Best Practices for Avoiding Identity Theft


Identity theft has become one of the fastest-growing crimes in America today. Identity theft is the deliberate assumption of another individual's identity, usually to gain access to a person's finances or to frame that person for a crime.

Identity theft is primarily used to perform financial transactions using accounts in your name. This can include purchases using a credit card number or taking out a loan for a car. Less commonly, it is used to obtain medical insurance, file fraudulent tax returns, impersonate another individual during an arrest, open phone or wireless services, or even attempt blackmail.

Techniques for obtaining personal identity information include rummaging through rubbish for sensitive documents, infiltrating organizations that manage large amounts of personal information, and hacking into computer systems.

You can fight identity theft by taking the following precautions:

  • Never give out personal or financial information over the phone or in an email. Beware of phishing scams, where a pop-up message or email asks you for personal or financial information.

  • Always use strong passwords at least eight characters long that have numbers and special characters (like: $, %, &), and that do not contain a word found in the dictionary. Change your passwords frequently and never share them.

  • Keep an eye out for phishing scams.

  • Avoid using software downloaded from unknown websites or peer-to-peer file sharing services. Avoid software that claims to be game, a screensaver, collect information for "marketing purposes" or promises to "accelerate your internet connections." These are actually programs that can include spyware.

  • Shred credit card receipts, junk mail, and other such documents with sensitive personal or financial information. Never leave these types of documents exposed in a public space (such as an office desktop). Only carry the credits cards you need and don't keep your social security card in your wallet.

  • Never post personal information about yourself (like your birthdate, place of birth, family members names) on social networking websites like Friendster and This information can be easily found by search engines and used to help perpetrate identity theft against you.

  • Keep an eye on your credit. Check your credit report at least once a year so that you can identify any unknown activity, delinquencies, or inaccuracies. The three nationwide credit bureaus that track your credit history are EquifaxExperian, and Transunion


Related Information

Visit the Federal Trade Commission's website on identity theft for more information and guidance on what to do if you believe you are a victim of identity theft.

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Article ID: 54
Tue 7/18/23 11:46 AM
Thu 5/23/24 10:08 AM

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