Identity theft happens when someone accesses essential elements of a person's identifying information in order to commit fraud or theft. This information includes name, address, Social Security Number, date of birth and mother's maiden name. Many identity thieves use this personal information in order to open credit card accounts, obtain loans and even mortgages in the victim's name. While it is not possible to protect yourself from all types of identity theft, there are steps that you can take to avoid fraud.
You can reduce your risk and safeguard your identifying information by following some simple guidelines.
- Protect your mailbox:
Your mailbox is a favorite target of identity thieves, so it is important to always remove your mail as soon after delivery as possible. Also, deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office to lower the risk of identity theft happening to you.
- Protect your wallet:
Identity thieves also try to get access to people's wallets. Minimize your risk by keeping items with personal information in a safe place at home. Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Memorize your Social Security Number and never write it down on anything you carry. Identity thieves look for information on old receipts. Don't leave receipts at ATMs, bank counters or gasoline pumps. In fact, it is a good idea to destroy all of your receipts when you no longer need them.
- Protect your credit and debit cards:
There are some very important precautions to take with your credit card. Whenever you receive a new credit card, sign it immediately. Never loan your credit card to anyone, under any circumstances. Notify your bank and other issuers when you change your address or phone number and be sure to report all lost or stolen cards immediately. Never put your account number on the outside of any envelope.