Most people do not know they are a victim of identity theft until they get a bank or credit card statement in the mail, apply for credit, discover they have poor credit, or receive a call from the police.
Restoring Your Identity
With a police report and an investigation, most or all of the negative credit marks can be restored to the original status but it takes time and effort. It is estimated the average victim spends 200 to 400 hours gathering documents and contacting people on their own case.
Preventing Identity Theft
So how do you keep this from happening to you? Some helpful tips include:
Be careful when exposing your three most valuable pieces of information: your name, social security number, and date of birth
Guard your social security number. Do not keep it in your wallet or purse; do not put it on your checks
Shred all financial documents, credit applications that are mailed to you or anything with your name and address on it. With those two pieces of information, crooks can get more. To stop the offers, you need only call one number. Call 888-5-OPT-OUT (888-567-8688). It stops pre-approved offers for two years
Never give out your financial or personal information over the phone unless you initiate the telephone call
Check your credit reports for fraudulent activity. It is a good idea to check every six months
Think about reducing the number of credit cards you actively use to a bare minimum. Carry only one or two of them in your wallet and cancel unused accounts. Credit card account numbers are recorded in your credit report, which is full of data that can be used by identity thieves
Be careful on the Internet. Do not put your personal information into cyberspace unless you are sure it's a secure site. It should say secure server. Look for an "s" after the http on the address line. Make sure you have a good firewall in place