Better safe than sorry
If you think that identity theft isn't a serious concern, you just need to look at the numbers. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.
How to protect your identity
Though you don't need to live in a bubble, you do need to take some precautions to protect yourself from identity theft. Thieves can use your personal information to obtain credit, access your financial accounts and otherwise misuse your identity. You might not know that someone is using your identity until you start receiving debt collection calls, get denied credit or view your credit report.
How identity thieves work
Thieves can steal your identity through physically stealing your cards, by rifling through your garbage to find receipts and documents, by skimming numbers with a special storage device when processing your credit card, by changing your address and diverting your billing statements, by using phishing scams online or by pretexting through phone calls. With phishing, criminals use false pretenses and dummy websites to get you to click a link from your email or social media messages and then enter your account numbers or other personal info. With pretexting, thieves call and pretend to be from survey companies or your financial institutions with the aim of getting your birth date, Social Security number and other vital info.
Though thieves can be crafty, that doesn't mean you need to constantly worry about your identity being stolen. You just need to use common sense and take some extra precautions to deter criminals and protect your identity as much as possible. Though nothing is foolproof, these tips will help.
What you can do
Visit the FTC's identity theft site to learn more about how to avoid identity theft and what to do about it if problems arise.
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