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Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

For the past 10 years identity theft and related fraud has been the fastest growing crime category in the nation. Lenders of credit make it easy for thieves to commit these crimes by sending pre-approved credit applications through the mail and by allowing accounts to be opened online or by telephone.

Personal identifying information is obtained by criminals in a number of ways:

Burglaries (residential, commercial, and vehicle)
Mail theft
Internet scams (phishing & pharming
“Dumpster diving”
Crooked employees (skimming credit cards, taking ID info, etc.)

Personal identifying information includes names, addresses, birthdates, ID numbers, social security numbers, account numbers, etc.

Once someone’s personal identifying information is obtained it can be used as is (credit cards, checks, etc.) or it can be “processed.” In processing the information, criminals will create ID’s, checks, and even credit cards. One counterfeit check may have three different victim’s personal information on it. For example, the name and address belong to victim #1, while the account number belongs to victim #2, and the driver’s license or ID number belongs to victim #3.

How you can avoid identity theft:

Don’t leave purses, wallets, account statements, etc. in your car
Shred all mail, account statements, personal documents before placing in the trash can
Pick-up mail everyday and use “vacation holds.”
Use “credit” cards (their $$) over “debit” cards (your $$) and don’t let them out of your sight
Don’t link bank accounts (if one is compromised the other won’t be)
Close unused open accounts
Check your credit report annually with Equifax, Experian, or Transunion