As people turn to the web for entertainment, shopping, and social networking, identity thieves pop up to take advantage. Following these tips will help avoid getting caught in a sticky web.
Step 1: Understand identity theft Understand identity theft and how thieves can get a hold of your identity. Some of the ways to steal an identity include rummaging through your trash; skimming or stealing credit card numbers; and phishing, or when thieves pretend to be a legitimate company.
TIP: Before tossing documents that contain identifying information, consider shredding them.
Step 2: Be careful online Be wary of online registration forms. Often sites allow you to 'sign up' to receive emails. Make sure you read the terms carefully. If you believe that they do not need your personal information, do not fill out the form or consider creating a pseudo-name for yourself.
Step 3: Beware of phish Watch out for phish. Phish refers to fraudulent e-mail or websites that look like the real thing. If you get e-mail from your bank, never click the link. Instead, go directly to the bank’s site and do your banking from there.
TIP: When entering secure or personal information into an online form, look for a lock icon in your browser window. It’s no guarantee that the site is secure, but if you do not see a lock, then chances are the site is not secure.
Step 4: Check your accounts Check your credit and bank statements often, and get a credit report to ensure there are no fraudulent charges.
Step 5: Contact the authorities Contact the authorities. File a police report, place fraud alerts on your credit accounts, close your compromised accounts, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if you believe you’ve been a victim of identity theft.
FACT: Ten million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2008, a 22 percent increase from 2007.