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ID Theft Tips and Warning Signals

By Josephine T. Wittem

One of the fastest growing crimes in North America is identity theft. You may be surprised to learn that it is not a complex process. Your friends wish you a happy birthday on your Facebook account. Boom. A criminal has one piece of useful information. You post a picture of the new home you purchased. Boom. Another useful piece of information. You see how this can build. There are so many convenient and enjoyable aspects of social media, but there are as many risks related to it’s use or overuse.

Our more obvious fears of identity theft go something like this: a criminal is going to drain your bank account, or open new credit card accounts, or buy a car, apply for loans, and you’re going to be on the hook for all of it. One of the easiest and most common methods for the acquisition of information is by stealing mail which contains statements of credit card transactions, bank statements, pre-approved offers for credit cards, or investment statements.You may be surprised to learn that a formal request for an address change can divert your mail to a new place without you even being aware of this.

Signs your ID is at Risk

There’s a large purchase, for a TV you don’t own, on your monthly credit card statement. A sure sign is if a collection agency calls you about an unknown debt. In other words, they’re looking to collect on a purchase you did not actually make. Always make sure your scheduled or routine bills are arriving on time. These can be a source for criminals to gather sensitive data. Any interruption may be a signal of identity theft.

Protection Basics

- Never give personal information by phone, Internet or mail unless you are the person initiating the contact.

- You don’t need most of the identification you carry, so leave it at home or in a safe place you can access. Store ID you don’t specifically need. Of course, if you’re driving, bring your driver’s license.

- Documents that contain personal information should be destroyed before they are discarded.

- Lock your household mailbox, if possible. And when you go on vacation, either put a hold on your mail at the post office, or have a close friend pick it up for you in a timely manner.

The Internet and Your Home Computer

- Select a complex password of letters, numbers and symbols.

- Install firewall, anti-virus, anti-spyware and security software – and make sure you update your operating system when updates occur. You need to make sure you are taking the steps to protect yourself here, because no one else will.

- Don’t just erase your files and think your sensitive data is gone from your hard drive. If you are getting rid of your computer, by sale or disposal, get a proper service to burn your hard drive clean.

And if Something Does Happen?

Should warning signs appear, immediately call your bank and inform them of your suspicions. They’ll have a protocol for dealing with potential ID theft. Then, visit or call your local law enforcement agency. Finally, you could take a more proactive measure and put a fraud alert on your credit report. And don’t forget, you can be proactive and get Identity theft protection as a rider on your home insurance policy.

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Topics: Identity Theft | Comments Off

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Wittem, Josephine T. "ID Theft Tips and Warning Signals." ID Theft Tips and Warning Signals. 8 Oct. 2012. 2 Aug 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Wittem, J (2012, October 8). ID Theft Tips and Warning Signals. Retrieved August 2, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Wittem, Josephine T. "ID Theft Tips and Warning Signals"

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