Protect Your Identity

Identity theft happens when someone learns enough private information about another to be able pose as that person and conduct financial transactions – such as withdrawing money from a bank account or using an existing credit card or obtaining a new card and racking up charges.

The identity thief ends up destroying the credit of the person whose identity was stolen – an often complex and difficult situation to correct.

Identity theft can happen to anyone of any age. Even if you don’t have a checking account or credit card, you could be the victim of identity fraud.

Follow these guidelines to protect your identity:

Guard Your Info

Be careful with your full name and address, date of birth, social security number (SSN), bank account information, phone number and your mother’s maiden name – any personal information banks and other businesses use to confirm your identity. This information is very valuable to an identity thief who wants to pose as you to commit fraud.

Keep your birth certificate and other important documents in a safe place. If you need to show your birth certificate as proof of your age to sign up for a sports league or get your driver’s learning permit, keep it with you. Don’t leave it in your locker at school or any other place that may not be safe.

Don’t Fall for Phishing

Never provide personal information in response to a phone call, e-mail or a pop-up web ad – no matter how official it may seem. Identity thieves use these “phishing” techniques to “fish” for valuable personnel information.

In a typical phishing scam, you receive an e-mail supposedly from a company you may do business with or even from a government agency. The e-mail describes a reason you must “resubmit” bank account numbers or other personal information. If you follow their instructions, the thieves hiding behind what you think is a legitimate website or e-mail can use the information to withdraw or spend money in your name.

Don’t Share

Never share your passwords or ID numbers for your computer with friends or strangers. Be especially suspicious of new “friends” you’ve met through the Internet, such as through a Web site where people can post information about themselves and can contact others through that site. These people could be fraud artists.

For more information about avoiding ID theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site for consumers at

Learn more about guarding your identity.

Don’t Throw Your Identity Away

Take a few minutes and shred anything you aren’t going to file and save:

  • Old bank statements
  • Credit card offers
  • Old insurance cards
  • Any paper that has your name, address and date of birth, social security number, bank and credit card account numbers

All of it should be shredded so it can’t be picked up by someone who will use it without your knowledge.

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