Identity Theft Is On The Rise.

According to the FBI, identity theft is currently the fastest growing crime in the United States. Over 27 million Americans have been victims of identity theft in the last five years! Identity thieves gather personal information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers or drivers license numbers to do things such as:

  • Open new accounts and write bad checks
  • Establish fraudulent credit card accounts
  • Obtain automobile and personal loans
  • Receive cash advances
  • Set up utilities and cell phone service
  • Change statement mailing address(s) to cover up fraudulent activity
  • Rent an apartment or obtain employment
  • These crimes are committed in a variety of ways, including over the phone, online and through obtaining printed materials with sensitive information. These types of activity are usually not noticed immediately as the criminals try to hide the evidence to prolong their use of your information.

    One of the most common identity theft scams is done through e-mail and is referred to as "Phishing." This is done by individuals sending out official looking e-mails, which try to trick recipients by requesting personal information. Financial institutions would never ask for sensitive data over the phone or by e-mail, so if you are in doubt, never divulge this information.

Following are some things that you should and shouldn't do to protect your identity.

What to Do What Not to Do
Shred everything, that contains personal financial information such as bills, receipts and credit card offers. Never volunteer personal information when using your credit card.
Keep personal information in a secure location. Never provide personal information such as account numbers, social security number or your credit card number over the phone unless you initiated the phone call and you know who you are talking to.
Contact the post office if you are not receiving your mail. Don't leave receipts at ATMs, retail stores or service stations.
Be careful when entering PIN numbers at ATM's or retail checkouts. Don't use your personal mailbox for mailing envelopes containing credit card information or personal checks. Use postal drop boxes instead.
Limit the number of credit cards you carry in your purse or wallet. Never write passwords or PINs on paper and place them in your wallet. Memorize them instead.
Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately, and cancel any inactive accounts.  
Monitor credit card expiration dates and make sure replacement cards arrive on time.  
Use passwords on your credit cards and other accounts.  
Match credit card receipts against monthly bills and reconcile your checking account statements.  
Review your credit reports annually.