Identity Theft and You

By Cole Fulks

Identity theft is now a huge problem in our increasingly paperless, cashless society. We like the ease of online purchasing and debit and credit cards, but what happens when someone steals your online credit “identity”?

Ignoring the problem will only make matters worse, if not more expensive to fix. If you fail to act quickly, you could be responsible for all charges incurred, and your credit could be ruined for a long time. The scariest part is that you may not even know you are a victim until well after it happens!

To avoid identity theft, remember to ALWAYS review all bank and credit card statements when they come to you for unauthorized purchases or charges. SHRED the statements and information containing your Social Security number, your driver’s license number or any personally-identifying information so no one can dig it out of the trash. Shield your hand when you are punching in your PIN or access code on keypads at the store or gas pump so no one can see what you are entering. Never use a keypad or card swipe machine that appears to be damaged or seems loose or suspicious; report your concerns.

Passwords or Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) should not be simple or easy to remember for anyone who knows you or may already have some personal information about you. Never use one number or code for more than one account. Never give this information out over the telephone — you should always know who you are dealing with or trust the website sponsor.

And if your identity is stolen, report it immediately to the police — it is a crime. The Texas attorney general has a website that can help you with this. Get a copy of your credit report and monitor it closely. A report also needs to be filed with the Federal Trade Commission, as well as the three main credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and Trans Union.

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