How can people steal your personal information?Unfortunately, there are many ways people can steal your personal information. Here are some of them:
- Physical stealing. If someone steals your purse or wallet, they might get your credit cards, your checking account number, your birthdate, your social security number, and whatever other personal information you are carrying.
You might get an e-mail that says it's from a bank, a credit card company, Pay Pal, or Amazon.com. Pay Pal is a very common way to pay bills using the computer. Amazon.com is a very popular shopping site on the Internet. Because many people use these sites, thieves try to write e-mails that look like they are coming from these sites. They often say something like, "There are some problems with your account and we need you to re-enter your password and your account number right away or your account will be frozen ." If you click on the link and enter your information, it will go right to the scammer .
What can you do to prevent Identity theft?Here are some things you can do:
- Protect your social security number. Don't carry your social security card in your wallet. Don't put it on checks or applications unless you have to. The IRS wants your social security number on tax forms, but at City College of San Francisco, for example, you have a student ID card with another number so you don't have to use your social security number. Many colleges and insurance plans no longer use social security numbers for identification.
The official website to order a credit report online is annualcreditreport.com. Sometimes you can print it right then, and sometimes they can't get it for you and you have to do it by letter. You can also ask for your report by phone or by mail. Some people suggest checking a different one of the three credit bureaus every four months.
If you get an e-mail that says you need to put in your account information, you can call your bank to check, or you can go to the website yourself. If you do online banking or bill paying, it is very convenient and safe, as long as you are careful to go to the website and make sure it is the real site. Often the screen where you put in your personal information uses https instead of http in the URL, because it is more secure .
What should I do if my identity is stolen?
If your identity is stolen, immediately contact the bank, credit card companies, or anyone else that has your financial information. If you find something on your credit report that isn't yours, contact the credit report bureau. You can also get information from the government website Fighting Back Against Identity Theft for what steps to take if you are a victim of identity theft.
If someone calls saying you've been a victim of fraud. don't give them your account information. Sometimes credit card companies check to see if a purchase you made is legitimate, but in that case, they will tell you what purchase they are checking on. They won't ask you to tell them your account number to "verify" anything. If someone says they're calling from the police department, you can get their name and number and then call the police number in the phone book to see if they work there.
When you finish reading this article, click here to take the quiz. It will be in a new window.
Thanks to Beth and Mrs. Martinoli's class for the link to Avoiding ID and Credit Fraud for further reading.