starts with "https".
~ Not put personal information on computers in public spaces, like the library.
~ Have security software on your own computer.