Do you know the meaning of “dumpster diving,” “skimming,” or “phishing?” According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), these are just a few of the methods thieves use to steal your personal information. Dumpster diving involves rummaging through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it. Skimming lifts your credit card numbers during processing. And phishing involves emails from thieves who pretend to be financial institutions to get you to reveal your personal information.
The FTC suggests you take the following steps to safeguard your personal information:
- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
- Don’t keep Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) near your checkbook or debit card.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card and limit the number of credit cards in your wallet.
- Unless you initiated the contact with a business, do not share confidential information such as credit card numbers, Social Security number, your birth date, or your mother’s maiden name.
- Be wary of e-mails asking you to enter personal information at a linked web site.
- Don’t use an obvious password like “Password1,” your birth date, your mother’s maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
Amazingly, identity theft often goes undetected for months because the thieves often change your address on an account so that you won’t receive the bills with the fraudulent charges. That’s why it’s wise to check your credit report regularly at one of the three major credit agencies: Equifax, (800) 685-1111; Experian, (888) 397-3742; or TransUnion, (800) 888-4213. And, if you are a victim of identity theft, the quicker you discover the crime and report it to the police and these credit agencies, the better your chances of limiting the financial damage.