Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal identifying information – name, Social Security number, banking or credit card information – for fraudulent purposes. Although the number of identity thefts has been trending downward for the past nine years, with the most recent report indicating cases had fallen 28 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, identity thieves are becoming more sophisticated and thefts are harder to identify. It’s important to be proactive in protecting your identity.
Monitor your credit. Consumers are entitled to a free annual credit report from each major credit reporting bureau. Request a report via AnnualCreditReport.com.
All three major credit bureaus offer ongoing credit monitoring services for less than $200 a year.
Know what to avoid. Everyday precautions, such as knowing how to avoid Internet scams, not giving or storing sensitive information on a smartphone, and carefully choosing wireless networks, are critical to preserving your identity. However, the majority of identity theft cases are committed through physical theft. Learn how to safeguard against mail, purse or wallet, and shopping fraud.
Catch errors before they hit your credit report. A credit report isn’t the only way to detect identity theft. It’s important to monitor all financial statements each month, even if the account is rarely used. Signs of theft might include unauthorized purchases or withdrawals, failing to receive bills, or receiving credit cards you didn’t apply for. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft website
for more information on how to detect theft.