Identity theft has become a fact of life. While it may or may not happen to you, chances are you know someone who will be affected. Here are some tips to help protect yourself.
• Check your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus each year. Identity theft starts with the misuse of your information, like your Social Security number, credit card number or date of birth.
• Open your credit card bills and bank statements right away and review them. Check for unauthorized or fraudulent entries. You should also be aware of your billing schedule. If a bill doesn't arrive on time, it may mean that someone has changed your address information in order to obtain your personal data.
• Don't carry your Social Security card or PIN number in your wallet.
• Avoid giving out your personal information over the phone, mail or Internet unless you are sure of who you are dealing with. Don't give out during unsolicited phone calls or in response to unsolicited e-mail.
• Avoid offers and pop-ups that sound too good to be true. Don't click on links contained in unsolicited e-mails.
• Remove your name from mailing lists for pre-approved credit offers.
• When doing business online, only do so on secure sites. You'll know a site is secure if you see "https" in the URL and not just "http."
• Use a locked mailbox. Don't let your mail just sit; pick it up.