Identity theft basics
Identity theft occurs when others obtain and use your personal information without your permission. Personal information may include your Social Security number, bank account information and credit card numbers. Once your personal information is obtained, thieves can use existing credit cards, open new credit cards in your name, write bad checks or take out loans.
Before you catch wind that your identity has been stolen, your credit may be tarnished and thieves may have racked up significant debt, all in your name!
Identity theft coverage
Identity theft insurance can be purchased as an endorsement on most homeowners and/or automobile insurance policies. Though identity theft insurance does not protect against the actual theft, it is a relatively inexpensive insurance option that reimburses for the cost of reclaiming your identity.
Tips to prevent identity theft
Use these tips to help protect your identity:
Minimize carrying personal information
Minimize the amount of personal information in your purse or wallet, such as your Social Security card and credit cards. Carry only what is necessary.
Be mindful when using credit cards
Shield yourself when using an ATM and guard your credit cards when making purchases.
Shred financial receipts
Do not throw credit card or ATM receipts away in public trash receptacles. Shred them before throwing them away instead.
Monitor your accounts
Do not rely on credit card companies or your bank to alert you of potential theft. Monitor your accounts regularly by checking statements to make sure that all documented transactions are justified. If you suspect a problem, contact the company or bank immediately.
Order a copy of your credit report from all of the three major credit bureaus. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each. This document outlines where you work, where you live, accounts opened in your name, how you pay your bills and more. Inspect these documents closely to uncover any indiscretions or activities that you did not authorize.
Place passwords on your accounts and credit cards. Do not use easily obtainable information such as your mother’s maiden name or your birth date. Passwords should be a minimum length of ten characters. Passwords containing numbers and special characters are also recommended.
Do not give out your personal information to parties you do not know.