JULY 7, 2015, WASHINGTON (NNS) – Identity theft, when a person wrongfully uses your Social Security number or other personally identifiable information (PII) to commit fraud, can happen to anyone. But it doesn’t have to happen to you.
Taking the proper precautions beforehand can help reduce your chances of being at risk.
Once thieves have your personal information they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance. An identity thief can file a tax refund in your name and get your refund and, in some cases, give your name to the police during an arrest. And the road to recovery can be a long one.
Here are some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.
* Keep your documents in a safe place at home, and lock your wallet or purse in a safe place at work.
* Limit what you carry with you, when you go out take only the identification, credit and debit cards you need.
* Opt out of prescreened offers of credit and insurance by mail by calling 1-888-567-8688 or go to ouptoutprescreen.com
* Make sure you know who is getting your personal or financial information. Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you’ve initiated the contact or know who you’re dealing with.
* Monitor your account statements and immediately report any unusual activity to your financial institution
If you are a victim of identity theft, the time to act is now. Go to www.idenitytheft.gov to find out what steps you need to take.