|Identity Theft -
It Could Happen to You!
by Julie M. Watkins
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) estimates that over 9 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, date of birth, social security number, or credit card number to commit fraud or some other crime. They may make a purchase, rent an apartment, establish utility service or make a charge to your credit card without your permission. Some victims can recover quickly; others spend years trying to repair the damage done to their name and credit history.
There are several ways thieves can obtain your personal and financial information. They may go through the trash looking for papers with personal information on them. A business may use a device attached to their merchant machine to steal your credit number when you swipe your credit card through their terminal. Phishing is an email scheme to get you to provide your credit card or personal information by pretending to be a financial institution or company. A change of address form may be completed that forwards your bank or credit card statements to an address other than your own. Stealing is still prevalent and many thieves simply steal your wallet or purse.
How can you protect yourself? Keep your personal information secure. Use a shredder to destroy papers that contain personal and financial information. Monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to check for unauthorized charges. If you believe you have been a victim of Identity Theft, take action immediately. File a police report, dispute unauthorized charges on your credit card, notify your creditors and your bank. Do this before further damage occurs.
You can help fight identity theft. Awareness is the greatest weapon. The FTC has prepared information to help people spread the word. Visit the FTC's website for more information: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/.
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