When someone uses your name, Social Security number, credit or debit card, or other personal information for his or her financial gain, you're the victim of identity theft. It can cost you money and time to get the fraud resolved.
There are steps you can take to prevent the problem:
- Guard your personal and financial information, especially your Social Security number, credit or debit card numbers, your personal identification numbers (PINs), and any other identifiers. For example, don't carry your Social Security card with you or write your PIN on the back of your ATM card.
- Choose passwords and PINs that you can remember but aren't easy to guess. Identity thieves are likely to try your birthday or the last four digits of your Social Security number, if they have gotten hold of that information, or anything that seems obvious.
- Be sure there's a padlock symbol or key icon on a webpage plus an "s" in the https:// of any URL where you provide personal information. Double check to make sure it is an authentic site, and if you have any questions, don't use it.
Never provide identifying information to an online request unless you have initiated the contact. If a bank, credit union, or retailer contacts you by email or phone to ask for your account number or Social Security number, it's probably a scam. Find the phone number of the bank or retailer from another source and call to confirm the request is valid.
- When using an ATM in a public place, be careful to make sure no one can figure out the PIN you're using. And avoid handling financial matters online when many people can access the same wireless network.
- Protect your home computer with software that detects and disables viruses and firewalls that block spam.
- Be alert. Lots of identity thieves are the friends and relatives of the people they victimize.
Be sure there's a padlock symbol or key icon on any webpage where you provide personal information, as well as an "s" in the https:// of the URL. Those indicate the site is secure.