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ID theft

All about how it happens and how you can keep it from happening to you.

Don't be a headline – Protect yourself from ID theft

Identity theft can happen to anyone – even those who are famous.

The latest victim is Grey's Anatomy star Sandra Oh, who reported to the police that she is an identity theft victim. Apparently, the IRS has been after her for failing to pay taxes for a hotel job she held in 2009 – which she never held.

According to a report by the Los Angeles Police Department, the thief used Oh's Social Security number to obtain the hotel job, not to pose as the actress.

There are things you can do to protect yourself. First of all, never carry your Social Security card. Keep it locked away and only bring it out when necessary. You shouldn't give your SS number to anyone unless it is absolutely necessary, and only if you know for sure the person you are giving it to is legitimate, and you know how your information will be handled.

Make sure you shred all documents bearing your personal and financial information before you throw them away. Identity thieves love to dig through trash to find documents they can use to piece together a person's identity. 

Be careful online as well. Don't click on embedded links in unsolicited e-mails, and if you receive an e-mail that appears to be from your bank or credit card issuer, don't click on the links contained within and don't give out your personal or financial information. You should contact the bank or card issuer first to verify that the request is legitimate. 

Make sure your computer is equipped with the latest in protection software, and that you make your passwords difficult, and change them often.

Doing these things may seem insignificant, but these small steps can help prevent you from becoming a headline – like Sandra Oh.

Published Sep 06 2011, 10:57 AM by IdentityTheft
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