According to the FBI, identity theft is the fastest-growing white-collar crime in the United States. Nowadays, when your purse or wallet gets stolen, the cash inside may not be the only thing a thief wants to steal. Additionally, during the course of a busy day, you share this information when making transactions in person, over the telephone and online to buy goods and services. If this sensitive information falls into the hands of a criminal, it may be used to steal your financial identity.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name, Social Security number, credit card number or some other piece of your personal information to apply for a credit card, make unauthorized purchases, gain access to your bank accounts or obtain loans under your name. Unfortunately, most people do not know that they have been victims of identity theft until charges have appeared on credit card bills or loans are denied for a loan because unpaid bills appear on their credit report.
Tips to avoid identity theft
>> Secure your social security number. Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet or write your number on your checks. Only give out your SSN when absolutely necessary.
>> Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for personal information (your name, birthdate, social security number or bank account number) by phone, mail or online.
>> Watch for “shoulder surfers.” Shield the keypad when typing your passwords on computers and at ATMs.
>> Review your receipts. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
>> Shred personal information. Receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired cards need to be destroyed responsibly to prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
>> Keep your computer safe. Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
>> Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess easily. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases
>> Order your credit report once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com. Review your report to be certain it doesn’t include accounts that you have not opened. Check it more frequently if you suspect someone has gained access to your account information.
Free shred and e-cycle event
Your BBB is holding a free community event for consumers and businesses to safely dispose of personal documents and unwanted electronics. The event is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 29 at the Marshall University parking lot at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 16th Street. For more information, visit bit.ly/2017shredevent or call 330-454-9401.
Visit bbb.org/canton to look up a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, report a scam with Scam Tracker, read tips, follow on social media and more. The Canton Regional and Greater West Virginia Better Business Bureau offers tips and advice for consumers to avoid fraudulent practices.