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Take Steps to Prevent ID Theft

The U.S. Department of Justice states 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 percent of all identity- theft complaints. According to the FTC, identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.

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

  • Dumpster Diving - Going through trash to find bills and papers with personal information on it.
  • Phishing - Pretending to be 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; pre-approved 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 keystroke to get credit card numbers and passwords.

No one can totally eliminate the risk of identity theft. However, there are a number of things young adults can do to reduce their chances of becoming a victim. Think of your social security number, financial account numbers, and passwords as the Holy Grail – sacred and powerful.

  • Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
  • Avoid using public computers to access financial accounts, and use intricate passwords.
  • Limit personal information online.
  • Shred any paperwork that contains non-public information.
  • If you access financial accounts or shop online, make sure the Web site is secure.
  • Check your credit report regularly and monitor your transactions. Reconcile your accounts regularly.
  • Keep an inventory of everything in your wallet and your PDA.

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