Identity theft remains one of the fastest growing crimes in the country today. A recent study reported that one in every 23 consumers was a victim of identity theft. Identity thieves have developed a number of ways to obtain your information - from the simple theft of a wallet to taking a picture of your credit card with the latest camera phones.
Generally, once thieves have your Social Security number, they can establish a credit in your name and incur hundreds or even thousands of dollars in credit card charges, fraudulent loans and more.
Often you are unaware of these charges until a merchant or credit card collector seeks payment for a bill that you knew you nothing about. Or you may be declined for a loan due to a credit report showing defaults on loans that are unknown to you.
To reduce your exposure to identity theft, follow these steps provided by the Federal Trade Commission:
Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them. Protect your Social Security number. Don't care your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary to ask to use another identifier.
Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type the web address you know.Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date. Visit OnGuardOnline.org for more information.
Don't use any obvious passwords like your birth date, your mother's maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your house.