How to Be More Clever Than an Identity Thief

U.S. Department of Justice data show that identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in America, and studies show that the 18- to 29-year-old age bracket accounts for 30% of all identity-theft complaints.

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal identifying information, like your name, Social Security number (SSN), or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes and to get credit in your name.

Identity thieves are clever and can obtain a victim's personal information in many ways:

  • Dumpster Diving — Going through trash to find bills and papers with personal information on it
  • Phishing — Posing as financial institutions or companies like eBay or PayPal and sending spam or pop-up messages to get consumers to reveal personal information
  • Property theft — Stealing wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; preapproved credit offers; and new checks or tax information
  • Smishing — Phishing with text messaging on smart phones. Victims are instructed to visit a fake Web site
  • Spyware — Tricking victims into downloading illicit software when they open an attachment. Spyware records keystrokes to get credit card numbers and passwords

No one can totally eliminate the risk of identity theft. Think of your SSN, financial account numbers, and passwords as the Holy Grail—sacred and powerful. You can reduce your chances of becoming a victim:

  • Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet unless you need it that day
  • Avoid using public computers to access financial accounts, and use intricate passwords
  • Limit personal information online
  • Shred any paperwork that contains nonpublic information
  • If you access financial accounts or shop online, make sure the Web site is secure. Secure sites have an "s" after the http—https://
  • Check your credit report regularly at and monitor your transactions
  • Reconcile your accounts regularly
  • Keep an inventory of everything in your wallet and your PDA

For more information, view our page on Protecting Your Identity or check out the Identity Theft Coach. You can also stop by any of our branch locations, email us or call us at (617) 495-4460. And if you ever become a victim of identity theft, remember that we're here to help.


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