Tips: Watch For Warning Signs Of Identity Theft

The Identity Theft Assistance Center offers tips on minimizing the risk of identity theft by keeping a watch for some warning signs.

• Lost/stolen wallet or checkbook. The most commonly reported source of information used to commit fraud is a lost or stolen wallet or checkbook. Stolen wallets and checkbooks usually contain a number of credit and debit cards, in addition to other personal documentation. Using these items, a criminal can get enough information to obtain credit under the victim’s name, or sell the information to an organized crime ring.

• Dumpster diving. Criminals rummage through trash cans for pieces of non-shredded personal information that they can use or sell.

• Mail theft. Crooks search mailboxes for pre-approved credit offers, bank statements, tax forms, or convenience checks. They also look for credit card payment envelopes that have been left for postal carrier pick-up.

• Inside sources. Half of all identity fraud is committed by friends, family members, relatives, employees and live-in caregivers with access to privileged information. Information such as personnel records, payroll information, insurance files, account numbers or sales records can be great help to crooks.

• Imposters. Many have fallen victim to identity theft by individuals who fraudulently posed as someone who had a legitimate or legal reason to access the victim’s personal information. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, criminals posing as emergency workers obtained information from victims seeking financial aid.

• Documents in the home. Identity thieves can gain legitimate access into someone’s home and personal information through household work, babysitting, healthcare, friends or roommates.

• Online data. In most cases, criminals get access to personal information by traditional methods, such as the ones outlined above, risks also exist online. Be cautious when sending information electronically over the Web. Account information sent through email, or online chat rooms, can easily be intercepted by thieves.

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