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How to prevent identity theft

Identity theft is a wide-ranging and innovative crime. Here's how to best protect yourself from identity thieves.

Video Transcript

- Imagine getting a credit card bill in the mail for $10,000 that you didn't spend, and that credit card isn't even yours. This is an example of identity theft. A crime that can affect all areas of your life for years to come.

Identity theft is a wide ranging and innovative crime in which a person uses another person's identifying info without permission in order to commit a crime. The most notable effects are on your finances, but can also be felt on your credit, medical record, criminal record, and any other record.

Here are some known methods by which identity thieves work. There are physical methods, like stealing your bank or credit cards. This can be done through stealing mail, pickpocketing, or looking over your shoulder at an ATM to get your pin. Thieves also use bogus schemes that use impersonation tactics, like posting ads for fake jobs, for telemarketing to collect your personal info.

Scammers can also use electronic methods, like skimming information on your credit cards or passports, hacking into entire computer networks, or taking advantage of weak privacy protections on your computer. Thieves are also sometimes socially motivated and use your personal information out of revenge. They can also gather personal information posted by you on social media and message boards.

Here are the areas of life that are tainted when you become a victim of ID theft. Your credit is harmed. You spend a lot of time talking with law enforcement to clear up your criminal record. Your insurance and medical care may be compromised and leave you with large medical bills. You may need to change your name.

It can also hurt your ability to get a job. You may need to declare bankruptcy. Preventing identity theft involves preventing others from getting access to your personal info, so make sure that you shred all documents that have identifying info on them. Make sure that your personnel records at work are secure.

Don't post seemingly harmless information, such as your birth date or email address online. Thieves can use these. If you don't already have a firewall and current antivirus protection, put them on your computer. Don't carry more credit cards than you need, and never carry your social security card with you. Shop online using only secured sites and use a credit card as opposed to a debit card. Stay financially fit friends.