Intent on taking a free ride on the good name and reputation of others, identity thieves obtain personal information and then essentially impersonate their victims as they open credit-card accounts, make purchases, or take out loans. While there is no way to have complete protection against identity theft, these common-sense measures can decrease the odds of becoming a victim:
- Jealously guard personal information like your Social Security number and account numbers and passwords, divulging it only in a communication that you initiate.
- Keep your wallet from becoming a gold mine for potential thieves by carrying the minimum in checks, credit cards, or other bank items, and do not keep your Social Security number there.
- Retrieve your mail promptly and do not leave outgoing mail in your doorway or home mailbox.
- Tear up private papers like bank statements, receipts, and credit-card applications before throwing them away.
- Store valuable financial information at home in a place that is not available to prying eyes.
- Review bank account and credit-card records regularly, as well as your own credit report prepared by a credit bureau, so that you can pick up the first signs of trouble, such as a missing payment or an unauthorized withdrawal.