Protect Yourself from Identity Theft


Filed under Consumer

(ARA) – If you had to venture a guess, what would you think is the fastest growing crime affecting older Americans? Years ago, burglary and robbery topped the list. Today, it’s identity theft.

According to Consumer Sentinel, the complaint database developed and maintained by the Federal Trade Commission, 22,191 seniors across the country fell victim to the crime in 2004. The 2005 statistics, which haven’t been released yet, are expected to be significantly higher.

“Identity theft is a crime of opportunity and the bad guys often target seniors because they perceive older adults as the most vulnerable members of our society; but armed with knowledge, you can protect yourself from becoming a victim,” says Dennis Everett of Dignity Memorial’s Smart and Safe Living program. He points out a good place to start is with a working knowledge of how the crime is perpetrated.

How do thieves get your information?

According to The Identity Theft Resource Center, a national non-profit organization founded in 1999 by a woman who fell victim to the crime, there are many ways. Thieves may steal your mail or wallet; go through your trash can, looking for papers with personal information; listen in on conversations you have in public; or trick you into giving them the information over the telephone or by e-mail.

They may also obtain your personal information by purchasing it on the Internet or from someone who has already stolen it; by taking it from a loan or credit application form you filled out or from files at a hospital, bank, school or business with which you deal; or by retrieving it from dumpsters outside of such companies.

What can you do to protect yourself?

• Check your credit reports once a year from all three of the credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

TransUnion: (800) 888-4213
Experian: (888) EXPERIAN
Equifax: (800) 685-1111

• Guard your personal information. Be very careful about giving out your Social Security Number (SSN)

• Don’t put your SSN or drivers license number on your checks.

• Destroy papers you throw out, especially those with sensitive or identifying information. A crosscut paper shredder works best.

• Be suspicious of telephone solicitors. Never provide information unless you have initiated the call.

• Do not reply to and delete suspicious e-mail requests.

• Use a locked mailbox to send and receive all mail.

Article courtesy of ARA Content

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