Imagine someone falsely impersonating you -- another "you" running around, renting an apartment, draining your accounts and even maxing out credit cards in your name. This is the unfortunate reality for those who have suffered from identity theft, and there are scores of thieves out there who can't wait to live your life to the fullest.
Your identity is your treasure -- a handful of key pieces of critical information including your name, Social Security number, address, phone number and your mother's maiden name. Thieves are also after any account numbers or passwords they can use to get access to your money.
What can an identity thief do with my information?
An identity thief can use the information they've collected to:
Make charges to your credit cards or open new ones.
How did they find my personal information?
A popular way thieves access your information is electronically, but thieves are not above digging through your trash. Common methods include:
How can I keep my information safe?
Here's how to stop thieves in their tracks:
There are identity protection services such as ID theft insurance that provide coverage based on policy limits. Some only cover certain forms of ID theft, like electronic theft, while others cover lost wages. Visit ftc.gov to learn more.
Identity thieves can run up bills you'll often be responsible for, and if you don't discover these charges until they go into delinquency, your credit score could suffer too. Fortunately, in most cases, the largest cost of ID theft is clearing your name. Prevention and detection are key defenses. Always review your account statements for changes or purchases you didn't make, and check your credit report at least once per year for any suspicious activity.
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