How to Prevent Identity Theft

When someone gains or has access to your personal information and uses it to intentionally defraud you in any way, he/she is guilty of identity theft. Among a myriad of other disastrous outcomes, thieves may gain access to your banking accounts and/or existing credit cards, or obtain new lines of credit or loans in your name. Recovering from identity theft is expensive and it may require several years to return to your previous financial state. Taking steps to prevent unauthorized access to your personal information is the first line of defense against identity theft. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated 8.6 million households had at least one person age 12 or older who experienced identity theft in 2010, rising from an estimated 6.4 million in 2006. Identity theft is on the rise and shows no signs of slowing, so it’s crucial for us as consumers to take precautions to help protect our personal information. The following 10 tips will help you better understand how to prevent identity theft: • Never carry your Social Security card. Your purse or wallet is not a safe place for this document. Never give out your Social Security number unless absolutely necessary. • Guard your PIN numbers and passwords. Never write a PIN on a credit/debit card or on a slip of paper kept in your wallet. It is best to memorize all of your passwords, and frequent use will keep them fresh in your mind. • Use complex, unique passwords and change them frequently. Create a different password for each website or other security portal; do...